The Jamaican government is moving forward with legislation that would ban corporal punishment. Earlier this year, several reports of abuse against children had sparked outrage in the Jamaican society; with one particular incident – a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death for eating too slowly in July – being the trigger for the legislation.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said there is a link between corporal punishment and violent behavior in adults. He proposed that parents be fined for even slapping their children.
Junior Minister in the Ministry of Education, Robert Morgan said his ministry will soon introduce the legislation to parliament and embark on a public education campaign about other ways to discipline children.
Corporal punishment is considered a cultural tradition, and thus its potential ban has sparked some controversy. We asked our readers to give their opinions on the ban. Here are the responses:
Dr. Nicole Jackson – Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehavior, not just the absence of negative effects, I don’t see the benefits it has for corrective behavior and I can not responsibly condone its use.
Meisha Samuels – The act of corporal punishment itself is different across parents – parents vary in how frequently they use it, how forcefully they administer it, how emotionally aroused they are when they do it, and whether they combine it with other techniques. Each of these qualities of corporal punishment can determine which child-mediated processes are activated, and, in turn, which outcomes may be realized.
Savannah Stewart – If parents exercised corporal punishment appropriately (not abusively), then I don’t see a problem with it. When I started school, corporal punishment was permissible, but rarely used because most parents spanked their children when they misbehaved. This practice has largely ceased in the U.S. The behavior of children in the classroom has worsened; they often threaten teachers, not because the teachers have modeled threatening behavior but because students know they can get away with it. Isolation is now used to maintain order, but that really has no effect on certain students. I suppose the same might be true of corporal punishment.
Hakeem Reynolds – Since this is something I grew up with, I have a different take than most Westerners. Is it effective? No doubt. It was very effective on me. And it was very effective on the friends I grew up with. Did it work on everyone? No, obviously not. But it worked on the vast majority of people.
Part of the reason I never felt abused is that corporal punishment was the cultural norm. Everyone got whipped by their parents. In fact, we used to exchange stories of being beaten. Note that I don’t use the word spanked. People really do beat their kids. But if you apply the same punishment in a context where it is not culturally congruent, you will make the kid feel targeted for cruel and unusual punishment.
Daniel Thompson – It depends. The key to effectively give a discipline spanking is if you make clear to the person you spanked how they can avoid a spanking in the future. And I do think we need to start by remembering that children and teenagers are people. I think a great many people who spank their children or teens or students don’t understand either of these ideas.
Roshel Bailey – I don’t agree with spanking, hitting, beating or any of that. Yes, we should teach our children that certain actions have consequences, but I don’t believe we should teach them that those consequences have to be violent or aggressive. I think corporal punishment has a lot to do with the parent and their inability to do just that – some people don’t have the patience or emotional maturity to teach or explain consequences so they would rather hit.