Is Corporal Punishment An Educational Measure?


The punishment is an educational measure in which an unpleasant consequence of the behavior of the child is made by the educator, with the aim that this behavior is no longer shown by the child or is completely forgotten.

Punishment and Punishment in Education

Praise and rewards as educational measures are controversial – but penalties and punishments are much more than that.

Corporal punishment as a means to an end was quite common well into the 20th century, and many parents were of the opinion that “a little slap” would not hurt. In the 19th century it was quite normal to give children a “beating” when they weren’t functioning as the adults imagined.

Today children are legally protected against violence in their upbringing. In paragraph 1631 of the BGB it says literally:

“Children have a right to a non-violent upbringing. Corporal punishments, emotional injuries and other degrading measures are not permitted. ”

Fortunately, most parents today take it for granted that children should not be beaten or sanctioned in any other hurtful way. But is it really possible and sensible to completely dispense with punishments as an educational measure?

In order to be able to assess this, it must first be clear how a punishment can be defined at all:

A Penalty Can Be

  • An unpleasant consequence that follows a child’s behavior or
  • The termination or future lack of a pleasant situation as a result of the child’s behavior.

Both forms of punishment can be quickly illustrated using two examples:

Example 1:

Because Anna, 8 years old, has not tidied her room as agreed, she has to empty and put away the dishwasher every day for a week as a punishment. Since Anna does not enjoy doing housework, she sees this consequence as a punishment.

Example 2:

Florian, 15 years old, comes home late for the second time in the evening. As a result, he is not allowed to go to soccer training for a week, which he loves very much. The punishment, in this case, is that Florian cannot pursue his favorite hobby for a while. So a situation that is pleasant for him does not materialize.

Apart from the question of whether or not punishment is an effective educational measure, it is not at all easy to use punishment in such a way that it also achieves the desired effect. The following things should be considered when it comes to pedagogically meaningful sanctions:

The child’s “offense” or misconduct should be logically and temporally related to the punishment. This is especially important for younger children so that they can even understand what they did wrong.

Penalties must be proportionate – if only so that their use does not violate § 1631.

Punishments should not be used arbitrarily. Otherwise, the suspicion arises that parents and/or educators are using the punishment solely to demonstrate their power or to abuse it.

A penalty should be announced. In this way, the child knows that their behavior can have negative consequences and it is up to them to decide how they want to act.

Punishments should never be used too often. They lose their effectiveness and children could use them themselves as a method to sanction the weaker. In addition, an upbringing that primarily relies on punishment as a measure puts a strain on the relationship between parents and children. The relationship of trust is then permanently disturbed.

From a child’s point of view, provoking punishments can also be a way of attracting attention. In this case, the use of sanctions makes little sense because the child does not classify the negative attention it receives as an undesirable consequence, but rather sees it as a reward. The result: It does not stop the behavior, but will probably show the behavior you want even more often.

Punishing babies and toddlers does not make sense. You are not yet aware of wrongdoing and cannot yet assess the consequences of your actions. Moral development has not yet started either.

Punishments have to be felt as such in order for them to work. Therefore, parents should design these individually.

An upbringing that relies primarily on punishments can lead to children not developing self-confidence, having social problems or being aggressive towards others.

Punishment is not a guarantee that a child will understand their wrongdoing. Often it only finds methods to avoid punishment, for example by lying or no longer showing the undesirable behavior openly.

Often More Sensible Than Punishments: Logical Consequences

So it is not at all easy to use punishments sensibly in upbringing – no wonder that many educators reject them. An alternative to classic punishment can, however, be a “ logical consequence”. This is a consequence of one’s own actions that is directly related to the wrongdoing.

Example 1:

Lisa, 3 years old, really wants to dress herself. The mother lets her go, but announces: “You have to hurry, it’s almost evening. When it gets dark it is too late to go to the playground”

Lisa now has it in her own hands: If she dawdles around while getting dressed, she can no longer go to the playground – a situation she wished for does not occur. She’s probably inventing this consequence as a punishment anyway, but in the future she’ll probably hurry up when it comes to getting dressed.

Example 2:

Leon, 4 years old, fidgets in his chair.

His mother then admonishes him: “Let it be! You will fall over and hurt yourself! ”

Leon does not change his behavior. The chair tips over and Leon is crying.

In this case, Leon’s fall is clearly a logical consequence of his own (wrong) behavior.

Important: Leon’s mother should still comfort her son in this situation – the pain is punishment enough.

Infobox: Violence in Upbringing

In 2011 the magazine “Eltern” carried out a survey on the subject of “violence in upbringing” in cooperation with the Forsa Institute.

Around 1000 parents of at least one child up to the age of 14 were surveyed.

The most important results in the summary:

  • 40% of those questioned stated that they had given their child a “slap on the bottom” at least 1-2 times in the past 12 months. The children affected were on average between two and eight years old.
  • For 4% of the respondents, the “slap on the bottom” was part of everyday life, so it was used every few days as an educational measure.
  • In more than 50 percent of the cases, the reason given for the punishment was that the child was “cheeky” or “outrageous”.
  • 75% of parents felt guilty after punishing their child with a slap or even more drastic measures, and most tried to explain their drastic reaction to their children.
  • It becomes clear that parents who experienced violence in their upbringing as children were more willing to use violence as an educational measure for their own children as well.

Analogous to the reward, there are two types of punishment

  1. An unpleasant consequence follows the behavior
  2. On the behavior, a pleasant situation is ended or it will not occur again later

Problems with the Punishment Measure

  • Punishment does not eliminate the undesirable behavior, it only suppresses it and delays its occurrence in time
  • The punished child does not change his behavior, but tries to escape the punishment by learning new behaviors, e.g. B. through flight, lying, ingratiation, etc.
  • Punishment can put such a strain on the relationship between educator and child that no (necessary) relationship of trust can be established
  • Frequent punishment can lead to hostile and aggressive behavior
  • The child does not see his wrongdoing when punished and therefore does not change his behavior
  • Punishment can lead to an intensification of undesirable behavior, for example, if this is the only form of affection for the child
  • The model of punishment is used by the child himself to assert himself against others
  • Frequent punishment lowers the child’s self-esteem and can lead to lack of motivation and passivity.
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I am Jessica Moretti, mother of 1 boy and 2 beautiful twin angels, and live in on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia. I started this blog to discuss issues on parenting, motherhood and to explore my own experiences as a parent. I hope to help you and inspire you through simple ideas for happier family life!


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