Spanking is one of the most heavily discussed parenting issues. Talk to any parent and you will find a variety of opinions about the appropriateness of spanking. Some find it completely acceptable while others consider it to be entirely inappropriate. There are some who believe any spanking is abuse and some who reserve it for only the most severe of infractions.
I Turned Out Okay
Many argue that our generation was spanked as children and we all turned out fine. While that may be true, we know that there are many negative side effects affiliated with spanking. While many of today’s adults were spanked and turned out to be well-adjusted, happy people research shows that when compared with children who were not spanked, those that were are more likely to become depressed, use and abuse alcohol, have more anger, hit their own children, hit their spouses, and engage in crime and violence. While it may work initially it loses its effectiveness over time. It will fail to get the desired result the more frequently it is used. Spanking also has shown to increase aggressiveness and foster anger as opposed to teaching responsibility and correcting the behavior. Spanking can quickly get out of control and however unintentional could end up harming the child physically. Further a child is not likely to distinguish between getting spanked from his mom or dad and hitting a sibling or other child when he doesn’t get what he wants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against spanking and offers many alternative methods for disciplining children. These alternatives include natural consequences, logical consequences, and a loss of privileges, among others.
Natural consequences: This involves allowing your children to see what the result is if their behavior continues (as long as it is not placing them in danger). For example, if your child throws food from the high chair, instead of continuing to pick it up, allow it to remain on the floor. Eventually, the child will not have any food left on the tray. As long as parents don’t continue picking up the food and giving it back the child will see that if he/she throws it down there will be nothing left to eat.
Logical Consequences: This is a technique reserved for older children (2 years plus) with the capability of understanding consequences. For example, if you ask your child to pick up the toys and he/she refuses then the consequence is they get put up in a place where the child no longer has access to them. This could be a day, a week, or longer generally depending on the age. Once the child sees the connection between his/her refusal to pick up toys and his/her later inability to play with those toys the child will likely begin to pick up the toys without having to be asked. This does not require yelling or begging or pleading. A simple, “It is time to pick up and put away your toys” will suffice. If this task is not accomplished you can quietly and calmly collect the toys.
Withhold Privileges: This involves telling your child that if he/she does not behave, something will be taken away. For example, if she misbehaves while at the grocery store then she will be unable to watch her favorite show that day. For children younger than 6 the consequence needs to be pretty immediate. The other thing to remember is to never take away something truly needed like food.
Children model behavior they learn from their parents. These children will one day be mothers and fathers themselves and will parent in a similar way that their own parents did. While there may be many reasons people feel spanking is justified there seems to be overwhelming evidence to contradict the effectiveness of corporal punishment. According to Dr. Sears, a well-respected pediatrician, “In the past thirty years in pediatric practice, we have observed thousands of families who have tried spanking and found it doesn’t work. Our general impression is that parents spank less as their experience increases.” He continues that, “Spanking does not promote good behavior. It creates a distance between parent and child, and it contributes to a violent society.” If spanking is not an option, parents are forced to come up with better alternatives, alternatives that focus on building better relationships with their children. In the long run this has proven to create better parents in addition to creating more sensitive and well-behaved children.