The topic of physical discipline of children (sometimes called corporal punishment) is one of the most emotionally charged and widely debated issue in all of developmental psychology. Some argue the “spare the rod and spoil the child approach.” The question often comes back to, “How can a loving parent hit their child?” On the other side of the debate are those who feel strongly that physical discipline is a relatively harmless way of disciplining a child, that it drives home a message of what is unacceptable behavior, and that generations of children were spanked without lasting psychological damage.  Research has found many problems with spanking, most notably the issue that it may unintentionally teach the message that aggression (or even violence) is an acceptable way to deal with problems. An additional concern is that it teaches fear and leads only to temporary or immediate discontinuation of the undesirable behavior. Other research has found that these effects may be less severe than previously thought, and that while physical discipline is not the best “first line” approach to parenting it may not be as problematic as once thought. Note please that this discussion topic is speaking about what may be regarded as appropriate, non-abusive physical discipline (an open-handed swat on the bottom rather than in the face or hitting with an object).

Answer the following questions in a conversational tone:

  • Where do you stand on the issue of spanking a child?
  • What are your thoughts and feelings regarding the video you just viewed?
  • Do you think parents who use physical discipline do so because it is how they were raised?
  • When does disciplining a child wade into the arena of abuse? Is there such a thing as non-abusive spanking?
  • Were you ever spanked as a child and, if so, how do you think it impacted your development?
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