PJ Media

The Spanking Controversy

A emNewsweek/em article this week a href=”http://www.newsweek.com/id/195119?Gt1=43002″has a story about a school /ain South Carolina whose principal is using spanking as a form of discipline and is getting good results:br /br /blockquoteBefore Nixon took over “John C,” student behavior had gotten so bad that one teacher described it as “chaos.” She eventually quit in disgust, pulled her own child from the school, and moved to a different one 45 minutes away. John C is located in a rural stretch of South Carolina near the Georgia border where all but one of the major textile plants have closed, and where the leading local employer is the school system. Nearly 90 percent of the kids at John C live below the poverty line. When Nixon went to his first PTO meeting, only about a dozen parents showed up at a school with 226 students. He still has trouble reaching many families by phone because they can’t afford to put down a deposit on a landline. And yet Nixon has managed to turn John C around. It recently earned three statewide Palmetto awards, one for academic performance and two for overall improvement—the school’s first such honors in its 35-year history. Not everyone agrees with his methods, but most parents and teachers will tell you he couldn’t have pulled off such a turnaround without his wooden paddle./blockquotebr /br /The article talks about the guilt that the principal feels over his method of discipline but perhaps he should take comfort a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/25/us/findings-give-some-support-to-advocates-of-spanking.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/C/Child%20Abuse%20and%20Neglectpagewanted=all”in the work of Berkeley psychologist, Diana Baumrind:/abr /br /blockquoteThe studies cited by opponents of corporal punishment, Dr. Baumrind contended, often do not adequately distinguish the effects of spanking, as practiced by nonabusive parents, from the impact of severe physical punishment and abuse. Nor do they consider other factors that might account for problems later in life, like whether parents are rejecting or whether defiant or aggressive children might be more likely to be spanked in the first place.br /br /Dr. Baumrind described findings from her own research, an analysis of data from a long-term study of more than 100 families, indicating that mild to moderate spanking had no detrimental effects when such confounding influences were separated out. When the parents who delivered severe punishment — for example, frequently spanking with a paddle or striking a child in the face — were removed from the analysis, Dr. Baumrind and her colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Owens, found that few harmful effects linked with spanking were left. And the few that remained could be explained by other aspects of the parent-child relationship.br /br /”When parents are loving and firm and communicate well with the child,” Dr. Baumrind said, ”the children are exceptionally competent and well adjusted, whether or not their parents spanked them as preschoolers.”/blockquotebr /br /The principal in the South Carolina school may use a paddle but he does not use it “frequently,” and he does seem to have a consistent pattern of using corporal punishment. Parents are also brought into the equation and seem to be working with the principal toward expecting better behavior. This seems to me to be a help and not a hindrance to the kids in this town. br /br /What do you think?