Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

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Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#1  Postby Mick » Feb 12, 2014 6:28 pm

I was thinking from the previous discussion we had here. We were talking about whether spanking is an effective and appropriate means to modify children's behavior. Afterwards, I spoke to my parents, and I spoke to a few other parents whom I know spank their children. From those discussions, I noticed that sometimes they spank without regard to modifying behavior. Instead, it is a matter of just deserts. They spank simply because they believe that is what their children deserved. They seem to think that their children got what was coming to them, so to speak.

I can't speak much about Europe, but the idea of retribution as a end in itself is largely prevalent here in Canada and the USA. It is an intimate part of how we view justice. We seem to want some degree of suffering on part of criminals not so that they won't behave like that again, though that would be an added plus, but simply because they deserve to suffer.

For adult criminals, I can relate to that sentiment, especially for rapists and violent offenders. I want them to suffer so that they will avoid doing that action again (behavior management of a sort) but that suffering is also an end to itself (retribution).

I stop short when it comes to children, however. Here we can interpret children to be anyone under 18, but still of a developmental level which allows them to appreciate their actions. It strikes a chord of alarm to hear someone say that he wants to see a child to suffer. Yet, I could totally understand that sentiment if that child were a 16 year old violent rapist. I dunno if I agree with it, but I understand it.

In any case, how would a person answer those parents? Say I was spanked as a 12 year old boy, since I was a bully who beat the crap out of another classmate. Say my parents spanked me just for the sake of retributive justice. They think I deserved it.

I got mixed feelings about this. If I were the beaten boy's parent, I could envision myself much more sympathetic to the spanking. If not, then I would not be so inclined.

Would my parents be wrong? Explain.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#2  Postby Mr.Samsa » Feb 13, 2014 10:23 pm

I stop short when it comes to children, however. Here we can interpret children to be anyone under 18, but still of a developmental level which allows them to appreciate their actions. It strikes a chord of alarm to hear someone say that he wants to see a child to suffer. Yet, I could totally understand that sentiment if that child were a 16 year old violent rapist. I dunno if I agree with it, but I understand it.

In any case, how would a person answer those parents? Say I was spanked as a 12 year old boy, since I was a bully who beat the crap out of another classmate. Say my parents spanked me just for the sake of retributive justice. They think I deserved it.


I think most people would answer it by simply rejecting the "eye for an eye" approach to society, usually on the basis of the reasoning that it leads to "..till everyone is blind". It's a horrifically flawed system because it usually causes more problems than it solves so, in a sense, you yourself would need to be punished for contributing for the sorry state of affairs.

But even if we accept the retributive assumption of punishment, there is still a clear distinction between an adult and a child that depends on you to teach them about the world. If my [future] child were to become a school bully and beat people up, I could smack them about because their behavior disgusts me but what's the point? I was in charge of teaching them the correct way to behave and it would likely be my failure, so maybe I should ...spank myself (in a non-congratulatory manner)?

More problematically is (as touched on above) even if you accept the retributive system, you can't escape the facts of behavior modification. That is, you can say that you feel justifying in smacking the bully kid because he deserved it but we know that: a) this is unlikely to change his behavior, and b) it's entirely possible that it will worsen his behavior. So what kind of justice is that?

It's like "punishing" a murderer by inflicting harm through several painful medical procedures but specifying that those medical procedures include things like implanted knives that can be hidden beneath the skin, metal-plated knuckles, and a permanently loaded gun mounted on his forearm. All you've done is piss him off more and given him the tools to inflict more harm on the world.

In essence, would your parents be wrong? Depends what you mean by wrong. Their actions are rational in the sense that they are making logically consistent decisions based on prior beliefs and the facts of the matter, it's just basically a really stupid way to act. And to be clear, I extend my position to your case of the murderers and rapists. If we had an effective rehabilitative system in place that involved absolutely no punishment for their crime, but significantly reduced or completely eliminated the possibility of reoffending, then I would choose that option even though emotionally I would hate them for their crimes.

This is simply because I'd rather live in a world with less murders, rapes, and fucked up kids, than a world where I get to hit a child because I'm pissed off at him.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#3  Postby chairman bill » Feb 13, 2014 10:25 pm

The behavioural data suggests that punishment regimes tend not to be very good at modifying behaviour long-term.

As for spanking children - I never had to do it, and my three lads are doing just fine, thanks.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#4  Postby Mr.Samsa » Feb 13, 2014 10:51 pm

chairman bill wrote:The behavioural data suggests that punishment regimes tend not to be very good at modifying behaviour long-term.


A little more accurately, punishment procedures can technically be incredibly effective at completely eliminating a behavior. The problem comes in the fact that a large number of extremely strict criteria need to be met for this effect to be reached, including an immediacy beyond which is practically possible in most situations and at a level of intensity beyond which most people would be comfortable dishing out, and any slip at all in these criteria will result in an increase in the rate of problem behavior, as well as an increase in its resistance to change.

So, given that there are equally/more effective alternative methods for changing behavior, most people would agree that it is more practical and more ethical to use these "positive" methods. I just wanted to pedantically note that people often confuse the finding that punishment is always the best method for various methods with the idea that punishment is ineffective. Only the former is absolutely true and the latter is true only under some contexts.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#5  Postby chairman bill » Feb 13, 2014 10:59 pm

Yes, they can eliminate a behaviour, but what often happens long-term, is that equivalent behaviours arise, often as bad as, or worse than that which was eliminated. It's why punishment regimes alone are not the way to go, but rather the use of punishment (if only at the level of removing opportunities for the target behaviour to be reinforced) and differential reinforcement to bring about a) extinction of target behaviour, and b) the replacement with other behaviours (DRO), incompatible behaviours (DRI) or alternative behaviours, such as with functional communication training.

Simply punishing a child's problematic behaviour isn't enough - active parenting, directed at the development of pro-social & adaptive forms of behaviour, are needed too.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#6  Postby Mr.Samsa » Feb 13, 2014 11:11 pm

chairman bill wrote:Yes, they can eliminate a behaviour, but what often happens long-term, is that equivalent behaviours arise, often as bad as, or worse than that which was eliminated. It's why punishment regimes alone are not the way to go, but rather the use of punishment (if only at the level of removing opportunities for the target behaviour to be reinforced) and differential reinforcement to bring about a) extinction of target behaviour, and b) the replacement with other behaviours (DRO), incompatible behaviours (DRI) or alternative behaviours, such as with functional communication training.

Simply punishing a child's problematic behaviour isn't enough - active parenting, directed at the development of pro-social & adaptive forms of behaviour, are needed too.


Sure, but you're touching on a slightly different issue there. I was just correcting the idea that punishment can't completely eradicate a problem behavior in the long-term. You're right that often, without explicit teaching of a 'correct' behavior, the behavioral void left by the extinct punished behavior can often be filled with another bad behavior but it's obviously a behavior that is different to the original behavior (since that behavior has been eradicated forever).

To put it another way, if one really wanted to, you could in fact use punishment to teach the correct behavior - you'd just need to do so by punishing every single new behavior that occurs until the desired behavior manifests itself. It's just a really shitty and ineffective way of getting what you want.

The only reason I wanted to make the correction was that often the belief that "punishment doesn't work" is made in contexts where it is appropriate (e.g. in parenting, as punishment methods are hugely impractical and would likely do more harm than good) but unfortunately this belief gets carried over as a general belief and applied to things where it is not appropriate to do so. That is, for some behaviors and in some situations, punishment is in fact that only method that we have to save someone's life and/or restore some sense of autonomy in them. As you say though, this isn't just simple "punishment" and it requires knowing a whole lot about what you're doing, including providing a positive alternative to minimise the amount of punishment required.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#7  Postby chairman bill » Feb 13, 2014 11:16 pm

Quite. Trouble is, the punishment that causes extinction of a behaviour, might also cause extinction of the organism, if you're not careful!
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#8  Postby Mr.Samsa » Feb 13, 2014 11:18 pm

chairman bill wrote:Quite. Trouble is, the punishment that causes extinction of a behaviour, might also cause extinction of the organism, if you're not careful!


I suppose you will have technically achieved your goal in that situation though, permanent cessation of problem (and all) behavior...
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#9  Postby chairman bill » Feb 13, 2014 11:19 pm

... and also up on a murder charge
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#10  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Feb 14, 2014 1:30 am

Retribution is almost always an emotional reaction, hence unlikely to be a sensible or rational approach to solving any problem.

Saying that, we wouldn't be human if we didn't have emotional outbursts from time to time. I wouldn't class systematically hitting children in that mild category though.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#11  Postby Mick » Feb 21, 2014 8:03 pm

chairman bill wrote:The behavioural data suggests that punishment regimes tend not to be very good at modifying behaviour long-term.

As for spanking children - I never had to do it, and my three lads are doing just fine, thanks.



I'm unsure what relevance the first sentence has.

Your second sentence is odd. The goal of spanking here is not to help your children do "just fine". The intention is to give them exactly what they "deserve" regardless of whether it helps lead them down a better path. You seem to be assessing retributive spanking from its failures to meet an end that it purports no interest in pursuing.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#12  Postby Fallible » Feb 21, 2014 8:31 pm

Nothing a child could do ''deserves'' physical pain.
She battled through in every kind of tribulation,
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#13  Postby Mazille » Feb 21, 2014 9:00 pm

It's such an un-Christian notion, mick. Or was Jesus only addressing kids when he said to turn the other cheek? Was he specifically talking about kids' butt cheeks?
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#14  Postby monkeyboy » Feb 21, 2014 9:10 pm

As someone who works with offenders, I'll kick of by saying that punitive punishment alone is possibly one of the most useless things we could do.
At risk of generalising, the vast majority of the guys I encounter have had atrocious parenting either through over indulgence (affluenza as it's being labeled in some parts), absence of parenting/neglect, apathetic or indifferent parenting or some form of abusive parenting (psychological bullying, violence or sexual). The number of times my colleagues and I have remarked that someone hardly stood a chance is phenomenal.
What works is treating them. I don't mean to ice cream and holidays. I mean helping them to understand how they behave, how their behaviour impacts on others, how they came to behave as they do, how to behave differently, how to recognise the acceptability of their changed behaviour and to build their self esteem whilst doing so. It isn't easy and there are tears and tantrums along the way but by persevering with these damaged individuals, we often put them back together again and restore them to society as safe and better functioning individuals.
Recividism rates amongst people who engage in treatment programmes are far lower than those who have punishment alone. The rewards from seeing people suddenly get it, suddenly realising there are different ways of thinking, different ways of finding solutions to problems is awesome. Knowing you have repaired a life rather than knocked the snot out of someone who really had a shit start to their life is priceless.
As for spanking. My take is simple. If you are so pissed off your child won't behave that you feel inclined to assault them, who has the problem? If kids don't learn enough at school to pass their exams are they stupid or do we look at the teacher?
Parenting is hard, kids are infuriating but we have a massive? responsibility to invest a huge amount of time and effort to teach them, to guide them, to role model appropriate behaviour (not violence and poor self control), to nurture them and to love them. They'll fuck up along the way just as you did but help them to learn from their mistakes rather than beating them and they'll thank you for it rather than resent you. Take time to help them work through problems and they'll share their problems rather than have sneaky secrets. Show them love and understanding and guess what kind of people they'll grow into...
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#15  Postby redwhine » Feb 21, 2014 9:17 pm

Fallible wrote:Nothing a child could do ''deserves'' physical pain.

The Wholely Babble appears to disagree...

Deuteronomy wrote:21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.


Exodus wrote:21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.


Proverbs wrote:30:17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.


2 Kings wrote:2:23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.


But what else would you expect from a totally loving god? :dopey:
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#16  Postby monkeyboy » Feb 21, 2014 9:19 pm

Mick wrote:The goal of spanking here is not to help your children do "just fine". The intention is to give them exactly what they "deserve" regardless of whether it helps lead them down a better path. You seem to be assessing retributive spanking from its failures to meet an end that it purports no interest in pursuing.


I'm interested to hear just what a child has to do that would deserve being purposefully assaulted by an adult. I take it by using the term spanking, you are meaning a considered beating rather than some anger fuelled, loss of control type knee jerk assault. I'd be interested to see you explain the difference.

Also, how is a parent or other authorised spanker qualified in any way to determine the appropriate amount of abuse to be administered to the child for each infringement?
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#17  Postby Mick » Feb 21, 2014 9:50 pm

Fallible wrote:Nothing a child could do ''deserves'' physical pain.


Define what you mean here by "child"

And why not? I'm curious.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#18  Postby Mick » Feb 21, 2014 10:00 pm

monkeyboy wrote:
Mick wrote:The goal of spanking here is not to help your children do "just fine". The intention is to give them exactly what they "deserve" regardless of whether it helps lead them down a better path. You seem to be assessing retributive spanking from its failures to meet an end that it purports no interest in pursuing.


I'm interested to hear just what a child has to do that would deserve being purposefully assaulted by an adult. I take it by using the term spanking, you are meaning a considered beating rather than some anger fuelled, loss of control type knee jerk assault. I'd be interested to see you explain the difference.

Also, how is a parent or other authorised spanker qualified in any way to determine the appropriate amount of abuse to be administered to the child for each infringement?


Your last question there presumes it is an instance of abuse. You can't presume exactly what is at stake. I wonder just what is involved here in being "qualified" for administration. There are qualifications? I wonder if there are qualifications for any sort of parental discipline. One might ask, 'how is a parent qualified to determine the appropriate amount of time-outs administered to the child for each infringement?' I'm unsure this is about qualifications other than being in a sort of authoritative position over that child. Parents are given liberties and privileges to use at their judgement until their actions are shown to be abusive.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#19  Postby Mazille » Feb 21, 2014 10:06 pm

Which deliberately hitting to inflict pain as a form of retribution isn't?

You're not even trying, man.
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Re: Spanking as a form of Retribution ?

#20  Postby monkeyboy » Feb 21, 2014 11:32 pm

Mick wrote:
monkeyboy wrote:
Mick wrote:The goal of spanking here is not to help your children do "just fine". The intention is to give them exactly what they "deserve" regardless of whether it helps lead them down a better path. You seem to be assessing retributive spanking from its failures to meet an end that it purports no interest in pursuing.


I'm interested to hear just what a child has to do that would deserve being purposefully assaulted by an adult. I take it by using the term spanking, you are meaning a considered beating rather than some anger fuelled, loss of control type knee jerk assault. I'd be interested to see you explain the difference.

Also, how is a parent or other authorised spanker qualified in any way to determine the appropriate amount of abuse to be administered to the child for each infringement?


Your last question there presumes it is an instance of abuse. You can't presume exactly what is at stake. I wonder just what is involved here in being "qualified" for administration. There are qualifications? I wonder if there are qualifications for any sort of parental discipline. One might ask, 'how is a parent qualified to determine the appropriate amount of time-outs administered to the child for each infringement?' I'm unsure this is about qualifications other than being in a sort of authoritative position over that child. Parents are given liberties and privileges to use at their judgement until their actions are shown to be abusive.


Perhaps it would serve you better to answer the questions in order. And I would seriously appreciate you doing so rather than nitpicking over a minor point in my post as usual to avoid more awkward questions put to you Mick.

And yes, you're damn right my last question presumes it is an abuse to deliberately assault anyone, especially a child which you are responsible for. Replace the child with an adult in a hypothetical situation. Since you fail to provide me with an instance where spanking a child might be appropriate in your eyes (avoidance of this issue duly noted), I perhaps have to draw on my own experience. I was spanked as a child for swearing at my mother. She told my father when he returned from work and I was bent over the arm of the sofa and whacked across the arse with his belt. Now back to the hypothetical situation. My wife tells me that a neighbour swore at her earlier in the day so I go around to the neighbours house and confront him, overpower him and give him a few whacks with my belt. What is the likely outcome of this situation?

The question on qualifications stands. How is the spanker to determine how many blows to deliver, how hard and with what to make the punishment appropriate to the actions of the child?

Try answering some questions Mick. I have answered you, do me the courtesy of responding in kind please.
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