Treading the thin line between punishment and abuse

[info]seankreynolds discusses the shift in attitudes regarding corporal punishment of children in his LJ today. I left this comment in response:

Often I think people mistake abusive violence and discipline. Given that we’re all just meat puppets and operant conditioning is well understood, punishment as a form of discipline is necessary; neutering a parent’s ability to physically punish is a grave mistake of our society. However, as you describe, anecdotes of unprovoked violence is abuse. Violence with the intent to cause pain rather than serve as punishment is abuse.

There’s no room in this world for abuse. However, a society that does not apply physical punishment when appropriate is equally doomed.

The fact that we no longer condone appropriate physical punishment, I feel, comes from us collectively “erring on the side of caution” as it is too easy for people to cross the line from punishment to abuse. Unfortunately, it’s the risk aversion to letting parents make such a mistake that has ultimately created worse problems.

I know this is a subject that many feel strongly about, and people’s opinions cover the whole spectrum. Is there something about my comment you disagree with? Am I missing something? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

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  1. I don’t think that you’re missing anything in your analysis.

    I’d be willing to bet this risk-averse attitude probably extends to much more than child-rearing.

  2. Simon: I suspect you’re right. Watching the decline of America as a first-world nation is depressing.

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