If you’ve been watching ABC’s new show, The Slap, you’ve probably got an opinion on the central question in the show’s premise: is it okay to put your hands on other people’s children in a disciplinary way? How far is too far when it comes to using corporal punishment?
It’s a difficult, touchy question that no one has an answer to. The topic becomes even more complex when we see some parents get penalized for their abusive behaviors and others walk scot-free. NFL player Adrian Peterson just had his suspension from the football field overturned by a US District Court despite being infamously charged for brutally whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch in the fall.
MUST READ: How Do You Punish Your Kids?
In certain cases, it’s okay to discipline other people’s children if the boundaries and expectations have been explicitly discussed among the adults involved. A child’s bad behavior should be corrected as necessary—even if their immediate guardian isn’t in the room.
But what about in heated and spontaneous moments like the one presented in the The Slap? This incident ignited family drama as Hugo, a young and unruly child swung around a baseball bat at his fellow playmates and almost struck another child, Rocco, in the head. Desperate to protect his son, Harry steps in front of Rocco to confront Hugo as he continued to swing the bat.
Admittedly, Harry’s slap towards Hugo’s face was a little harsh (and perhaps even triggering). As you watch the show, you realize that Harry has deeply rooted anger issues and that his encounter with Hugo was indicative of his explosive character. But I can’t hate on Harry for intervening in a situation that posed a serious threat to his own child. And oddly, Hugo’s own parents, Rosie and Gary, idly sat in a corner as the situation progressed. If no one had stepped in, something far worse could have happened than a child being struck for throwing a temper tantrum.
Only a select few among your most trusted family and friends should have this kind of authority over your children. Dr. Stephanie Coard, an associate professor in human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, suggests that parents communicate with immediate family and caretakers on what is and isn’t allowed at home as well as specify how you normally discipline your children—whether or not that involves spanking.
“What we considered mild misbehavior in one family may be very different in another,” says Dr. Coard. “So having those kinds of communications between parents and family members is really important so that you all can be on one accord.”
The age old debate surrounding corporal punishment and whether or not it should be used in any circumstance is heated and complicated because all of us have our own opinion on what forms of discipline are successful and what kinds put children at risk of being traumatized. You probably remember the story of the father who viciously beat his daughters for putting out a viral twerking video, or the story of the father who beat his daughter in the street after she went missing for three days. The videos were graphic, highly misogynistic and downright unnecessary.
However, research shows that when used with proper judgment and sparingly coupled with other forms of discipline, spanking does have its advantages. There’s also history of the courts supporting parents as long as they execute “reasonable use of force” when disciplining their children.
There is no way for all parents and caretakers to come to a definitive agreement on what kinds of discipline and corporal punishment are acceptable to enforce. Every child is different and so is every family. As a result, the effects of corporal punishment and how it plays into each situation of a child misbehaving is totally subjective.
Still, corporal punishment should still be respected as a valid technique to correct a child’s behavior. Spanking isn’t as popular as in years past and there’s plenty of different ways to discipline children, including: grounding, giving rewards and punishments, using time out, modeling ideal behaviors and exhibiting consequences. All of these methods are widely encouraged by specialists and should be exercised as initial, alternative options when a child’s issues with authority first arise. But there’s nothing wrong with using spanking as a last resort and anyone who uses spanking or believes in the practices shouldn’t be judged for it.
What do you think beauties? Spare the rod, spoil the child?