Plenty of us had gotten spanked at some point in our lives. After all, it’s one of the most common ways to discipline children, but one could argue that it’s not the most effective. To settle this once and for all: is corporal punishment an effective way to discipline children? Does spanking actually work?
Spanking: How it Correlates to Parenting and Discipline
Once your child passes the baby stage, you start thinking more about parenting and discipline. You want to discipline them to do the right things instead of wrong, try to get them to listen, and get them to behave in a way that is appropriate.
There are many types of discipline, and today, we’ll tackle whether or not physical punishment actually does what it’s intended to do: modify children’s behavior.
When we talk about spanking, we’re including smacking, whipping, using a belt — anything that is physical. We’re talking about corporal punishment — causing pain or discomfort to your child in response to their unfavorable behavior.
Spanking is usually done to teach the child a lesson. They may have acted out, thrown a tantrum, or did something they were specifically told not to.
Here are a few examples:
- Dad tells the child not to hit their sibling, but they do it anyway. So dad does a spanking to teach the child not to do it again.
- The child walks away from Dad in a public area. Dad gets upset and grabs the child. He smacks the bottom of the child in order to teach them not to walk away.
- The child breaks something of Dad’s, and then lies about it. Dad finds out that the child lied, gives the child a spanking. He hopes that this will teach the child not to touch somebody else’s things and not to lie.
In all of these scenarios, the reason why the dad is spanking the child is because he is trying to modify the child’s behavior. He is trying to teach the child that there are consequences to bad behavior. He believes that spanking is the most effective way he knows to teach the child a lesson.
Fear in Children: Why it’s Not a Good Idea
Some fathers aren’t aware of other alternatives to discipline their child, or they don’t believe that they work. An argument we hear a lot from people who support spanking is that it worked for them. It made them rethink before they did the bad behavior again.
This is true, to an extent. Fear can be a deterrent. However, as studies have shown, this kind of discipline can lead to problems in the future.
Spanking the child doesn’t teach the child the correct behavior. The physical punishment represents a consequence for their actions, but doesn’t really have anything to do with instilling in the child the correct behavior. We would also argue that it wasn’t the spanking that modified the behavior.
We want our child to learn right from wrong, to listen to what we say, and to have good behavior. Our children don’t need to experience pain in order to learn.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has this to say about spanking: “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do not spank, hit, slap, threaten, insult, humiliate, or shame to discipline their children. Research has shown that striking children, yelling at them, or shaming can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brain’s architecture. Harsh verbal abuse is also linked to mental health in preteens and adolescents.”
What Spanking Really Looks Like
In the examples we had provided earlier, you’ll see how spanking is actually counterintuitive to what we want the child to learn:
- The child hit their sibling. Dad is trying to teach the child that hitting their sibling is not the way to solve the problem, but yet, he hits the child himself in order to solve the problem.
- The child walked away from Dad in a public place. Dad is really in fear that something could happen to the child, and so he is essentially taking out his fear on the child. You don’t want to make the child responsible for your emotions.
- The child broke something of Dad’s and lied. Child needs to learn that they need to ask permission before touching somebody else’s stuff, and not to lie when something happens to it. We all make mistakes, especially children. And we all should be allowed to make mistakes and rectify them. The problem lies here, is when the child gets in trouble, he/she is simply going to become a better liar.
At Dad University, we only allow two types of consequences.
- Natural consequence
- Logical consequence
Spanking falls on neither of those two consequences.
The American Psychological Association is also not in favor of spanking, as they have this to say about it: “The resolution on physical discipline of children by parents adopted by the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives relies on strong and sophisticated longitudinal research that finds that physical discipline does not improve behavior and can lead to emotional, behavioral, and academic problems over time, even after race, gender, and family socioeconomic status have been statistically controlled.”
Other Alternatives to Discipline
If you are trying to decide whether to spank your child or not, we urge you to try and find alternatives. At Dad University, this is what we teach: alternatives that can help you discipline your kids and other methods of modifying behavior.
Physical punishment is not one of those ways.
When you start at a very early age, there’s simply no need for physical punishment. Your child can grow and thrive without the need for spanking.
What are your thoughts on this topic?