What Is Corporal Punishment?

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Corporal punishment is when a parent attempts to stop an unwanted child behavior by causing the child to feel physical discomfort. Corporal punishment includes spankings, slapping a child, and beatings - with an open hand, fist, or object such as a belt, switch, cord, paddle, board, or fly swatter. Corporal punishment also includes twisting ears, placing hot sauce on the child's tongue, locking a child in a room, and tying a child down.

Asking a child to over exert themselves with exercise is also considered corporal punishment as is not allowing a child to go to the toilet.

The above are a few examples of corporal punishment. If you are unsure what is appropriate discipline, remember to ask your social worker before taking action with a foster child in your care.

The use of corporal punishment is not appropriate for children in foster care and many adopted children due to the abuse and neglect that many foster and adopted children have experienced in their birth homes.

There are several other reasons why corporal punishment may not be effective with children that have been abused or neglected and are now living in a foster or adoptive home.

  • Abuse sometimes leaves a child with a high tolerance for pain. A frustrated caregiver may start off by spanking a child, but when they don't get the response they are seeking from the child, begin to hit harder and harder.

  • Corporal punishment may also bring about bad memories of past abuse.

  • Corporal punishment may prevent a child from building an attachment to the foster or adoptive parents.

  • Needed life lessons are not being taught when discipline is angry and painful.

  • Corporal punishment may leave a child with increased anxiety.

  • Corporal punishment may hurt a child’s ability to trust the foster or adoptive parents.

For many new foster or adoptive parents, not being allowed to spank a child may be hard to understand as most of us were raised by parents who spanked. Yes, most of us did “turn out OK.” Hopefully, the points above help in understanding why spanking or other forms of physical punishment are not in an abused or neglected child’s best interest. Or, in the best interest of a foster or adoptive family that is trying to attach to the child. There are, however, several other options when it comes to discipline for foster and adoptive parents.