Corporally Yours: Fair Form of Justice?
Rouvanjit Rawla is certainly not in a place where a young child like him should be (having committed suicide). But, whatever be the reason for his unfortunate demise (spanking by master/teacher, probable fear of parents’ reprimand-it is reported in certain sections that his parents were called in for a prank that he had played in school, depression); it is really a sad state of things. No little life should be blown out like this. But, we still have a lot of things to review, to reflect about spanking of children.
Spanking a child comes naturally to most parents when things go beyond control. In fact, when children do not respond to verbal warnings or light groundings then, the spanking technique comes in handy for many a parent. Used for generations to get a child to be obedient or prevent him/her from straying onto the wrong path, it has been used successfully. But of late, there have been protests against this method of reforming a child especially because of innumerable cases of abuse by parent/teacher at home and in school. Where does disciplining end and abuse start? When does that little spanking become a case of physically and mentally affecting a child’s psyche? Why does a method that served well in yesteryears suddenly not hold well anymore? Or is it that people are getting too sensitive? Is it good or bad for the child?
Spare the rod and….
Today, many people think that sparing the rod indeed helps especially in view of incidents wherein children have been traumatized by a teacher who has gone overboard. Some children have been handicapped for life while still others carry the trauma for years, bearing the mental bruises even in their adulthood. Corporal punishment as it is officially known has been used for years. It is the normal reaction of most adults when they cannot tolerate a child’s misbehaviour any longer. But who will justify the teacher’s act of justice? Who will ever know when the teacher has used corporal punishment as a sadistic means to a prejudiced thought against a child?
I remember the times I have been spanked and till date have not committed the act for which I was punished. It is presumed rightly at times, that a parent will be wise enough to try verbal persuasion to mend a child’s bad habit or misbehaviour and if not successful then use that little wack to send the message across. The parent is usually aware when he/she is crossing the line of proper physical punishment. And, it is understood that the child is explained why he/she is given this form of punishment. Once the child understands why he/she has been given that wack, it can be rest assured that he/she will not commit the same mistake again. Of course, it is assumed that the hand lifted to physically punish the child also rises to hug the child and express love and care whenever necessary.
But the situation is changing today. We hear of several cases where children have been abused for acts they are not guilty of or, that did not justify a very strict corporal punishment. Those against this form of corporal punishment feel that a child could be provoked into more bad behaviour rebelling against such a form of punishment. Of course, physical harm is always there. Still others feel that it could harm the self esteem and confidence which is so very essential for the overall development of a child. Children get to learn that a beating is the best way to enforce something in life. Who knows, when they grow up into adults they may consider physical punishment a better alternative to verbal interaction! No wonder, many countries have enforced laws wherein parents and teachers cannot raise their hands on the children. It is regarded as an offence and they could be jailed too.
On the flip side, we get to see children who have never been spanked growing up into spoiled brats because they know that they can get away with anything. Parents of these children threaten teachers in schools. No wonder, we have less number of children who really follow the values of teacher-student relationship. The spanking fear is never there. By this I do not suggest that a child must always grow up in fear of a physical punishment. But at least, that worry could help them in times when clarity of mind deceives them influenced by peer pressure or the environment.
Maybe, what worked yesterday does not work today. Today, we have more competition, more pressure and tension for parents and children. Today, there is much more exposure to all sorts of things. Today, the child is not as strong and simple as children were in the earlier generations. So, does that mean that the laws of punishment that applied to us do not apply to them? Can no physical punishment guarantee a happy and successful child? That is something to reflect upon.