A firm stance on discipline: the use of force
Newton’s third law of thermodynamics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Beyond the borders of physics, we find this applies in real life as well. For every action that we do, there are consequences. We learn to be responsible for our actions and decisions, to take control of our lives and not blame whatever happens to us to other people, to the alignment of stars, or to destiny. We learn this as children, when our models discipline us when we engage in bad behavior. Children are punished for stealing, for making fun of another kid, for telling lies, for their irresponsibility, in various ways. One of these ways is spanking. I believe that children should be spanked when they do something wrong, that teachers should be given the right to hit a disobedient child’s hand. This is not to say that people should be encouraged to be violent, or that violence is indeed what I am promoting, but that the use of force should not be prohibited as a disciplinary measure. Eliminating the use of force breeds complacency in immature minds, and even convinces them of their invincibility, as though they have every right to behave the way they do without being punished for it. There will be those who will react and instead advocate other methods of disciplining children and adolescents, often in more creative ways to “connect” and understand the youngster’s mind. However, it cannot be denied that the use of force, even just its availability, has far more threatening power that can make individuals think twice before committing an offense.
I remember as a child, my father and mother would give us a spanking when we behaved badly. Behaving badly ranged from taking a cookie from a younger sibling, lying, and answering back disrespectfully. Sometimes my parents would use a belt, or a clothes hanger, or their bare hands. This does not mean that we were hit until our skin bled. The severity of the spanking depended on the severity of the offense, and we were far from being categorized as candidates for child abuse. The spanking hurt, but it inculcated the message: if we behave badly, there will be a price to pay. That is the justice system: we can get grounded, get assigned with more chores, and of course, get hit. My parents never spanked any of us just to hurt us – it was never about inflicting pain, but about letting know our place.
Further, I had a teacher in grade six, Mrs. Smith, who did not think twice about using force. She always brought with her a bell with a wooden handle, and she gave it a ring whenever the class was becoming too noisy. We knew never to let the bell ring thrice. One ring means we should be quiet and listen to the lesson. If the class becomes too noisy again, there will come a second ringing of the bell. That is a clear warning that if we don’t stop, we might hear the third ring and then we will definitely get it. When the third ring comes, she throws her chalk to somebody in the class who has been making the most noise. She had a good arm, and the only time that we saw her throw the chalk we all fell silent and never let her ring the bell as much as possible.
One time though, when we were having an exam, we got another view of her incredible use of force, and how she uses it to instill fear and discipline. The classroom was quiet; everybody’s heads were down as students were busy answering the questions. Out of nowhere, the bell was flying across the room, and found its target before he could hide his face. Apparently, he has been eyeing his seatmate’s paper, and when Mrs. Smith found him to be cheating threw the bell at him without any warning. From that day on, not a single student in our class was found cheating again.
Looking back, I think that the knowledge that if I do something wrong can get me spanked made me think twice before doing anything bad. It helped that the people I saw who gave out this punishment were decent individuals – my parents were kind but they were strict, and they were fair in administering punishment. Not one of us felt that the other should be spanked more or that any should get less. In the same way, Mrs. Smith on the first day of class made it clear that she will not tolerate misbehavior and cheating of any kind in our classroom. She expected us to behave properly because that is our responsibility; if we behaved otherwise then we will be sanctioned for it. And we did. As a result, we learned that we are responsible for our actions, and whatever we do, we bring upon ourselves what we deserve.
I think that parents and teachers should be allowed to use force to discipline misbehaving youngsters. It does not mean that they are given full liberty in dispensing force, but that it is a useful weapon against bad conduct. Before, children knew what spanking and being humiliated meant. Nowadays, children act terribly. They threaten to call the police and report their parents if they ever spank or hit them, some bully other kids at school and teachers are powerless to hit the same bully who hit smaller students to teach him a lesson. At the extremes, some kids bring dangerous things to school such as illegal drugs and guns, and when they exhibit bad behavior such as harassing other students, teachers and school authorities cannot do anything about it because the student can threaten the teacher and the school and if they castigate the student they may find themselves facing child abuse suits.
Using force entails responsibility. It must be given as the situation warrants, and not used every time a kid misbehaves. For grave offenses, such as stealing, cheating, and disrespecting their elders, I think spanking is justified. If the problem is about the kid’s low grades, or not cleaning up his room, or forgetting to throw the trash, I think that a parent or teacher can simply talk to the kid and find ways to make him deliver. Bad behavior and misconduct, on the other hand, must be punished as needed. Spanking done in the name of instilling discipline is acceptable. However, the one who will administer the spanking should be a mature person. It is easy to lose control and spank a kid out of anger and impatience, and this will lead the child to have self-doubts and low self-esteem and confidence. But if the child understand the full measure of his actions and its corresponding punishment, then he will be better able to grasp what he has done wrongly and what he needs to learn.
In the end, a child who has known spanking is better equipped to understand its merits, and how to use it as a tool for discipline. Spanking and using force at first instills pain, then hurt, then fear to commit the same misconduct. Then it drives home the point that there will be no spanking, no pain, if one will only do what is right. Misdeeds cause the pain; it is its natural consequence, the price to pay. Realizing this, children then know what it means to be accountable for their actions.