From Study of Child Life by Marion Foster Washburne
In all these examples, which are merely suggestive, it is impossible to lay down an absolute moral recipe, because circumstances so truly alter cases—in all these no mention is made of corporal punishment. This is because corporal punishment is never necessary, never right, but is always harmful.
The child who is spanked for lying, spanked for disobedience, and spanked again for tearing his clothes, is likely enough to consider these three things as much the same, as, at any rate, of equal importance, because they all lead to the same result. This is to lay the foundation for a permanent moral confusion, and a man who cannot see the nature of a wrong deed, and its relative importance, is incapable of guiding himself or others. Corporal punishment teaches a child nothing of the reason why what he does is wrong. Wrong must seem to him to be dependent upon the will of another, and its disagreeable consequences to be escapable if only he can evade the will of that other.
Fear versus Love
Second: Corporal punishment is wrong because it inculcates fear of pain as the motive for conduct, instead of love of righteousness. It tends directly to cultivate cowardice, deceitfulness, and anger—three faults worse than almost any fault against which it can be employed. True, some persons grow up both gentle and straightforward in spite of the fact that they have been whipped in their youth, but it is in spite of, and not because of it. In their homes other good qualities must have counteracted the pernicious effect of this mistaken procedure.
Third: Corporal punishment may, indeed, achieve immediate results such as seem at the moment to be eminently desirable. The child, if he be young enough, weak enough, and helpless enough, may be made to do almost anything by fear of the rod; and some of the things he may thus be made to do may be exactly the things that he ought to do; and this certainty of result is exactly what prompts many otherwise just and thoughtful persons to the use of corporal punishment. But these good results are obtained at the expense of the future.
The effect of each spanking is a little less than the effect of the preceding one. The child’s sensibilities blunt. As in the case of a man with the drug habit, it requires a larger and larger dose to produce the required effect. That is, if he is a strong child capable of enduring and resisting much. If, on the contrary, he is a weak child, whose slow budding will come only timidly into existence, one or two whippings followed by threats, may suffice to keep him in a permanently cowed condition, incapable of initiative, incapable of spontaneity.
The method of discipline here indicated, while it is more searching than any corporal punishment, does not have any of its disadvantages. It is more searching, because it never blunts the child’s sensibilities, but rather tends to refine them, and to make them more responsive.
The child thus trained should become more susceptible, day by day, to gentle and elevating influences. This discipline is educative, explaining to the child why what he does is wrong, showing him the painful effects as inherent in the deed itself. He cannot, therefore, conceive of himself as being ever set free from the obligation to do right; for that obligation within his experience does not rest upon his mother’s will or ability to inflict punishment, but upon the very nature of the universe of which he is a part.
The effects of such discipline are therefore permanent. That which happens to the child in the nursery, also happens to him in the great world when he reaches manhood. His nursery training interprets and orders the world for him. He comes, therefore, into the world not desiring to experiment with evil, but clear-eyed to detect it, and strong-armed to overcome it.
Article by Aadel Bussinger
Aadel has been married to her career Army man for 11 years and they have 2 daughters and a freshly made son. She is a homeschooling mom, volunteer, and online college student. Her hobbies include cooking, organic gardening, sewing, and crocheting. She blogs sporadically at These Temporary Tents.
Aadel has written 82 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.
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