There is a clear downside to physical negative reinforcement with child discipline.
Child discipline is something that four major collective elements have to deal with. The first are parents and family members/authority figures taking on parental roles, the second are the general public as a whole. The third are the educational institutions that have direct contact with the child, and the fourth are the police and authority figures within a child’s country. My thesis states that physical negative reinforcement should be very tentatively administered because there is a clear downside to physical negative reinforcement when it comes to child discipline.
Physical negative reinforcement refers to the authority figure giving out some sort of pain to the child, which is traditionally done via a spank with an open hand. Though some communities feel that this sort of punishment and reinforcement is justified, it is morally wrong to physically harm a child in any matter. This is why the open handed slap is traditionally used in a manner that does not leave a bruise.
The best argument against capital punishment is that no system of law is perfect, and the execution of an innocent person is not worth any amount of benefit that capital punishment may bestow. The same may be said for punishing a child with negative reinforcement, since nobody can ever be sure of the circumstances surrounding misbehavior.
Luckily for most parents, up to the age of around 10-12yrs old, your child is devious, cunning, but not yet able to outwit you with absolute consistency. Don’t forget that your child has plenty of times to look seven or eight steps ahead, but luckily, their actions are often predictable because you did similar things as a child. The circumstances surrounding misbehavior are also often simple, for example, Tommy plays with his new slingshot all day, but becomes bored of it shortly after a bird dropped a stone on the windscreen of his dad’s car. This means that many times a parent can be fairly certain of a child’s actions and the consequences of such actions.
There are unexpected conditions every time and in every situation, and this makes judging a child and the severity of their punishment very difficult. Their severity and how they affect the child’s moral center as per your negative reinforcement is never clear. For example, children have the capacity to be selfless, and may take the blame for the actions of others from the age of five (when lateral thinking develops).
Children are also easily bullied and coerced, which makes them very easy to manipulate. It is not uncommon for other children to manipulate other kids. Any negative reinforcement at this point may make the child look for reasons other than the fact that he or she is being manipulated. That reason is usually that they are bad and deserve their punishment; otherwise they simply become better at concealing their actions.
It is impossible to know the full circumstances surrounding a child’s behavior, and since there is no way to be fully sure of the circumstances, then physical punishments should be very tentatively approached. Correct judgment should be used for all forms of disciplinary reinforcement, as positive reinforcement for morally dubious things is just as bad as unfair negative and physically negative reinforcement.