Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Letter of the Day | Parental correction is not abuse

Published:Monday | November 20, 2017 | 12:06 AM


The Government of Jamaica has recently made the announcement to outlaw the use of corporal punishment as a method of curtailing the misbehaviour of children. This, the prime minister said, is a part of his administration's effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which, ideally, are about "policies to end poverty, achieving economic growth with equity in a peaceful and democratic society, while working to mitigate the dangers of climate change".

This move by the prime minister has received quite a bit of buzz, both of supporting and opposing convictions. I am a strong believer in corporal punishment as a means of correcting misbehaviour.

Nothing at all is wrong with corporal punishment. Corporal punishment, under B.F. Skinner's theory, is what one would classify as negative reinforcement, i.e., attaching a negative stimulus to a behaviour that is wrong. The subject will inadvertently resist the urge to indulge in a particular behaviour because of the attached negative reward.

Betty-Ann Blaine, a highly respected child advocate and founder of Hear the Children Cry Foundation, in a recent presentation, said that instead of beating children, parents should instead communicate with them. In my opinion, a parent who resorts to beating their child without prior communication of wrong/right, acceptable/unacceptable behaviour is not enforcing corporal punishment but rather abuse, and this is where the distinction needs to be made.




The abolition of corporal punishment is not the solution. A simple comparison of students' behaviours in school today, compared to when corporal punishment was enforced in educational institutions, will support my claim. No two children are the same, and while Ms Blaine's two daughters responded positively to just verbal scolding, the reaction will not be the same for all children.

Funny thing is, many of those who are now lashing out against corporal punishment were curbed and corrected via said method and have grown into adults disciplined enough to benefit from the bestowment of representative power.

What the Government needs to do is to clamp down on child abuse and domestic violence, instead of trying to legally force parents to spare the rod of correction from a disobedient child.