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Corporal punishment is too extreme for children

Man uses 100,000-volt stun gun on stepson

Published: Friday, October 18, 2002

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

Brazoria County officials arrested a man last month after he used a 100,000-volt stun gun to discipline his 8-year-old stepson and 11-year-old stepdaughter. Theodore E. Moody was charged with two counts of injury to a child and his wife was arrested for not reporting the abuse, according to the Houston Chronicle. The state Child Protective Services (CPS) removed the four children from the couple's home for a year.

Moody is an extreme, yet appropriate example of the problem corporal punishment causes in society. Parents do not and should not have the right to discipline their child in any way they please. Even discipline which does not cause physical damage is harmful. Much of the damage corporal punishment does to children is psychological.

There is a fine line between punishment and abuse, which Moody certainly crossed. However, hitting a child in any manner is a violent act, and parents should refrain from disciplining their children in such a way.

Moody used the stun gun to discipline the boy for oversleeping and missing the school bus. He told his stepson to walk to school and walked behind him, zapping his buttocks every time the boy slowed his pace. A sheriff's captain in Brazoria County told the Houston Chronicle the shock from a stun gun feels like a bee sting - to an adult - and is followed by a temporary paralysis.

The most disturbing aspect of this case is that Moody considered a stun gun a perfectly legal and appropriate way to discipline his stepson. "I've whipped his ass so hard that it left marks," Moody told the Houston Chronicle. "That just didn't send the message and this did."

He decided to use the stun gun after asking a CPS official how to handle his stepson and was simply told "don't break bones, don't draw blood."

According to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association, the single desirable outcome associated with corporal punishment was the immediate end to misbehaving on the part of the child. The study found 10 strong negative associations with corporal punishment, however, including increased child aggression and antisocial behavior.

Psychologist H. Stephen Glenn opposes corporal punishment because it leads to an increase in bad behavior in children. "It reinforces resistance, revenge and resentment," he said. As the behavior increases, so does the violence. The more a child is hit the more likely he is to be aggressive or have mental health problems. The bad results associated with corporal punishment far outweigh the good.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidelines on how to effectively discipline children. Parents should use positive reinforcement of good behavior and negative punishment for bad behavior. Negative punishment means when a child is misbehaving, parents should use time-outs or take away certain privileges because children respond better to nonviolent discipline.

Parents can lose control while punishing children. Madelyne Toogood, the mother caught on tape hitting and shaking her 4-year-old, is a highly publicized example of a parent losing control. According to the AAP, 44 percent of parents surveyed in 1996 said they use corporal punishment on their children and half reported being angry at the time. Of these, approximately 85 percent said they felt moderate to high anger, agitation and remorse while punishing.

When a parent loses control, a child can be severely hurt or killed. The Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse reports that 85 percent of child abuse cases result from over-discipline through the use of corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is not worth the risks posed to children. There are better, more effective means of teaching and disciplining them. Not all parents who use physical discipline cross over into legally defined child abuse, but they are still committing violent acts against a child which may psychologically damage them.

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