Is Hurting Helpful?

In Book I of Emile, Rousseau mentions early childhood and what a baby’s crying can signify. He then goes on about how sometimes a baby’s crying can get too raucous which results in him being spanked by a nurse.  The instant look on the infants face is one of anger in his crying tones and facial expressions.  Rousseau later goes on to compare more destitute children who did not receive physical punishment to the children of higher social classes who did and how the former seemed to be “generally less frail and weakly, [and] more vigorous.” (56)

This section from the reading made me think of the ongoing debate concerning the justification of corporal punishment, or spanking of children.  I found an article that shows how divided the nation is in terms of who still sees it as a meaningful form of punishment versus who doesn’t and also the divide between people who personally experienced it and either “appreciated” it or resented their parents for it.  The article also made a good point of explaining that part of the divide either for or against corporal punishment deals with personal views as to how far is too far and where exactly corporal punishment ends and child abuse begins.

Speaking from personal experience, I would say that receiving spankings as a young child made me upset at the time, but did not carry over into anger towards my parents for punishing me.  I think now it’s a little easier to understand why I received the punishments I did just because I’m more aware of all of the stupid things I did as a little kid.  Do I believe that I deserved every spanking I received? No.  Am I glad that I got as many spankings as I did because it made me more behaved over time? Not necessarily.  However, I do realize that beyond the punishment, my parents were indeed coming from a place of love.  They have never come close to abusing me, as I have never had welts on my body as a result of a spanking(as mentioned early on in the article).

With this being said, I’m not sure if I will result to using any form of corporal punishment for my potential children.  I personally feel more opposed to using but I also see it as a type of structure that can yield results in well behaved children if not abused or taken out of control.  I think it’s also a matter of handling a child based on what you personally go through as one.  For example, many abusers act in such a way because they themselves were abused and see it as the only way to discipline their children.  They’re surely in the wrong for abusing their children but is it less unjustified if it’s all they know? What do you guys think?

Link to article-


4 responses to “Is Hurting Helpful?

  1. I think the important way to approach corporal punishment is to make sure that the parent only tries to make sure that their child understands what they did wrong, but not try to make their child to feel pain. For most parents, punishing their child is painful for them too. I think a good analogy for this would be the way my parents punished me by slapping my palms. My parents also felt the pain on their own hands while they were slapping mine.

    While I would say corporal punishment did work on me, it often doesn’t work for other children. I think that there are better ways of disciplining children than using physical force. Even if the parent was raised with corporal punishment, I would think that because they know the emotional and physical pain that comes with it, that they wouldn’t do the same to their own children.

  2. Rousseau brings up a interesting point that those not phyiscally repremanded are “generally less frail and weakly, [and] more vigorous” (56). But I do disagree with this statement. I can see how some parents let their children get away with murder and in turn the kids turn out to act spoiled. But I still dont beileve that physical punishment needs to take place for a parent to get their point across. There is a fine line between abuse and teaching a child what is right and wrong. I think it speaks to the parents upbringing and their intelligence to how they deal with the situation.

  3. I like your point: “I think it’s also a matter of handling a child based on what you personally go through as one”. I agree that typically parents treat their children the way they were treated. But I do not believe in physical punishment. I think parents should be able to speak to their children and work through the problems without and physical abuse. This type of punishment is not always constructive and can lead to many problems further down the road in life.

  4. This string of posts is a really interesting discussion. I have never experienced corporal punishment, although my father did as a child. He always says that he and his brother deserved the corporal punishment because they were troublemakers, but he does not believe in physical punishment and my parents used other methods to make my sisters and I behave.

    I think what you guys have said has reflected interesting points that were in the original article. Views on corporal punishment are intertwined with our own experience, but also what is seen as the social norms, as said in the article. “Our feelings on corporal punishment are very much wrapped up in how we feel about our childhoods and our parents. These are stories that are fundamental to the ways we think of ourselves. But we also often view the way other people answer this question through the prism of our own experiences.”

    Another interesting thing I found in the article was the research about “spankings.” To sum up, Gershoff’s research showed spankings created children who were immediately compliant, but in some cases led to other forms of physical abuse. It is really hard to tell then, where the line should be drawn between discipline and abuse. But overall , I am against any sort of physical discipline because I watched my parents raise my youngest sister without it and she is a great kid.

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