Every so often, content on parenting main relate to the use of corporal punishment. Some recent examples are offhand remarks in this question, as well as in this one, the latter also sparking a since-moderated debate on the legitimacy of violence in parenting in a comments thread.
While I realize that corporal punishment is illegal in some countries, legal in others, and in some settings accepted best practice, I believe that very many of us who are engaged in helping parents on this site - even those of us who are from places where corporal punishment is legal - are well aware that parenting without the use of violence is possible, and preferable.
I find these references to violence off putting. I do not think they have a place in a Q&A site on what constitutes good parenting. I propose that we should have a canonical answer or an FAQ post somewhere that excommunicates advocacy of violence against children from this site.
For anyone not yet up to speed on why corporal punishment is best avoided, the American Psychological Association has a good writeup on the science in their feature "The case against spanking".
The problem with physical punishment is not just that it is inflicting harm on children, it is the combination of negative aspects that makes it clear that it has absolutely no place in parenting:
- There is evidence of lasting harm to children, such as increased aggression and lower mental health.
- Corporal punishment does not work. So it is not a necessary evil, it is just evil. From the article above, “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”, says former APA president.
- Tolerating violence is linked to escalated violence. No parent has a toolset that will always work, for all parenting challenges. Wherever we set our limit for what we tolerate, we will always approach that limit. The parent who rejects any use of force will face situations where nothing works and feel that perhaps some force is sometimes warranted. But the parent who accepts corporal punishment will also face situations where none of their methods work, and feel that more violence is warranted. We will always push our own limits, so there needs to be checks and balances pulling them back. From the APA article: “Physical punishment doesn’t work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous”
I get that this is a universal website that should accommodate users from any corner of the world, but the idea that we must tolerate the use of violence because it is legal in some places has the cause and effect of eliminating violence backwards: lawmakers are not going to be on the front lines to criminalizing a socially accepted behavior - such laws can be passed only when there is a popular acceptance that the behavior is intolerable. If we wait for the laws to pass, they never will. We first need to effect change in the minds of people, and a Q&A on how to parent is exactly the place that is in position to do that. If it is commonly accepted in parenting resources that physical punishment should not be tolerated, we normalize that view, and enable the laws to change.
I have also seen objections to this idea from the point of view of censorship and free speech, so let me be clear, I am not suggesting we censor the discussion (which, by all means, a community is free to do in a manner that a democratic government isn't). I am merely suggesting that we adopt a policy that physical punishment cannot be tolerated - that we as a community ratify the UN declaration on the rights of the child, if you will - so that we can inform that the advocacy of violence isn't accepted here, rather than engage in debate about it every time it surfaces.
I honestly don't think that's too high a standard to hold ourselves and our visitors to.