"It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses." - William Arthur Ward
After posting 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Spank Your Kids, I received a ton of comments on Pinterest. This is odd, because who comments on Pinterest? The comments ranged from supportive to down right mean. I wanted to know why people aggressively defended spanking. This is what my research concluded:
You were spanked as a child. "I was spanked and I turned out fine." This is the go to response for parents who want to justify spanking their kids. The problem with this logic is that a person who is “fine” wouldn’t be justifying hitting of any kind. It is a barbaric and aggressive action. Whether it is done on the arm, the face or the bottom, it causes pain. Whether the hand is open or balled into a fist, it hurts. A person who justifies causing pain to innocent children is not, from a psychological definition, “fine.”
"…just because a well-adjusted adult was spanked as a child doesn’t mean that spanking is a harmless act. "I could say, ‘I smoked my whole life and I’m okay.’ But that doesn’t mean smoking isn’t bad for you." - Murray Straus, Ph.D., professor of sociology and codirector of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire
As a spanked child, admitting that spanking causes damage is admitting that you are damaged. The truth is, you probably are. It may be hard to admit, but it doesn’t make it less true. Long term studies have proven that spanking causes aggression, among other things. Over time, this aggression grows. (Perhaps that is why the comments defending spanking were hateful and aggressive.) In reality, spanking (hitting) can cause many mental-health problems.
"…physical punishment is linked to mental-health problems including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use. There’s neuroimaging evidence that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain involved in performance on IQ tests and up the likelihood of substance abuse. And there’s also early data that spanking could affect areas of the brain involved in emotion and stress regulation." - Bonnie Rochman, Time.com
You think it works. In the short term, spanking appears to work. It can immediately stop an unwanted behavior. In the long term, it is by far the least effective form of discipline used by parents. It does not teach the desired behavior. It causes children to lie or manipulate in order to avoid physical pain.
"The child who feels right acts right. Spanking undermines this principle. A child who is hit feels wrong inside and this shows up in his behavior. The more he misbehaves, the more he gets spanked and the worse he feels. The cycle continues. We want the child to know that he did wrong, and to feel remorse, but to still believe that he is a person who has value." - AskDrSears.com
You think you are teaching your child about consequences. Not necessarily. Spanking or hitting is not a real world consequence. As adults, we do not get spanked or hit when we break the law or tell a lie. As a parent, you are not teaching your child about how the real world works. You are teaching them that hitting is okay.
You feel the need to defend your parents’ parenting. Of course we love our parents. We never want to question their expressions of love or discipline. We want to believe that everything they did was to make us better. This may be true. That doesn’t mean that our parents had the knowledge that we do today. They spanked before society studied the effects of spanking. They did the best they could with what they knew. As parents who know better, shouldn’t we do better?
"Parents who rely on punishment as their primary mode of discipline don’t grow in their knowledge of their child. It keeps them from creating better alternatives, which would help them to know their child and build a better relationship." - AskDrSears.com
You think creating fear in your child is a good thing. Parents who use spanking do so to correct behavior. They like to believe that if a child fears them, this fear will be a deterrent for bad behavior. In fact, fear does not stop bad behavior. It encourages a cover up. Children will learn how to lie and hide information from their parents out of fear of physical pain. You need respect to get honesty. Fear does not enable respect. In fact, it hinders it. It is much better for a child’s development and behavior to have a safe space where the child can come to the parent for any reason, good or bad. They need to have a mutual respect and trust that can be used to help correct behavior with words, not violence.
You think it is not abuse. If you ask 20 parents what they consider child abuse, you will get 20 different answers. Some will say a tap on the butt is abuse, others will say a belt is abuse. The definition consists of all forms of physical or emotional pain. Seeing as how parenting can include physical and emotional pain in many different aspect, it leaves much to be interpreted. The question is not whether what you are doing as a parent is abuse at this moment. It is, are you headed towards abuse? If you are spanking your child, the answer is yes. All forms of physical violence escalate. You may start out tapping a diaper, but if you continue, the level of your spankings will have to increase. Eventually, you will leave Discipline Drive and end up on Abuse Alley.
"The danger of beginning corporal punishment in the first place is that you may feel you have to bring out bigger guns: your hand becomes a fist, the switch becomes a belt, the folded newspaper becomes a wooden spoon, and now what began as seemingly innocent escalates into child abuse." - AskDrSears.com
You think it is biblical. You couldn’t be more wrong. Judeo-Christians like to use the statement…
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
…to justify spanking. The problem is that this bible principle is not verbatim in the bible and the verses that are in the bible are highly misinterpreted. The words rod and spoil do not have the same meanings in our modern society. Rod (or sherod) in the bible references the shepherd’s rod used to herd sheep. They were used as a guiding tool and a weapon to protect the sheep from prey. In other words, the shepherd was not hitting the sheep. He was protecting them. When we think of spoiling today, we think of a child who gets everything they want. They are ungrateful and unruly. In the bible, spoil means to “go bad or rot.” In short, this bible verse does not mean that in order to make your child grateful and obedient, you must hit them. It means that in order to make them grow and prosper, you must protect and guide them.
You think it makes you a better parent. A child who is spanked does not obey more, they lie more. They do not learn a lesson, they learn to hit. They do become more submissive, they become more aggressive. In short, your child is not better after a spanking, they are worse. This would make you a worse parent, not a better one.
"I have always thought that one of our goals as parents is to fill our children’s memory bank with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pleasant scenes. It’s amazing how the unpleasant memories of spankings can block out those positive memories." - AskDrSears.com
As parents, our job is to do the best we can with what we know. In order to be the best parents we can be, we have to look to the world around us. Our own experiences are not the best indicators of success or failure, because they are biased. We are not the best at judging ourselves or our lives for what they really are.
This is where science and research can help. The more we look at the effects of parenting styles as a whole, the better we can decide if they are right for our families. One thing is for certain, there are studies all over the world that have concluded that spanking doesn’t work and none that prove it is even remotely useful.