While once common around the world, the use of physical pain as a means of discipline for children has become a very divisive practice. Such tactics, known as corporal punishment, are frowned on in many communities and countries, while others still use physical punishment in their homes and schools for both punishment and prevention of bad behavior.
There are many definitions of what practices constitute corporal punishment. Generally, it is physical punishment that's intended to cause pain; it's used as retribution or discipline for an offense or as a deterrent against such acts. Essentially, it involves hitting someone, primarily a child, in response to bad behavior. At times the striker uses an object, such as a flat paddle, a belt or a stick.
Perhaps the most widely used form of corporal punishment with children is spanking, the striking of a child's buttocks with an open palm or an object. The practice is intended to cause temporary pain without inflicting permanent damage. The placement on the buttocks, a part of the body typically covered, serves to both hide any red marks or bruises and humiliate the child. The use of different objects changes the way spanking is referred to, depending upon the object used, such as paddling, belting or switching.
Other Types of Striking
While spanking refers specifically to striking the buttocks, the use of quick, painful hits without the intent of permanent injury is also targeted to different locations. An open hand strike to the top or back of the head, sometimes called "upside of the head," is also common, while more brutal punishment may use an object, typically a long, thin wooden one, such as a switch or a ruler, over the knuckles. Smacking to the head is typically a quick response to quiet a child, while rapping on the knuckles is used more often as a formal punishment for an offense.
Corporal punishment of different forms, ranging from spanking to lashing a whip across the back, have been most commonly used in three settings. Domestic or parental corporal punishment, such as spanking, remains the most widely used form. Educational corporal punishment, by teachers or administrators, involves striking students for disciplinary purposes, such as speaking out of turn or with offensive language. Judicial corporal punishment is typically used as part of the punishment for a crime. Since it is used against adults with less chance of causing developmental damage, judicial punishments take on a more brutal nature involving whips or hard, wooden canes which can cause bleeding and scarring.
The usage and acceptance of corporal punishment has notably fallen since the second half of the 20th century, with great divisions on this issue existing between countries and communities. Most countries still legally allow parents to use corporal punishment on their children. But many people in countries such as the United States frown on it as an abusive practice, while others continue to proudly support it as their parental right. Educational corporal punishment is still allowed in most countries throughout the world with a few exceptions, including France; the Czech Republic, which also bans corporal punishment in the home; Japan; Kenya; New Zealand and several American states. Judicial corporal punishment has been widely prohibited in Europe and the Americas, while remaining in use by some African and Asian countries. At times these practices have lead to disputes when countries seek to discipline citizens of different nations who have violated laws while on vacation or working abroad.