Spanking Is Not the Solution

One expert says "Hitting is the easy way out."


I was going to write a nice nostalgic article on Thanksgiving projects, like making pictures of turkeys by tracing your hand or cutting out paper tail feathers, writing what students are thankful for on them, and pasting them to a picture of a turkey. I had visions of readers sharing their memories of grade school Thanksgiving traditions. Wouldn’t that have been nice? Then I read the comments from on the causes of ADHD and the turkey project idea flew right out the window. 

On the most part, I really enjoy reading the comments after my articles, but sometimes I wonder what on earth people are thinking. This was the case with last week’s article. I was just recovering from reading the comment from the pro-pesticide activists who cited hypochondriac parents as the ones who believe ADHD can be caused by exposure to pesticides, when I saw the comment on pro-spanking. This reader believes, “Spankings, from a very young age would solve the majority of problems with today’s kids.” Among the many questions I have for that reader, the first one is, “How young are we talking here?” Three months? Six months? In utero? However horrified I was, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. After all, she could have just emerged from her cold war bomb shelter and not yet had the chance to get up to speed.

Aside from my purely emotional response stemming from my belief that it is never, ever, okay to hit a child – and that’s exactly the definition of spanking – research shows that spanking can be detrimental to a child. One of the articles I read cited five studies (www.lcc.ctc.edu) all concluding that parents should not spank. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “the more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults … the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse. Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and increased risk of crime and violence.”

According to Barbara Bennett, Marriage and Family Therapist, supporters of spanking are most likely to have been spanked themselves and are looking for retribution. Those who say they were spanked and turned out just fine, are fine in spite of being spanked and not because of it. She refers to this as “Destructive Entitlement,” which is a feeling of justification as in, “It was good enough for me so it will be good for you.” The truth is, spanking causes fear in children that, in turn, creates low self-esteem.  “Good parenting takes work but everyone wants a quick fix,” Bennett says. “Hitting is the easy way out.” 

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

Christine November 27, 2011 at 12:42 AM
I agree with you Susan however I'm surprised you wrote about comments from your ADHD article. I thought columnists had thicker skins than that
Jim G. November 27, 2011 at 02:03 AM
I don't see it as having a thin skin as taking her next subject from the reaction to the last - a perfectly honorable tradition among columnists. She's not on the defensive over the comments, just characterizing them (fairly, I think) as representing some pretty reprehensible ideas.
val November 27, 2011 at 01:58 PM
A+ Jessica.
Elicia R. November 27, 2011 at 02:03 PM
The issue of spanking is a divisive one in our culture. Many people have bought into a bad, abusive, stereotypical model of spanking, where out-of-control parents beat children instead of disciplining them. So, they reject it entirely and say that it shouldn't be done at all. Saying this, I am strongly opposed to physical abuse of any kind. I’ll never forget the day when my 4-1/2 year old bolted out of the library and was running at full speed toward the parking lot. I yelled, “STOP!” and he turned around, looked at me, and just kept on running toward the parking lot, unaware of the dangers. He ran right into a parking lot with moving cars, and almost got hit by an approaching car. Because I loved my son, I spanked him, and he never ran ahead of me again after that, if I said to stop. “Time out” was just not appropriate for that moment. There are many child psychologists and experts who believe that spanking is not harmful to the child, if done correctly. There are times when spanking is necessary IF the approach is loving, reasonable, and done without anger.
Susan Schoenberger (Editor) November 27, 2011 at 02:11 PM
@Jessica Please be aware that this is a regional column published on multiple sites.
Jessica Davis November 27, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Very well said, and spot on Elicia. I actually wrote about the difference between spanking out of anger, and spanking in the form of discipline, however I ran out space as we are limited to only 1500 characters. So thank you for this post.
Saul Freedman November 27, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Susan, please note the reference in the article to the previous article and a direct quote from Jessica's comment. Thanks.
Jack R. November 27, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Yikes....Guess those of us who believe a swift swat to the behind for a misbehaving child is the best and fastest way to get their attention are living in the stone age. Funny how it has worked for so many parents who care deeply about their children's well being.
tchjjal November 27, 2011 at 10:27 PM
What a terribly written set of sentences.....Does this woman get paid for writing these articles?
tchjjal November 27, 2011 at 11:44 PM
And Susan....forgive us who use God's standard in His Word which states countless ways of disciplining our children by corporal punishment. Instead, I guess we should use society's standards and just abort our children in "utero". That's much more merciful.......
Tom November 28, 2011 at 01:05 AM
I agree with Bob...but we live in a world that is filled to the brim with violence...just look at all the innocent people we bomb everyday as a nation, and all the torture or "water boarding" that we condone as a people...when compared to the real stuff that goes on, I don't think a little spanking is going to turn someone into an angry adult...just turn on the local news...that'll do enough
Susan Schoenberger (Editor) November 28, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Commenters: Patch editors have not been deleting comments, but if other users flag comments frequently enough, they can be deleted. I will continue to monitor this thread and restore comments that are inappropriately deleted. Susan Schoenberger, Associate Regional Editor
Jack R. November 28, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Thanks for restoring the replies Susan. I thought I was imagining things.
Rob November 28, 2011 at 03:15 AM
Spanking certainly feels good for the parent, at the time, to let out the frustrations that kids bring on us. But, kids have ways of rebelling that they don't show and can hide, and knowing that they will get spanked empowers them to do just that.
Avi Sorjourner November 28, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Susan, I agree. Spanking is never justified. The story about spanking the child for running away and almost getting hit by a car doesn't prove anything. Like all anecdotal evidence, it doesn't account for better options for teaching kids not to run away from parents (none involve waiting til the kid is about to be hit by a car). Also, the real issue is: Spanking as a form of discipline. If spanking worked in that situation, it is only because it was a shocking effect from a dangerous cause, which would be ineffective if spanking is used for discipline in other situations. The situation is irrelevant to spanking as a form of discipline. Spanking teaches kids that it's OK to be a bully. Picture two kids arguing, the spanked kid says: "We disagree, so to settle things, I'm going to smack you." Oh, but spanking parent teaches that bullying is wrong. That's just a lesson in moral ambiguity. And that's OK? Spanking teaches a kid to fear his parents. The alternative is respect, which a spanking parent probably couldn't earn anyway. Not with ideas like "Fear equals Respect." That's wrong. One has nothing to do with the other. Spanking only makes the parents feel better. It's the easy, but wrong solution with illusory results. Spanking parents are only teaching that force is an acceptable way to get your way. Thankfully, its an idea that is losing favor. I look around and see most parents think like me and you, Susan. Don't worry. The neanderthals are becoming extinct.
Avi Sorjourner November 28, 2011 at 11:35 PM
You mean in the Bible? Where? Citations please.
Jim G. November 29, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15 should get you started. Ask about stoning next.
Joel Waldron November 29, 2011 at 02:09 AM
Rob & Avi - thanks so much for your comments - I have been trying to set a bit of time aside and organize my thoughts to respond to some of the comments being made here - but now I don't feel the need - you both made the points I wanted to. This isn't an issue about opinion - it's an issue about what constitutes a more effective parenting skill, and what kind of people we wish to be in relation to our children. It saddens me that some are actually arguing to be able to strike their children. Thanks!
Avi Sorjourner November 29, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Thank you Jim G. I will take a look at the cited passages. I hope you aren't taking the position that the Bible teaches stoning as a way of disciplining our kids.
Jim G. November 30, 2011 at 12:38 AM
No, just pointing out that the Bible contains a lot of things that many of those who carry it around are unaware of. The passages about whacking your children with rods to keep them in line and make them grow up right are not among the more obscure. Me, I like the part where Big J says he's there to tear families apart. But we're going to wander into censorable discussion if we keep that up. Point is that tchjjal spoke correctly. Take it for what it's worth.
Robert Hepler November 30, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Therein lies the issue. Some people cannot discern the difference between discipline and abuse.
Malvi Lennon November 30, 2011 at 01:00 AM
A spanking is not a beating. Personally, I do not think spanking is an effective method of discipline, for children old enough to understand rules and consequences. However, a swift swat on the butt gets a 3 year olds attention quickly. There is plenty of literature pro and against spanking so there is "support” for both methods. However, it is up to parents and not the so-called “experts” to decide the methodology that works best with his/her child. One thing is for sure children need discipline . Unfortunately, many parents do not bother to provide much of it.
Robert Hepler November 30, 2011 at 01:15 AM
@Malvi. "Unfortunately, many parents do not bother to provide much of it." You hit the nail right on the head.
Rob December 01, 2011 at 04:51 AM
I agree with you, Avi.
Barbara Schwarz Bennett December 04, 2011 at 11:19 PM
As I read through these submissions, it saddened me to see so much energetic spanking. Our job as parents and role models is to set an example for our children. And as we can see from some of the above comments, the example is laced with violence and disrespect. A healthy dose of non-violent communication is in order here. After the publication of this article, I received a pamphlet in my mailbox called "Plain Talk About Spanking" produces by Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, where responses to the above comments are articulated with respect and careful consideration. I have inserted them where appropriate, to help balance the argument.
Barbara Schwarz Bennett December 04, 2011 at 11:24 PM
"Some parents, eager to justify their behavior, will argue: "You have a duty to grab a child who is about to do something dangerous-to touch the hot stove or run into a busy street- and deliver a good smack so that your warnings about life's dangers will be remembered." Were that argument valid, spankings would become increasingly infrequest as children learned their lessons. But that's not what usually happens. Spankings tend to escalate in frequency and severity as children grow, and spanked children tend to behave worse. In fact, being spanked throws children into a state of powerful confusion, making it difficult for them to learn the lessons adults claim they were trying to teach. Parents who deliver the so-called "good smack" are not teaching their children that hot stoves and busy streets are dangerous. They are teaching them that the grownups upon whom they depend are dangerous. That's a bad lesson." Taken from "Plain Talk About Spanking" 2011 Edition.
Barbara Schwarz Bennett December 04, 2011 at 11:47 PM
"The much-touted 'biblical argument' in support of corporal punishment is founded upon proof-texting a few isolated passages from Proverbs. Using the same method of selective scripture reading, one could also cite the Bible as an authority for the practice of slavery, adultery, polygamy, incest, suppression of women, executing people who eat pork, and infanticide. The brutal and vindictive practice of corporal punishment cannot be reconciled with the major New Testament themes that teach love and forgiveness and a respect for the sacredness and dignity of children-and which overwhelmingly reject violence and retribution as a means of solving human problems. Would Jesus ever hit a child? NEVER!" (The Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf, United Methodist Clergy, Hamilton, Indiana. Personal communication, 2006 as quoted in Plain Talk About Spanking)
Barbara Schwarz Bennett December 05, 2011 at 08:19 PM
"Defenders of spanking often argue that a caretaker's only choice is between spanking and doing nothing. That's a false choice. Permissiveness is as unwise and counterproductive as hitting. The wise caretaker establishes a safe environment with age-appropriate boundaries and reasonable rules, models called-for behaviors, and appeals to and cultivates the child's natural inclination toward imitation and cooperation. This method takes more skill and patience than hitting, but it works. It strengthens the bond of trust between parent and child, between teacher and learner, thus paving the way for the more challenging lessons ahead." (Plain Talk About Spanking)
Jim G. December 05, 2011 at 08:46 PM
This is a specious argument. I've never heard even the most ardent spanking proponent argue that it's "spanking or nothing," or even that spanking is appropriate for all levels of punishment/correction. There may well be - strike that, we know there are - lazy parents who can't be bothered to use any discipline tool besides ignoring the child and then whaling his backside. But that's NOT the as the first sentence of your quote, which is at best nonsense and at worst careless thinking and writing.
Heather Lovey December 11, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Christine, her comments on those comments were totally appropriate. Has nothing to do with thick skins, and if you had a thicker skin, wouldn't you use your first AND last name when you post your comments? Please do so.


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