The Discipline Discussion


Molly Sikes

Demonstration of physical discipline

Molly Sikes, Editor

Back in about the 1960’s or 1970’s, when the parents of young adults today were children, it was completely acceptable to swat kids with a paddle when they misbehaved, even at school. Any sort of misconduct was swiftly punished with the use of light violence; that’s just the way it was. Now, being grown, they say they turned out fine. They say that being spanked never made them damaged in any sort of way; most of them became successful adults and parents. At some point between their childhood and adulthood, a culture shift occurred that made it less acceptable to use physical discipline on kids, so most parents in the 90’s to early 2000’s didn’t beat their children. Parents were more encouraged to try to use alternative methods of discipline when their kids misbehaved, teaching them to “use their words” when a problem came about, like a disagreement about bedtime or any other house rule. Now that the 90’s babies are adults, they still make the same claim: they turned out just fine. Why, then, when kids who are physically disciplined turn out fine and when kids who are not turn out fine, is it still an argument? If it makes no difference in a child’s success or mental health whether or not he or she was spanked as a child, then there are not any cases where it is okay to hit a child.

Of course, every rule has exceptions, so this rule is bound to have a few, one being when a kid is completely misbehaving, refusing to listen to his or her parents about something he or she has been told not to do an abundance of times. The only thing that would make hitting this child okay is if the parent has stated loud and clear that a beating is the consequence of the child’s inappropriate actions. For example, if a kid has been told many times that if he keeps hitting his sister then he will get hit, and he continues to torment her, the parents can apply physical discipline in the form of either hitting him or letting the sister hit him. Parents who are angry should never hit their children. This only teaches kids that violence is an accepted way to release anger or punish those who upset them. Knowing the difference between necessary discipline and domestic abuse is vital when the topic of spanking children comes up. The correct way to use physical discipline is only if it is absolutely necessary, and only in a calm state, when the consequence of a beating has been clarified with the child.

What happens when parents use alternative forms of discipline? Some might say that lack of physical discipline is lack of discipline altogether. This is not the case. It does not spoil children if they are not attacked for breaking the rules, and it is not a parent’s job to assert dominance over and control his or her child. A parent should nurture a child, and teach them to learn from mistakes. A kid should be shown the real life consequences of misbehavior and why they should not conduct it, not just be told “because I said so” and that they will be hurt if they do something bad. When young people are able to make mistakes without a threatening parent looming over them, they are able to decide for themselves what choices they want to make in life, ultimately leading them to be more independent and less insecure.

Once again, an exception will always exist, and some flaws appear in this parenting plan. If the parents in question do not use physical discipline and they also do not tend to the emotional needs of their child, more skewed worldviews appear. The child may begin to feel that nothing will have repercussions when his or her parents do not show any interest in teaching him or her what those will be. Parents who shelter their children from mistakes are also at risk of unstable children, like those who are in fear of their children getting into trouble and only allow them to be at home or at school. If kids can not learn on their own from their mistakes, then they can not possibly function as adults, so ignoring their mistakes or keeping them from making them can deteriorate their readiness for the world.

When the grandparents of today were children, and for many generations before that, it was generally acceptable to discipline kids by hitting them, and that’s okay. Now that we have grown as a society, we have learned that it is less okay to do that. We still have no right to judge what worked back in the day, but we can stop the violence and still raise respectful and independent kids. Even though it is tougher for some kids to learn, and some rascals make it almost impossible to keep parents calm, society can still grow and make successful generations, without the use of violence.