No Excuse for Spanking
Spanking is a contentious issue: most parents who support it feel that they have a right to discipline their children as they see fit and view spanking as relatively harmless. Unfortunately, as with most child-rearing issues, it’s not quite so simple.
ASK: WHY AM I RESORTING TO THIS METHOD?
Parents have admitted to me that the main reason they resort to spanking is their own frustration and inability to deal with their child’s bad behavior. They feel helpless and cannot handle the situation calmly, so they react with their hands. Alternatively, it can also be a show of power—a child who doesn’t adhere to the rules must be reminded of a parent’s authority.
I can hear these parents getting defensive: “We would never hurt our child. We wouldn’t even think of hitting him!” While the intention, of course, is not to harm the child, think about it: What else does spanking accomplish? It metes out physical pain, however slight. Your child may not have physical bruises or cuts, but mentally and emotionally, you may have left a mark.
IT’S LESS EFFECTIVE THAN YOU THINK
Many parents argue that spanking is essential for discipline. But the purpose of discipline is to teach a child right from wrong, to help him understand his mistakes, and guide him toward improvement. Spanking does not achieve this.
Even if the misbehavior does stop, it is usually out of fear, not from having learned a lesson. Some parents believe this fear is necessary to keep children “in line,” but fear isn’t a good long-term deterrent. As children grow, fear will either push them to withdraw from the world or rebel against it; neither case is a favorable outcome.
IT SETS A BAD EXAMPLE
Furthermore, children who are spanked often start believing that hitting is correct, since they look to their parents for model behavior. They may interpret physical contact as an appropriate response when someone smaller or weaker doesn’t listen—and the pattern is difficult to break.
A father very proudly told me once, “I have my child under my thumb, in the same manner in which my dad controlled me. I didn’t dare to misbehave and neither does my son. If he does, he knows what is in store for him!” He was shocked when he received complaints from his son’s school, and had trouble reconciling his cowed son with the playground bully the teachers described.
LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES
If you’ve considered spanking as a means of discipline, ask yourself these questions:
- Will this teach my child something valuable?
- Will it help him understand his mistake?
- Will it demonstrate appropriate behavior?
- Or … will it just make him fear me?
Make the effort to learn healthy discipline techniques that help children learn from their mistakes, not just realize they’ve made one. Use the power of choice, and of natural and logical consequences to drive better behavior. (For more practical suggestions for healthy discipline, see this article.)
Most importantly, model the behavior that you wish to see in your children. The way you deal with anger is likely the way they will deal with anger, too. Many parents tell their children, “Say what you want, calmly. Use your words.” It’s advice we all should follow.