Pros and Cons of Corporal Punishment

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What is corporal punishment? It is a method of discipline that inflicts a specific physical consequence when a negative action occurs. The goal is to create conditions where the individual involved will not want to repeat the physical pain so they stay in compliance with the rules. Through fear, compliance is achieved. In return, it is difficult to build relationships between those who dictate the discipline and those who receive it. There are several other key points to consider as well when looking at the pros and cons of corporal punishment.

The Pros of Corporal Punishment

1. It creates a clear example of what is right and what is wrong.
There are no shades of gray when it comes to corporal punishment. It is only delivered when conduct that is determined to be wrong has been completed. This means that if someone does not receive any consequences from their actions, they can have confidence in knowing that they made the right choice.

2. It quickly deters unwanted behaviors.
People who are learning under a system of corporal punishment will make fast changes to behaviors that are unwanted. This is because almost everyone has a desire to avoid as much pain or strenuous activity as possible. When in a group setting, the peer pressure to comply just adds to the behavior modification that occurs.

3. It is extremely fast.
Corporal punishment is effective because it can be handed out after the negative behavior has been completed. This means a group can get back to learning quickly without the distraction of non-compliance. It also means that those who require the discipline can have their behaviors quickly modified so they can rejoin the learning environment once again.

4. It costs nothing to implement.
What monetary cost is there to having someone complete 50 pushups or run 3 laps around a field? None. At most, the cost of corporal punishment is related to the supplies needed to replenish the bodies of those receiving consequences. After all, corporal punishment is not supposed to be intended to harm or hospitalize. It is intended solely to inflict pain and/or discomfort.

The Cons of Corporal Punishment

1. It creates a learning tool which tells those being disciplined that physical violence is acceptable.
Most people will conduct themselves later in life in the same way they were treated during this learning process. If physical pain is used as discipline on them, then they will look to inflict physical discipline on others as a result. These cycles can be very difficult to break.

2. Learning doesn’t always happen from corporal punishment.
What happens if someone is being punished for something they feel was right? Or if the punishment is handed out to the wrong individual in a situation? The result is often the creation of hostility against the person who is initiating the discipline. If it happens for enough time, this resentment can last for several years or even cause the individual to seek vengeance against those they feel have “done them wrong.”

3. It can quickly become abusive, even if not intended.
In many jurisdictions, abuse occurs when there is a mark left on someone after a period of 24 hours. All it takes is for once incident that gets out of hand for the individual handing out the discipline for the corporal punishment to become abuse instead. Physical abuse always has a negative outcome and will not correct the negative behaviors that the discipline was intended to correct. Because people do the same things later on in life, those who are abused through the overuse of corporal punishment become abusers themselves.

4. Corporal punishment is often not even necessary.
Corporal punishment tends to be more about the person inflicting the consequences than the individuals receiving them. Being able to inflict consequences places an individual into a position of superiority. This gives them the power of leadership, even if it hasn’t been earned, because of the shame that is often part of the corporal punishment process. Other forms of consequence can be just as effective, if not more so, if they are given a chance to succeed.

The pros and cons of corporal punishment show that short-term results can be achieved at the expense of long-term health. If you’re thinking about corporal punishment and whether it should be added or subtracted from your household or program, then weigh each key point carefully to decide if it is the correct form of consequence administration.