When I was a child, my parents rarely spanked me. I know it happened upon occasion, but I was always so well behaved that it wasn’t necessary. My sister was the bad one and that’s where my parents learned how to spank their children.
(Amber, I’m just joking)
But I’ve been wondering, should parents actually be allowed to spank their kids? And is there a way how to spank a child without inflicting permanent damage?
This debate has been raging, or at least smoldering, for decades, so I decided to ask around and see what other parents and psychologists think about the effects of spanking a child.
Here’s what they had to say…
How To Spank/Should You Spank Children
Gert Mikkal, Founder – DadProgress
Although I would never spank my kid, in certain situations I understand the urge of some parents to use physical punishment.
Forbidding corporal punishment has become a trend that’s bolstered with horror stories about physically abused children. But in my opinion, these are two very different things that are tarred with the same brush.
I think parents should be allowed to spank their kids if done right. Physical punishment should be the last weapon in your arsenal and used only when everything else fails. Something similar to a nuclear bomb, an ultimate deterrent. You shouldn’t use much force and don’t spank older kids because they can already remember it later in their lives. I’ve been told that I got spanked when I intentionally broke an expensive vase despite repeated verbal warnings. I don’t remember it and it doesn’t bother me at all
My objection to forbidding corporal punishment also comes from the belief that it gives the state too much power on individual lives. I lived in Finland where state officials have extensive rights to “protect” children from their parents. I sometimes heard about people calling childcare professionals to their unwanted neighbors. They would then inspect and assess the daily life of the family. It all sounded very Orwellian to me despite a righteous cause.
Physical abuse and violence against children shouldn’t be tolerated. That said, forbidding corporal punishment altogether oversimplifies the matter, denies parents an ultimate deterrent and paves the way to state intrusion to our personal lives.
Thanks for reading my ideas, Crystal. We often want to give oversimplified answers to complex questions. I don’t know how to stop actual physical abuse of children, but forbidding corporal punishment altogether doesn’t seem the right way to me.
Samantha Radford, PhD – Evidence-based Mommy
Not only was I spanked, I was raised in a culture that said that not spanking your child was irresponsible and permissive parenting (spare the rod, spoil the child).
Ideally, parents were told to spank when they were calm so that kids understood what they were being spanked for, but that certainly wasn’t my experience. My mom was almost always flying-off-the-handle angry when she spanked me.
Obviously, spankings were a scary, stressful experience for me. I deal with anxiety now, and I believe part of it is due to the way my mother reacted to me.
In addition, it has been hard to break out of that “good-girl” role of a people-pleaser who always follows the rules. I’ve had to work really hard on my assertiveness, because disobedience and even disagreement were not tolerated.
With all that said, I think it’s much better if parents don’t spank. Spanking sends kids into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, which doesn’t allow them to learn (meaning they don’t get the lesson of why you spanked them in the first place).
Study after study has shown that spanking doesn’t help children behave better long-term, and that it actually increases aggression and anxiety in many kids.
In addition, parents will learn to respond to their children more creatively when spanking is off the table. It’s easy to just pop a kid when they do something you don’t like, but it requires much more thought and attention to work through a problem with your child, figure out what’s driving their behavior, and find a solution.
Not only is it better for your kids simply because they aren’t hit, but when you choose other discipline methods, you’re modeling problem solving skills and interpersonal skills for your child.
Adam Smith, Travel Blogger – Adam’s Apple: The World
Disciplinary tactics on children used by parents have become more controversial over the last decade or so. Growing up, I can say I certainly had my fair share of spankings by hand, belts, and even tree branches. I deserved every single one of those I received.
I think spanking, when used in combination with other punishments such as grounding, taking away phone, etc., helps reinforce what behaviors the kid should be following. There are many things I did as a child that I didn’t dare repeat.
With that said, there is a fine line between discipline and physical abuse. The way my parents used it was fully within the discipline area as I was never scarred, bruised, or anything of the sort; it was just an instant pain that made me regret my wrongdoings.
However, I do know some who cross that line and scar their children or even hit their kids in the face, which of course is way inappropriate.
Dhanya G, Parenting Expert & Author – Parenting Passage
As a parent and a daughter, I have the same view from both sides. Growing up I can honestly say I was never spanked or reprimanded aggressively by my parents.. As a small child, my parents let me learn from my own mistakes as we would naturally, and then as I got older they would always rationalize with me. I believe this made me better equipped in later life to debate arguments and make points understood.
As a mom, I would never consider spanking my son. Spanking is a lazy way of parenting that provides short term results but can be damaging to the parent/child relationship and the child’s long term development.
As my son ages, my parenting style evolves and will keep evolving. At 3 we are in the time out phase but slowly moving to a stage where he understands his naughtiness has logical consequences. In my opinion, how we discipline children reflects in their adult responses to problems and difficulties.
Jessica Speer, Author
Luckily, the use of spanking is on the decline because of the negative effects it has on children including, increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, along with an increase in behavioral problems. Over time, physical punishment backfires on parents because it eventually trains kids to hit back and/or turn away from their parents.
Often in relationships, people get into a habit of reacting a certain way. Parents may repeat ineffective ways to discipline their kids because they never learned another way. The response is habitual, even though it doesn’t work well.
Believe it or not, there are homes where parents respond to their kids and set limits clearly and calmly. These parents still experience anger, but they are aware enough of their emotions to pause and manage themselves first. Then they react in a way that does not take their anger out on their kids. Practicing the steps below will help to break old habits of yelling.
1. Take care of your own well being & practice managing your own emotions in a healthy way.
Emotional Intelligence is a crucial skill necessary for personal and family well-being, yet most parents are unfamiliar with it. Many adults today never learned how to manage their emotions in a healthy way.
EmotionalIntelligence (EI) is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle relationships empathetically. Instead of letting our emotions get out of control or control us, EI helps us be aware of and manage our emotions so we can thoughtfully respond. Like most things, EI takes practice.
To practice Emotional Intelligence,begin to notice when you are triggered by something and experiencing a big emotion like anger. Then get curious. Notice what is happening in your body.. Maybe your jaw clenches, and your heart begins to race. Pause and take a break so you can take care of your well being. Breathe,splash water on your face, take a walk or do a calming activity until you feel centered again.
When you do this, you are modeling for your kids how to manage uncomfortable emotions.
2. Remember that your kids are still learning.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain,which is responsible for focused attention, understanding the consequences o four actions, logic, and other vital functions, isn’t fully developed until after adolescence. This doesn’t mean you should not set limits and encourage positive behaviors. It means your kid’s skills are still developing and that they are going to make mistakes. They are kids after all.
When your child is experiencing abig emotion, like anger, they can’t think straight. That is not the moment totry to teach them a lesson. Once you have managed your own emotions, you canhelp your child calm down. Then, later, from a place of calm, you can addressthe issue together.
3. Speak to your child using a calm tone and body language
Once you and your child are feeling calm, you can best talk about the issue. Your tone of voice and body language are just as important as the words you say. Your words will have little impact if you are using a threatening tone, your face is filled with anger and you are pointing a finger at your child’s chest. Remember,the goal is to stay connected with your child. Through listening, you may learn the underlying reasons behind their behavior.
Breaking a habit of spanking is hard. It takes a lot of self-control, and you may mess up.Just keep practicing and doing your best. You are re-wiring your brain, which takes time and effort. At some point, you’ll notice that it’s been a while since you’ve hit your child. You’ll see your child beginning to manage their emotions in a healthy way instead of lashing out. And the best part, your child will listen to you, even without you raising your voice or spanking.
Ruth Nchekei, Founder – High on Coffee Mum
Spanking children is a whole grey area. But first. In what world does it make sense to lay your hands on anybody, let alone your child. I know you are thinking, ‘Well, it’s just 5 taps on my son’s behind’. To your kid, it’s not just 5 taps. To them it’s a whole new level of invalidation. Spanking children only sets an abusive trend for generations to come. Think about it. Chances are, if you were spanked a child, you will do the same to your own kids.
Spanked children grow up to be adults who believe they will get what they want from people by hurting them. Spanking is also disrespectful. How will you inculcate in your child an attitude of self-respect and confidence if you, the person they trust, disrespects them? Parents who spank their children set in motion negative self-image in their kids which will affect them well into adulthood. I was spanked as a child for taking home below average grades and to date I crave my father’s validation.
I don’t feel happy with any of my achievements unless my father says, ”Well done, Ruth”. And yes, I carry with me this sense of invalidation to the workplace. The validation I didn’t get from my father makes me work extra hard to please my boss. Luckily, I am conscious of the internal struggles I have as a result of being spanked. Therefore, I choose to not spank my child.. I believe spanking makes a parent the focus, which shouldn’t be the case. Discipline should not be about you, neither should it be about the child. It should be about the problem. If you spank your child, they will choose to behave well in order to take care of you and your uncontrollable emotions. They will finish their homework on time just to please you. When a child begins taking care of the parents’ emotions, it’s toxic. Spanking is toxic, so, no thank you.
Kristen Von Foxx – The Shamanatrix: Shamanic Healing and Tools for Empowerment
As a dominatrix therapist (and a child who was spanked with a spatula as a kid) I’ve seen, firsthand, what happens when adults aren’t able to integrate the subtle trauma of being spanked as children. The result is adults who fetishize it. We’d have the same ‘dungeon regulars’ coming in week after week for their over-the-knee spanking and scolding.
Many of these adult men from the Hassidic Jewish community (who are incredibly sexually repressed) ready to pour their hearts out about their most memorable spankings from childhood that were burnt into their memories. I would hear the back-stories and about the specific times in childhood they were reprimanded with a heavy hand and how they were still trying to wrap their head around those experiences.
My boss used to joke about how when they needed to atone for their sins, they’d come in for their spankings. As a dominatrix therapist and shamanic healer, I find that my clients only bring up fantasies when some part of their power is missing, whether it was taken away from them or given away. I wonder how parents who spank their children would feel if they knew how deeply spanking could imprint the psyche of their child and the implications this could carry over into adulthood and into their sexual fetishes.
Mrs. Amy Duncan, Founder and Author – KindMommy.com
I think the debate on whether it’s okay to spank your child or not has always divided the public. On one hand, sometimes it feels like it is the only effort at drilling any sort of discipline into the child and on the other hand, it could have a negative impact on your child and may even push them away from you as they begin to associate you with fear and authority in a negative vein.
The reason why I am opposed to spanking your child is because the negative consequences of hitting your child outweigh the positives by a good measure..Spanking your child normalizes violence and that is something we should not be imbibing in young impressionable minds. It also leads to stress and emotional trauma in your children and is known to cause such negative outcomes in your child. Your child will also start seeing you as an authority and may not be comfortable telling you things that bother them as they cannot predict what outcome may lead to a spanking and thus may make bad decisions in their lives.
Spanking is also bad because it doesn’t really teach the two of the most important lessons of growing up, discipline and consequences. Children will try to be sneaky to avoid consequences and you don’t want your child to make choices based on fear but rather based on a moral compass and if you spank your child they may not understand the true nature of how grave the consequences to some of their actions can be. It’s like shielding your child in the worst manner.They don’t learn much and are negatively influenced in so many ways.
Barbara Nevers, Founder and CEO – NeoLittle
In other countries, spanking is a way to discipline the young ones, but experts are against it. Experts claim that it has been proven to do more harm than good. As a mother of two, even if there are times when I’m all stressed out and losing it hurting my kids never crossed my mind.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s not okay to spank your child:
- It can lead to aggression. There are studies that spanking kids resulted in them being aggressive towards others, such as causing trouble in school. Spanking kids may also imply that violence solves the problem which is not really what we want them to learn.
- It harms your relationship with them. If you want your kids not to hate you, never spank them. Kids would never trust someone who’d hurt them. In the future, they might also do the same with their kids.
- It damages self-esteem. Spanking not only damages a child physically but also emotionally. It can lead to depression, mental illness, and anxiety. Kids should see us, their parents, as their guardians, who would support, protect, and look after them. We should not be seen as someone to look for their faults to punish them.
Alessandra Kessler, Certified Holistic Health Coach – Healthy Body Healthy Mind
Do you feel it’s okay to spank your child?
No. Spanking a child never solves a problem, being a parent sometimes, you may think spanking is alright as far as you made your child do what he/she is not listening to you verbally, you might get the desired results, but it can have a bad impact on your child’s mental state.
Did your parents spank you, and if so, what kind of effect did it have on your Life?
When I was little my mother spanked me. It had a lot of negative impacts on me. I lost self-confidence. Sometimes, I was unable to focus on my work and used to feel depressed and even had negative thoughts. Spanking also caused aggression.
I could not develop better relationships with my father as he was the man I idealized, but in childhood, I couldn’t develop better terms with my father as he was spanking me.
My health got affected; it impaired my cognitive abilities. I noticed that my behavior with fellows and even with my friends worsened, and I started feeling like no one understood me and how I am actually feeling, and it also affected my mental health.
Ideally, children can be taught even without being spanked as children deserve and expect love from their parents just like was expecting it in childhood, but spanking made my behavior harsh.
The long-term damages are the price I paid after spanking our child. Spanking or any other physical damage can have a long-lasting negative impact because it also decreased my overall efficiency.
I felt like I was disconnected from my parents as spanking built a wall between us. I stopped sharing my thoughts with them as I was afraid of being hit by them, and there was a change in my behavior with parents as well as with my social circle.
Should Parents Spank Their Children
We’ve gone over the research from experts in this field. The question is should you spank your children? And if you do decide a spanking is in order, then the question is how to spank children without leaving permanent emotional damage.