Spanking is one of the most common yet, controversial methods of punishment in our society. Almost everyone I know has grown up being spanked, but I personally have never once been spanked before. However, that doesn't mean I wasn't disciplined. There’s no doubt that finding a healthy way to teach children right from wrong is difficult, but resorting to physical punishment is not the best way to raise a well-behaved child.
Spanking is Not an Effective Punishment
There are many reasons why spanking is not an effective way to discipline your children. According to Parents.com, an estimated two-thirds of child-abuse cases start off as disciplinary acts and then degrade into something far more harmful, and four out of five parents admit to spanking their children at least once. Which means that 80% of parents have spanked their kids.
In a survey published in Pediatrics, half of the respondents who admitted to spanking their kids said they did so out of anger and because they "lost control," and approximately one in four parents reported that they use an object -- a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, a belt -- to paddle their kids.
When a friend of mine was younger, her parents had a wooden paddle that they used, to hit her and her siblings with. Her parents named it Mr. Murphy and they would set it in her room at night in order to get her to stay in bed and be quiet. After all, Mr. Murphy was watching. My friend was scared to sleep in her own room until she was 14 years old!
A quote from the Washington Post stated that “Most spanking happens when our blood is boiling and we react. Once you calm down, most reasonable people don’t want to resolve a problem by striking someone."
A family I babysat for had a little boy who’s 1 ½. When the boy went up to his dad and bit his arm, the dad turned around and smacked the kid in his face. When the dad stopped and realized what he just did, he felt embarrassed, but since he had grown so accustomed to spanking his kids, that was more of a natural reflex when he was angry.
Parents Spank Out of Anger
When parents are so comfortable using spanking and hitting as the main form of punishment for their children, they’re more likely to spank as their natural reflex when they are angry and lose control. Many studies have proven that spanking is harmful to a child. According to apa.org physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 calling physical punishment “legalized violence against children” that should be eliminated in all settings.
According to Babycenter.com, "Spanking is a temporary solution that does more harm than good." Parents think that spanking "works" because it is external control over a child, but it doesn't promote internal decision-making. It simply teaches children to behave – or else. Spanking causes many children to focus on the punishment rather than on their poor decision. So I’m not asking you guys to give up an effective technique. I am saying that there are far better ways to discipline your child than by spanking.
Most parents don’t spank their kids with the intentional goal to hurt them physically or psychologically, but an overwhelming amount of research shows that that is what’s happening. Therefore, children who are spanked harder and more often, are more at risk to the harmful, negative outcomes that spanking causes.
You Were Spanked and You're Fine...Right?
Alright, so many of you might be thinking “I was spanked when I was younger, and I turned out perfectly fine,” but even if spanking didn't have as much of a dramatic effect on you guys, it still brings up the question: is it really necessary? I don’t think it is. My parents never spanked me or my brothers and I know that when I have kids I’m not going to spank them, and I would like to encourage you guys not to spank when you have kids either.
I’m not telling you guys that it’s going to be easy. Making the decision not to spank takes more time and patience for the parents. For example, when my brother and I would hit each other when we were younger we would lose a privilege, like playing with our neighbors outside. So my mom was stuck trying to keep the both of us occupied inside the house for the whole day. It probably would have been a lot easier on my mom for her to spank us and then send us outside to play with our friends, but by taking away our friends for the day, we learned very quickly not to hit again. Statistically, we learned not to hit a lot faster than if we would have been spanked.
Positive Disciplining Techniques
There are so many positive discipline techniques, that only take a little bit of time to learn, and a little more patience to enforce.
Spanking instills fear in children, not understanding. So although it may cause children to cooperate at the time, if they aren't learning right from wrong, spanking won’t produce lasting effects. Therefore, when parents rely on spanking for discipline, it’s likely that the child’s good behavior will only be temporary.
Discipline is not about telling your kids what to do and punishing them when they don’t do it, it’s about helping them grow into people who will one day do as they should, and behave as they were told when there is nobody around to supervise or punish them. Positive discipline has been proven to be much more effective in achieving this goal than spanking.
Think About The Alternatives Now
Even if you don't have kids yet, I would just like to encourage you to start thinking about the alternatives to spanking now, and how that would benefit your family in the long run. Ask your parents how they disciplined you when you were younger and see if it worked. A lot of times children who were spanked, grow up to spank their own kids simply because they don’t know anything different. So if you were spanked when you were younger, I want to encourage you to break the cycle and try alternative ways to discipline when you have kids.
In a quote from Dr. Siegel, he states, "It's very hard to make a violent act loving, Although it's true that a lot of spanked kids won’t develop serious problems, why would you take the risk? There are healthier ways to raise a well-behaved child."