Friday, October 16, 2009

We Must Stop Hitting Children! Part 2 Definition of Physical Punishment

Physical punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing the child to experience bodily pain or discomfort so as to correct or punish the child's behavior. This definition includes light physical force, such as a slap on a child's hand, as well as heavier physical force, including hitting children with hard objects such as a wooden spoon or paddle.

However, physical punishment does not refer only to hitting children as a form of discipline; it also includes other practices that involve purposefully causing children to experience physical discomfort in order to punish them. Physical punishment thus also includes washing a child’s mouth with soap, making a child kneel on sharp or painful objects (e.g., rice, a floor grate), placing hot sauce on a child's tongue, forcing a child to stand or sit in painful positions for long periods of time, and compelling a child to engage in excessive exercise or physical exertion.

In the United States, physical punishment is known by a variety of euphemisms, including “spank,” “smack,” “slap,” “pop,” beat,” “paddle,” “punch,” “whup/whip,” and “hit.” The term “physical punishment” is often used interchangeably with the terms “corporal punishment” or “physical discipline.”

Physical punishment is distinct from protective physical restraint. Whereas physical punishment involves causing the child to experience pain as a form of punishment, protective physical restraint involves the use of physical force to protect the child or others from physical pain or harm. Examples of protective physical restraint include holding a child to prevent them from running into a busy street, pulling a child's hand away from a hot stove, or holding a child who has hurt another child to prevent him/her from doing so again.

Have you ever used physical punishment in raising your children or in your work with children? I have felt like doing so on some occasions but have restrained myself. How about you?


The NEW Confident Parenting is a book that discusses all of the issues surrounding the use of physical punishment and offers an entire program for raising children without ever having to use physical punishment.

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