Punishing our children

Educators need to be educated about the other tools they have at their disposal to inculcate discipline.


Editorial June 28, 2013
52 per cent of those surveyed fully disagreed that fear of punishment motivated children to perform well in school. PHOTO: FILE

The shocking support for corporal punishment in the classroom, brought to light by a recent report, says much about our attitude towards children. According to a report in this newspaper, 67 per cent of teachers and 79 per cent of parents, fully or partially, agree that some amount of physical punishment is necessary; many believe that the punishment is for the child’s own benefit. This report paints a sorry picture of the state of children’s rights in Pakistan. Despite the fact that the country is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which outlaws all forms of violence and abuse against children, Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code allows corporal punishment and the practice is also unofficially sanctioned.

What is paradoxical is that 52 per cent of those surveyed fully disagreed that fear of punishment motivated children to perform well in school. This means that teachers and parents implicitly realise the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment, but still wrongly view it as an essential tool in inculcating discipline and building character. The point of any punishment must be to discourage unwanted behaviour and replace it with desirable conduct. But the children surveyed in the study said that they were beaten when the teacher was in a bad mood, which means that they failed to associate the punishment with their own conduct and were thus unlikely to change it.

It is deplorable that the notions of these caregivers and educators are so divergent from the norms of humanity. Such attitudes have no place in civilised society and a campaign to put an end to such practices is needed. Parents and teachers need to realise that by itself corporal punishment cannot teach children right from wrong and is likely to lead to a cycle of harmful behaviour, including aggression and future abuse of children or spouse. Educators need to be educated about the other tools they have at their disposal to inculcate discipline, including reasoning, story-telling and encouragement.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.

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COMMENTS (1)

Toticalling | 8 years ago | Reply

Hitting and caning a child when he is unable to defend is like teaching him that might is right. Whatever psychological drawback the child get hit, he grows up to become a brutal human beings as well. So the spiral of cruelty is carried on with next generation. More important is to show flexibility and respect. I Know a school in Summerhill in UK which allows pupils to be free and if they do not attend a class, are not punished. They say that these children grow up to be happy people. Yes this is an extreme, but a tolerant society is more important and that requires not punishment but love and understanding. Another point is that parents should never scold or humiliate a child in presence of anybody outside the family. That makes them less confident and timid.

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