Spare the rod, spoil the child?

While recently talking with a colleague who has two small kids, regarding the primary education system in the US, I was surprised to know that there exists a law here which states that parents/teachers cannot “touch” their children/students. Now, I am not in favor of physical punishment here but I do feel that sometimes it does become necessary to enforce discipline on a child, if only for his/her own good.

I was born and brought up in India. There, I was spanked countless number of times by my parents and teachers, till, if my memory goes right, as high as middle school. Now, although it wasn’t a very pleasant experience at that time, I realized later that they did what they did for my own betterment. Through them, I learnt some lessons regarding life and how it works which I might not have learnt otherwise. But then, I come over here and find out that if a parent/teacher so much as harshly scolds a child, he/she is liable to get arrested and even jailed. I really don’t get it! In such a scenario, how can parents/teachers inculcate virtues in their kids?

When I brought this topic up with my colleague, he stated that this law was in place to prevent children from getting manhandled by step-parents/guardians; that children were becoming victims of broken homes and that this law had resulted in them having a much “freer” childhood than what it would have been otherwise. But I have a question to ask. By doing so, aren’t we exchanging their happiness in childhood with sadness in adult life? By sparing the rod earlier on in their lives, aren’t we spoiling them in the long run? Isn’t there a better approach towards this problem?

I personally feel that it is the duty of the parents/teachers to make the child distinguish right from wrong and some amount of freedom should be given to them in this regard. There is a difference between abuse and discipline and although one should definitely prevent the former, one should also definitely support the latter. I believe that workshops and seminars with parents/teachers/guardians which make them more aware of their responsibilities is a much better solution to this problem than a blanket law that ties their hands behind their backs. It is because every child is unique that it should be left to the “responsible” grown-ups to handle them differently.

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