Is it Okay to Spank Your Child? 

One of the most important decisions parents need to make before their little one arrives is their discipline philosophy. While it’s unlikely you’ll need to discourage problem behavior from your infant, your patience will be tested as your baby grows into a curious toddler. There are two types of punishment approaches in parenting circles, one that advocates spanking and another that focuses on managing behaviors without physical consequences. Ever since humans first walked the earth, people have struggled with keeping their children safe and respectful. In years past, corporal punishment was the standard, and it could often go too far into keeping children in line. Today, parents are exploring different strategies to protect their children and to teach them basic life skills that will help their little ones grow into polite and responsible adults. Your discipline management style can help mold your child into someone you can be proud of later down the road. Each type of behavior management style has its plusses and minuses, so it’s important to think about which method may work best in your family. Here is information about both sides of the debate to help you decide what could be right for your children.

Sad little boy with teddy bear sitting on floor

Sad little boy with teddy bear sitting on floor

The Case for Spanking

Many of today’s parents were spanked as young children when they were growing up. It’s also important to note that most people raising children today have used spanking at least once when their child has misbehaved. In one study, nearly 94 percent of parents reported spanking their children one time or more. Sometimes demographics influence the prevalence of spanking children. Researchers have found that income levels, religion, race and geographic location all impact the percentage of parents who report using spanking as a discipline method.

Corporal Punishment Details

Spanking as a discipline method has its roots in a philosophy of behavior management called corporal punishment. Throughout history, people in authority roles have resorted to physical punishments to deter instances of bad behavior. Even in judicial systems of long ago, corporal punishment was a common consequence for various crimes. Of course, much of these types of punishments went too far and eventually became obsolete or were determined to be too forceful or cruel. The evolution of corporal punishment within the family has decidedly taken a much gentler turn and steered away from parents using paddles or belts on their children. Today, the most common type of corporal punishment directed at children is spanking the bottom.

Why Spanking Works

Despite the painful past of corporal punishment, many parents believe spanking is an effective way to deal with a young child’s behavior. A small child doing something inappropriate needs to be stopped immediately, and spanking has the ability to deliver that message right away. For small children who may not have the capacity to connect what they’ve done with the consequence if it’s given later, spanking makes that connection immediately.

When It’s Most Appropriate

If you plan to use spanking in your family, it shouldn’t be your only tool. Spanking is only effective for children in certain age ranges. Most researchers agree that spanking children younger than two can be more harmful than helpful. Spanking is best for children from ages two to six. It’s also more impactful when it’s used less frequently. Too much spanking can do more harm than good for your child. Parents that use spanking effectively make it more of a last resort when the child’s safety is at risk or the behavior has escalated to the most serious level. This way, it’s used to immediately get the child’s attention and signal to him to stop.

Things to Consider

Before you commit to using spanking in your family, it’s important to understand some possible problems with this type of punishment. Most states have laws outlining what is appropriate for children when spanking and what is considered abuse. Some parents have taken their anger out on their children and gotten carried away with spanking, leading to injury and physical abuse. It’s essential to stay calm when spanking your child and to keep it under control. The purpose of it is not to cause injury, but to simply get your child’s attention and stop undesirable behavior.

The Argument Against Corporal Punishment

While many people do believe spanking is effective, there is another side to the argument that avoids any type of physical punishment. More studies have come out recently that denounce any type of spanking. Some researchers believe spanking promotes aggressive and physical behavior. Parents that spank teach their children that the answer to their problem is a physical response or an act of aggression. Instead of deterring problem behavior, spanking may actually lead to more of it. Spanking or other types of corporal punishment may also be ineffective at actually teaching children right from wrong, and it could even lead to instances of abuse or injury.

Other Discipline Methods

Parents that don’t believe in spanking aim to choose other types of behavior strategies for their children. They also believe that each stage of childhood is unique, and one strategy isn’t going to solve every problem. One method is to focus on is positive parenting strategies instead of simply addressing misbehavior. These techniques work to foster communication between parents and children and help teach kids to talk out their problems instead of resort to physical acts or misbehavior. Parents use methods such as time outs, redirection, positive praise and consistency instead of corporal punishment.

What Researchers Say

Psychologists and other researchers have presented many studies that show different strategies for dealing with bad behavior from your children may be more effective. There have also been studies showing a link between excessive spanking and mental illness or depression later in life. Most experts believe that spanking your children may damage the parent and child relationship because it teaches children to fear their parents. Advocates against spanking encourage parents to use better behavior deterrents that are less about fear and more about understanding.

What Works Best

There’s a reason why corporal punishment has been eliminated from most other parts of society, such as schools, the workplace and the criminal justice system. It simply doesn’t work and causes unnecessary cruelness, pain or embarrassment. Childhood development experts stress the importance of trying a variety of strategies with your children to help teach them to act responsibly instead of reacting to things. This way, children can make better decisions the next time they are in a similar situation and be better people throughout life.

Things to Think About

Of course, there’s a bigger problem that could potentially stew if parents avoid spanking their children. Some families simply avoid disciplining their children completely and never address behavior issues. It’s also more common than ever for parents to be inconsistent in their behavior management or be too lenient with delivering consequences. Eliminating spanking from your discipline strategy doesn’t mean your children will never get punished. Letting your children get away with whatever they want without consequences can be extremely detrimental to their development. Instead, parents should come up with a list of specific strategies to try when their children aren’t behaving as expected. When something doesn’t seem to be working, it’s time to move on to another method.

Do you think spanking is okay, or do you prefer another strategy? Comment below with your thoughts. Get even more involved in the conversation by following KAMO on Twitter at @kamo_family, on Facebook or by finding kamofamily on Instagram.

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