Spanking. Swatting. Beating. Hitting.
Whatever you call it, the concept is the same — utilizing physical punishment to deter a behavior that parents disapprove of in their children.
A 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that 65 percent of parents said they’d spanked their 3-year-old in the last six months. The study’s purpose was to examine why nearly 2/3 of Americans still utilize corporal punishment as a primary form of discipline despite most child-advocacy groups and medical organizations decrying the practice.
Either parents are ignorant of the research regarding spanking, or they blatantly ignore it to the detriment of their children. The truth is that more effective, positive forms of discipline exist that produce better behavior and more loving relationships between parents and children, all with zero negative outcomes — unlike spanking.
There is an ever-growing body of research that spanking and other forms of physical discipline pose serious risks to children, according to the American Psychological Association. The verdict is clear. Children who are spanked are less emotionally healthy than those who aren’t. Spanking can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.
Studies published in Pediatrics continue to show the more children are hit, the more likely they are to hit others, including peers and siblings. As adults, they are more likely to hit their spouses and children. Toddlers who were spanked are far more likely to be defiant and have additional behavioral problems later on in childhood.
Simply put, spanking produces worse behavior, not better behavior.
Now for the good news. Spanking not only does not work, but is completely unnecessary. The key is to raise children with healthy and age-appropriate expectations and limits. Allow your children to express themselves, realize their behaviors are the result of unmet needs and communicate with them to solve the root issue rather than hitting them because they are doing something you deem inappropriate.
Utilize natural consequences for behaviors. In the real world, being hit by the person you love and trust the most isn’t a consequence that is either healthy or realistic. In fact, in any other situation, one person hitting another is considered either domestic violence or assault.
It’s easy to hit a child when they do something you don’t like. Instead, take the time to communicate with them, meet their needs and utilize positive discipline techniques. It’s more difficult, but there isn’t anything about being a parent that is easy. The key is to be the best parent we can be, which means doing what is best for our children.
Recognize spanking for what it is: a form of discipline that — although it may desirable results in the short-term –is detrimental to children in the long-run.
can be reached at