Should Spanking be Used as a Form of Child Discipline?

Parents often ask themselves if it is appropriate to spank their children. The spanking debate is a highly controversial one with strong emotions attached. Today I am going to discuss the pros and cons of spanking and conclude with my opinion on this important parenting issue.

I have been thinking about this a lot especially because I have a very difficult four year old daughter. I’ve tried many different disciplinary methods on her but most of them have not impacted her behavior. I will explain more closer to the end of this article.

Most parents believe that you should not spank your children. Spanking does not have to be just placing your child on your knee and smacking him on the butt. Some people also refer to spanking as any form of swat to ultimately have an impact on the child’s behavior. Spanking can be physical contact to the hand, wrist, or head. Opponents to this form of discipline, also known as corporal punishment, argue that there are plenty of other alternative ways to punish a child for inappropriate behavior.

In the 1990’s researchers surveyed parents in order to determine the effectiveness of spanking. They concluded that families who start spanking before their children are a year old are just as likely to spank their 4-year-old children as often as families who do not start spanking until later. So, these children did not learn the lessons their parents were trying to teach them by spanking.(American Academy of Pediatrics. (1995). Caring for Your School Aged Child Ages 5-12.)

Proponents of spanking are often conservative Christians and they believe that corporal punishment is the preferred way to discipline based on Biblical passages. They argue that spanking when used appropriately, helps children understand right from wrong better. They also disagree with their opponents and say that spanking does not teach children to become violent as adults.

What do you think? Do you believe that it is okay to spank your child for inappropriate behavior? This is my opinion:

Spanking has been around for a long time. Back when our parents were children spanking was considered a very effective form of discipline and was used by a majority of parents and some schools also spanked students. Today the statistics are reversed. Most parents refuse to spank their children because they fear being accused of child abuse. I believe that spanking is not a form of child abuse and if used appropriately it can be very effective on some children.

As a mother of four very different children I’ve learned that children are unique and not every form of discipline is going to work for every child. Take my second born, for example; I stated earlier that I have tried several different forms of discipline on her in the past. Her stubbornness, strong will and could care less attitude usually wins. Her behavior has been out of control for a long time. At age four she still thinks it is okay to run around the house with out her clothes on. She frequently spits for no apparent reason. Pushing her little brother around and hitting him with toys is one of her favorite past times. She is also extremely destructive. She has broken several of her older sister’s things including books, school papers, and a special lamp that I got her when she was a little girl. I can not trust my daughter with pop up books or lift the flap books. They will be destroyed within a week of purchasing them.

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You might be wondering what I did to control these behaviors, besides going completely loony over it. The first thing that I tried was a behavior modification chart. I made a list of all the inappropriate behaviors and made stars with Velcro attached. If she behaved she got a star. This worked for a while but then she expected a special treat when she got five stars and I became a broke Mom. She also started putting the stars on her chart herself and they were not always placed in the right spots.

After that I started reading about 1-2-3 Magic. With 1-2-3 Magic your supposed to be able to “train your child” to behave appropriately. I learned the hard way that my daughter’s behavior was not “trainable.” Every time I counted she always made it to 3. It didn’t matter how often I sent her to her room she still repeated the same behaviors every single day. She didn’t care. When she is in her room for a time out she usually ends up breaking something. This child can not be left unsupervised.

I even turned to experts from a neighboring university for help. None of the disciplinary methods that I learned from them work on my daughter. She is old enough to understand that I do have rules in this house and the rules need to be followed. She knows what is inappropriate but for some reason she chooses to break the rules. When my daughter misbehaves now I swat her on the butt and send her to her room. This is the only form of discipline that works. She always listens to me if I swat her on the butt.

Sometimes you just need to experiment with different disciplinary methods if you have a problem child before you find one that will work. What do you think? Do you believe that spanking is an appropriate form of child discipline? Were you spanked as a child?

*This originally appeared on the Healthy Moms Magazine on March 5, 2010.  Since then the author has welcomed one more child and her little girl is now nine years old. The author no longer uses spanking as a form of child discipline. 

Looking for more parenting and discipline tips? Check out the articles below:

Temper Tantrum at Age 10
Getting Defiant Kids to Cooperate
Is Your Teenager Out of Control?
How to Remain Calm With Your Children When Stress Takes Over
A Teacher’s Tricks for Getting Kids to Listen

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