Corporal Punishment in American Education: Readings in History, Practice, and Alternatives

By Irwin A. Hyman; James H. Wise | Go to book overview

21 Pediatric Considerations in the Use of Corporal Punishment in the Schools

David B. Friedman
Alma S. Friedman

Children and their parents progress through social and emotional developmental stages in relation to each other. For school-aged children and their teachers, these stages become developmental tasks which they must accomplish to assure optimal cognitive development. Discipline is necessary for the accomplishment of these tasks. Discipline is also important for the safety and physical well-being of the child as well as for his or her social, emotional, and cognitive development.

However, discipline and punishment are not synonymous. Some parents and teachers who are strict disciplinarians seldom resort to punishment. Some punitive parents and teachers are poor disciplinarians. The aim of discipline is to provide the child with outside control until he or she can develop the inner or self-control necessary to function as a mature adult. Punishment is what adults resort to when discipline fails. The former headmaster of a well-known Eastern preparatory school commented recently, "When you resort to corporal punishment, you win the battle, but you lose the war!" We are defining corporal punishment as the deliberate use of physical force such as impulsive shaking, hitting, choking, swatting, head banging, caning, or paddling. We are not talking about the bare-handed swat on the clothed buttocks of a preschool child although even this, uncontrolled, may have its dangers.

There are five major developmental tasks of school-aged children and their teachers. Corporal punishment inhibits the accomplishment of each of these tasks.

By school age, the child should have developed what Erikson calls basic trust ( Erikson, 1950). The parallel developmental task of the teacher

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