Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 1

With this article, I am starting a new series on why it is so important to stop hitting children, whether at home, school or any other place.

This series is based on a fundamental and simple value: people are not for hitting and children are people too.

This basic value about what is not acceptable in human relations is at the core of these articles. A corollary to this value is that there are many nonviolent and effective ways of to gain the cooperation and respect of children, and that these can and should be taught to everyone who raises and works with children.

This series is also based on the deliberations of international organizations who advocate for the abolition of all forms of physical punishment with children, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These articles will also reflect and share the mountain of research evidence that points to both the social injustice and ultimate destructiveness of using physical punishment to discipline children.

In my latest book for parents, The NEW Confident Parenting, which I wrote with my colleague, Dr. Camilla S. Clarke, an entire chapter is devoted to the findings of hundreds of research studies that document how destructive and ineffective physical punishment ultimately is. This chapter appears at the end of the book after having demonstrated numerous effective and nonviolent ways of obtaining and maintaining the respect and cooperation of children.

The chapter on physical punishment makes the point that many people continue to believe in and make use of physical punishment because they believe it really works. That is because, in some instances and in the short run, it does work in stopping children from engaging in behaviors that make us adults uncomfortable. But the vast majority of studies that follow children for years find that the use of physical punishment, and especially physical punishment that happens frequently and harshly, results in numerous negative consequences, including life long mental, physical, sexual and interpersonal problems.

While very few people believe that hitting children so hard that bruises and broken bones happen -- here the hurt is too obvious to overlook -- most people are simply unaware of the insidious, hidden damage that physical punishment leaves in its wake.

Subsequent articles in this series will present the findings of these studies in greater detail, including studies that have been done after I and Dr. Clarke wrote The NEW Confident Parenting. The second article will define physical punishment.

Your comments are appreciated and will be responded to.


  1. There's a difference between giving swats and a beating, although I'm sure you won't acknowledge that. Corporal punishment is legal in Texas. We resort to it at times at my charter school. It makes a real, discernable difference for a majority of students, although not all. In the day-to-day reality of the struggle of education, particularly with tough, oppositional low-income minority students, it really helps to hold this ultimate consequence in reserve. The level of misbehavior at my charter school in a non-corporal punishment state versus here in Texas was way higher with the same demographics of students.

    It is true that swats may not address underlying problems, but, realistically, that's true of almost any approach. At some point, the behavior must be stopped, whatever its cause. Swats also reduce drastically our suspension rates, because the swats often stop the unacceptable behavior, instead of perversely rewarding the kid for misbehavior by letting him stay home a few extra days.

    Part of this is cultural. White people, especially, are against corporal punishment, whereas traditional black parents are much more supportive of its use. These parents even entrust me, a white guy, with imposing this consequence.

    None of this sounds at all politically correct or particularly humane, but we're in a battle to save our minority children, especially males, and so don't tell us what to do and not to do unless you're on the front lines with us. And, if you are on those front lines, our way is working better than yours. That's just the reality.

    Richard Baumgartner
    Rise Academy.

    (the last time this issue came up regarding our school, a few anti-swatters went berserk in their raging e-mail attacks against us. If that happens again, oh well.)

  2. Richard The situation you are in is simiar to ones that many of us have been in, where Black parents encourage you to use corporal punishment with their children. That is one of the main reasons that the Center for the Improvement of Child created the Effective Black Parenting Program two decades ago. The program deals directly with the history of coprpral punishment with African Americans and indicates how and why such methods have been supported since the slavery era. When such parents have an opportunity to learn about the history and also learn that there are many other excellent ways of guiding their children's growth and development, they usually move in the direction of nonviolence, and their children become better behaved and happier. I strongly recommend that you and your school look into bringing the Effective Black Parenting Program to your community. It can be accessed on the CICC website at www.ciccparenting.org under Parenting Skill-Building Programs.