Spanking: A Discipline or Child Abuse?

Spanking: A Discipline or Child Abuse?


To some, a spanking is nothing more than a simple swat on the behind, used to teach the child a lesson when he or she is misbehaving. Others view spanking as an ineffective, violent, and even damaging act toward a child and believe there are many other ways to deal with misbehavior. These two very different approaches lead to a variety of outcomes, some more favorable than others. When making the decision of whether to implement spanking into your discipline routine as a parent, it is important to look at both the psychological impact on the child long-term, and ethical issues surrounding spanking as a punishment.

Effectiveness

     The first thing parents want to know when exploring different disciplinary tactics is always, “Does it work? Is this method effective?” Long term studies on spanking show that spanking can make it increasingly more difficult to discipline children later on in life. Spanking is strongly associated with immediate compliance, but in the long-term, children who were spanked are more likely to repeat negative behaviors in secrecy. If a punishment is working, then it should not become a routine. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the majority of child psychologists do not recommend spanking as an effective method to discipline children.

Potential Aggression Later in Life

    The simple fact is, children who are spanked as a child often times grow up with aggression problems of their own. This is not surprising because children learn from example rather than theory. When a child receives a swat on the behind from their role model, they interpret the message that it is okay to hit someone else in certain situations because the parent does it. When considering spanking, it is important to realize that the child is learning from your every action. It may not always be productive to attempt to teach your child that hitting is not okay by hitting him yourself.

Lack of Reasoning Skills

    One of the biggest concerns with spanking children is that in many cases the punishment takes the place of explaining to the childwhy what they did was wrong. This can cause the child to lack reasoning skills when it comes to making decisions, which ultimately can lead to continued bad behavior. In some cases, this lack of reasoning can affect the child long into their adult life. It is important for the child to know the reason behind why they can’t do something so when they are in a situation without the parent, they can continue to make the best possible decision. 

Disconnect with the Parent

    Spanking your child may cause your child to be less open with you. As with any fear-based punishment tactic, the child is more likely to pull away for fear of being punished than be open and honest with the parent. This can damage the trust between parent and child. For a stronger parent and child relationship, it may be more beneficial to talk to your child about why he or she disobeyed your wishes rather than giving him or her a punishment every time. Children are much more likely to abstain from certain behaviors because they don’t want to disappoint a loving and caring parent than they are to avoid punishment. 

Ethical Issues with Spanking

     Spanking your child is not easy for most parents. Parents love their children and would never want to hurt them intentionally. When parents spank their children, it is usually because they believe that it is best for them in the long-term to stop their negative behaviors. Whether it is effective or not, most parents who spank are bypassing their maternal or paternal instincts. We all want to protect our child from harm, so why would we harm our children? This is a question for each of us to ask ourselves. Is spanking the only option? Is it the most effective option? Does spanking benefit my child? If the answer to these questions is no, then it is best to find an alternative discipline method.

Alternatives to Spanking

     Fortunately, there are many other disciplinary methods that don’t involve physical punishment. A very common one is the time-out. A time-out can be effective as long as the reasoning behind the time-out is explained to the child. You may choose not to give your child a punishment at all and simply rely on reasoning, a proven-effective method, to steer your child in the right direction. It is important to always use a calm voice and come from an understanding point of view when explaining to a child why something is wrong. A discussion is often more productive than a lecture to your child. Another option may be to take away one of the child’s favorite toys. This option, again, is only effective if the child is aware that the reason is because of a certain event. Always give your child a fair warning before giving them a punishment.

     Spanking parent or not, we all want the best for our children. The best thing we can do to help our children avoid negative behaviors and punishments is to explain everything and give them an alternative. Children are always learning, growing, and developing and it is easy to forget that sometimes they really don’t know better. Giving your child the benefit of the doubt may prove to help them be more understanding themselves.

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