Spanking Is Hitting, Part Two

Note: for now, comments are open on this post. Any trollish or truly nasty comments will be drop-kicked into the spam oubliette. Let’s aim for reasonable discussion only this time around.

So, my last — and admittedly ragey — post about spanking garnered more attention than I perhaps expected for a post on Christmas Eve. It went… I believe the word is “viral,” particularly over Facebook. Like a norovirus on a cruise ship, it spread very fast in a very short amount of time.

It inspired a great many views and a whole lotta comments.

Some comments were great. Thoughtful, whether for or against. Some people told stories about themselves as parents or about themselves as children. Some of these stories were honestly heartbreaking (and I suggest you read through the comments on that post).

And then there were those comments that got a good bit toxic. I had to dump so many people in the spam oubliette they were probably corded like firewood down there. Comments that invoked “Obama’s America,” that made eye-popping assertions about school shootings, or that just plain insulted me or threatened me (had quite a few people tell me they were going to spank me, which, you know, thanks, but we’re not that intimate).

Regardless, some folks took me to task — fairly or not, I dunno — for not offering data or solutions up front in the post. I didn’t necessarily think I needed to offer solutions to “don’t spank your children” in the same way that I don’t need to offer solutions for “don’t steal stuff” or “don’t chase rat poison with bleach,” I thought the proscription against spanking in my, erm, unique and fist-shaking way was enough.

But I’d like to address some of that stuff now. In a decidedly less ragey way — some puritanical folk took exception to my use of profanity, and as they are not regular readers of this vulgarity-smeared blog-box, I will happily take all the “fucks” and “shits” and for now put them in a box.

Let’s answer some of the questions or comments about spanking, shall we?

Spanking doesn’t have any negative consequences.

Science would seem to disagree with you. If you Google “effects of spanking,” you are likely to receive a page full of articles and information suggesting that spanking children can have a number of negative effects: it can increase aggression, it can increase depression, it can limit cognitive ability overall, and it can specifically hinder language abilities. Time Magazines’s “Long-Term Effects of Spanking” is maybe worth a read, if only for quotes like: “…spanking sets up a loop of bad behavior. Corporal punishment instills fear rather than understanding. Even if children stop tantrums when spanked, that doesn’t mean they get why they shouldn’t have been acting up in the first place. What’s more, spanking sets a bad example, teaching children that aggressive behavior is a solution to their parents’ problems.”

Or, “Spanking your kids could affect their vocabulary.”

Or, the American Psychological Association’s assessment (spoiler warning: don’t do it).

Or, “What’s the Problem With Spanking?” a post that details the effects of spanking in the child (how it affects their limbic system) and how it also affects the parent doing the spanking.

And on, and on.

I want real data, not interpretations of data.

A reasonable request, given how articles on the Internet can make all kinds of assertions based on flimsy data. Data can be cherry-picked to tell different stories; you ain’t wrong there.

Here’s a study from the CMAJ, detailing over 20 years of research into the subject.

Money quote: “The evidence is clear and compelling — physical punishment of children and youth plays no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development. The conclusion is equally compelling — parents should be strongly encouraged to develop alternative and positive approaches to discipline.”

Ah, wary of those dubious Canadians, eh? With their maple syrup and their Tim Bits.

Let’s then take a gander at a study from American Academy of Pediatrics.

There you’ll find:

“Conclusion: These results represent a strong test of the links between spanking and a child’s aggressive behavior and vocabulary, using prospective longitudinal models controlling for a number of family, child, and parent variables and earlier child aggression and vocabulary. We add novel information about the role of fathers’ spanking and add to an emerging literature on the effect of spanking on cognitive outcomes.

Future work should focus on providing families a clearer picture of the outcomes associated with spanking and more information about what discipline practices may have the desired effect on improving functioning, so that they can move beyond punishment practices to the incorporation of positive parenting behaviors with the potential to encourage healthy child trajectories.”

But what about the Gunnoe study?

Dr. Marjorie Gunnoe did a study that suggests that spanking your children at a certain age leads to an improvement in performance (school, specifically) and happiness.

If you feel that’s justification enough to spank your kids, so be it.

I might suggest looking at some considerations, though, first. (In brief: it’s a small, unpublished study that acts as an outlier to a far larger body of evidence.)

I don’t trust studies.

Be that as it may, if there exists a body of evidence that suggests that spanking your kids could be harming your kids psychologically, is it worth the risk? Given that spanking is not the only — nor even the best — way to impart lessons or teach respect.

[Insert anti-science rhetoric here]

Then we are at an impass. I like science because it tries to show me the various causes and effects in this universe. But you are eschewing science, which is your right. I hope your denial of gravity allows you to fly, and your ignorance of entropy lets you live forever.

Shine on, you crazy anti-science diamond.

But please don’t hit your kids just the same.

I was spanked, and I’m fine.

And that’s great. But first, that’s an example of an anecdote, or “artisinal data.” Which is to say, it’s evidence of precisely nothing. Some people live through horrific things and actually turn out okay — but that doesn’t make those horrific things laudable, or worth recommending. People who survive cancer don’t say, “Everybody should have cancer because it teaches you to respect life.”

I was spanked, and it taught me respect, and [insert insult or threat here].

I would argue spanking taught you no respect at all, then. Irony, it seems, is alive and well.

My kids were spanked, and they’re just fine.

Again: “artisinal data.”

And also: you don’t actually know that.

Parents are notoriously out-of-touch with their children’s feelings. I bet a great many parents feel a great many things about their children that are a thousand miles from accurate.

But how are my kids going to learn their lessons?

Presumably the same way they do elsewhere: through teaching, compassion, and through consequence and discipline. A lack of spanking does not equate to a lack of discipline any more than a lack of war equates to a lack of diplomacy or a lack of feeding your kids candy equates to them starving. Point is, parents have a plethora of tools in the ol’ parenting toolbox that they can reach for. And that can mean leaving this old, ugly tool in the box.

Not spanking does not mean freedom from consequence or discipline.

Not spanking does not mean appeasement or spoiling.

But how are my kids going to learn to avoid dangerous behaviors?

Again, I might recommend looking in your toolbox for other parenting methods. Children — particularly young children, who are the ones most often the ones trying to lick light sockets or run into traffic — respond to a variety of negative stimuli, and spending any time with said child will teach you these things before long. Spanking needn’t be one of those negative stimuli.

A whack on the ass is better than a dead kid.

Yes, that’s true. Though that’s a bit of a false dichotomy and an appeal to absurd logic. You could also break the kid’s ankles so he doesn’t run into traffic. What? A kid with two broken ankles is better than a dead kid, isn’t it?

The disciplinary spectrum is broad and multifarious. Try something else.

You spank the dog to teach it not to run out onto the street.

That’s actually not true.

That is in fact a very good way to ensure your dog runs out into the street, away from the guy who’s trying to smack it. Why would the dog come to someone who wants to beat it?

It’s not abuse.

For now, let’s assume that “abuse” is a legal definition. And you’re right. It’s not. Spanking is — in this country, at least — legal. I cannot dispute your right to do it, but I can question why you feel it’s necessary. The point for me isn’t that it’s abuse — it’s that spanking your child is hitting your child. Literally. It’s you hitting your child. It’s you undertaking a hostile, humiliating action that would be illegal if delivered to another adult, or in many cases, even an animal. It may not be abuse, but it is you — a big adult-sized person — grabbing a tiny human and raising your hand to them in the guise of teaching them a lesson. Which is not what spanking does, by the way. Spanking delivers punishment, not information. It imparts castigation, not wisdom.

It’s a punitive measure, not an instructive one.

It’s just a tap on the butt (or thigh or wrist or or or). It’s harmless.

If that’s all it is, it’s probably harmless. It’s also probably not particularly effective. The thing that makes spanking work is that it’s a) at least somewhat painful and/or b) humiliating.

That’s how you make spanking effective. At least in the short term, for a certain age range (3-8). Spanking is a quick fix, not a real solution. As noted, while it may correct behavior, it may introduce other worse behaviors as a result.

Consider (here an admittedly anecdotal story, so do with this as you see fit) — when I was a kid, I was yelled at a lot for spilling my drink at the table. (I was, and still am, clumsy.) Being yelled at didn’t stop me from spilling — it made it worse. Because I was so anxious about that singular act I was likelier to knock over a drink than I was to keep the damn thing upright. Spanking works because it instills fear of being hurt or embarrassed — those are not clear-headed ways to actually teach a lesson. It’s a Skinner Box style of parenting — deliver an electric shock so that the kid doesn’t push the wrong button. But your children are not rats or monkeys in a lab. They’re little people. With enthusiasm and intelligence in a great big endless well — a well you can poison.

But the Bible says —

No. Nope. Mm-mm. Sorry.

It says “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” and —

No. Seriously. No. Don’t bring that here.

But I’m a Christian and you need to respect me and my beliefs.

I respect that you have beliefs, but I don’t need to respect those beliefs or you for holding them. Listen, here’s the thing, if you’re a Christian, and you cleave toward the kinder, more reasonable side of that spectrum, you have my respect. If you use the Bible like a VCR instruction manual and believe that every line of text is 100% literal and must be adhered to, then we are not going to find a great deal of common ground. The Bible is an agglomeration of stories broken into two larger books — the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the “sequel” book challenging some of the ways of the OT. This is not a book that well-agrees with itself (nor should it): hell, it tells four somewhat contradictory-yet-canonical tales of the dude whose name is titular to the religion.

The Bible says a lot of things and I bet you don’t do them all. It’s got suggestions on how to sell your children into slavery or why you shouldn’t eat shellfish or get tattoos.

And you’re going to take one line from Proverbs as a reason to spank your kids?

Let’s look at more from Proverbs.

“When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” — Proverbs 23:1-2.

Do you do that if you feel gluttonous? The thing with the knife and the throat?

Did you know that in Proverbs it’s noted that wine will bite like a viper, and riches will grow wings and fly away like an eagle? That your love and faithfulness must be tied around your neck? Apparently these things could not possibly be metaphor and must literally be true!

When Proverbs speaks about an overflowing cistern whose waters you should not share with your neighbors, do you believe that to be an admonishment against sharing water with your jerky neighbors? Or, in the context of the surrounding text, do you (correctly) see that it’s a metaphor for not sharing your love in an act of adultery?

Proverbs is a man’s instruction to his son, and it is poetic. Complicated and fascinating and sometimes beautiful in its metaphor and in its language (language that is, to be clear, translated through various steps — and language that is often favorable toward men but not toward women).

It was also written a very, very long time ago.

Plenty of Christians do not hit their children, and here are some reasons why.

My parents spanked me and you’re insulting them.

I’m not interested in condemning those who came before us. People did a lot of things 2000 years ago, 200 years ago, even 20 years ago, that we don’t do today because we have things like new information to help guide us. Women used to smoke while pregnant. They didn’t know any better. We used to have asbestos all up in our house. Again: now we know better. Condemning those who came before isn’t the point.

The point is, we have new, better information now. And that new and better information suggests very strongly that spanking ain’t the best course of action for your kids and may have a high cost with too small a payoff.

This is about looking and moving forward with intelligence and wisdom.

Spanking is okay, as long as it’s done with explanation and love.

I’m afraid I don’t believe that, and it sounds awfully close to the same reasons used for husbands to beat their wives and would further seem to help confirm that pattern — that violence is okay as long as they know “I hit you because I love you.” Or “I hit you to teach you a very important lesson.” That’s the lesson you teach a spanked child: that hitting someone is a tool of control and a demonstration of love. What kind of spouse will they be? What kind of spouse will they seek?

Something-something kids today with their hair and their clothes and this is why they’re disrespectful because we can’t spank them anymore. Also something-something school shootings.

Well, first, you probably can still spank them. Legally, I mean.

Also, click this link.

Therein you’ll find that states with schools that allow corporal punishment have more school shootings, not fewer school shootings. You’ll also find that the number of students being spanked or paddled in school every year has gone down — and so has the threat of violence (and to a lesser extent actual violence) against teachers in school. States with spanking in schools also reveal below average test scores and below average graduation rates. And eight of the top ten paddling/spanking states are also in the top ten states of incarceration rates.


15 Historical Complaints About Young People Ruining Everything.”

You’re judging me by my parenting choices.

Let’s take judgment out of the equation. You are presently free to discipline your children as you see fit and I can’t stop you. And it falls within the rigors of the law, so you have that going for you.

But I’d hope that you take a moment to read through all of this and before you decide to spank your child again you consider the wealth of information available to you on this great big knowledge-fed beast called “the Internet.” I’d hope that you recognize that spanking may work and may not have any negative effects but it damn well might. And once you’ve done it, you can’t undo it. Those snakes do not go back into the can.

As I said before: your children look to you for a hand to help, not a hand to strike them. And spanking them is striking them. That’s the nature of the act, I’m afraid to say.


  • I highly recommend “Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason” by Alfie Kohn. His message is backed by lots of good (and, for me, delightfully surprising) research. After you read it, I hope you’ll want to write an article on timeouts.

    I was raised without punishments (and not much in the way of rewards) – a rarity for my generation. I was also a hellion. I’m amazed my parents endured me. My father and I became best friends and business partners. I believe I owe much of what I have achieved to his unwavering support of me; I knew I could *always* count on him. I can not begin to imagine how that would have happened if he had coerced/tortured me.

    I now advocate for children in the judicial system. I see some incredible kids who have been through awful experiences. Yes, kids can endure a lot. It leaves marks, though. It’s not ideal.

  • Thanks for these posts, Chuck. Sometimes, I think I’m the only person who feels the way I do in the whole US of A (outside of the academic and pediatric communities) about corporal punishment. I was afraid of my dad growing up too, and like you, I am very grateful we had a chance to become friends before he passed.

    Sadly, I suspect data won’t impress most spanking proponents. Whenever I have conversations about this with people, it inevitably degrades into them telling me that they were spanked as kids and turned out just fine, so if I have residual issues, it’s because my parents didn’t do it right, or because I’m just unusually neurotic. Anecdotes ensue.

    My parents were (and my mom still is) pretty cool people overall. They were intelligent and educated encouraged me to think, reason and question. They loved me. They also spanked me.

    A lot.

    Some of it was a desire to get the punishment “over” with, and some was because my dad was an alcoholic with poor anger management skills (in spite of being a university professor). They were youngish parents too, in their early twenties.

    Did my parents hit me in anger? Hell yes. They sure as heck didn’t do it when they were pleased with me.

    But there were a few spankings that were not in the heat of anger too. The “I hate doing this, but I need to teach you a lesson, so bend over and grab your ankles,” type of spankings. I think those screwed with my head even more than the bursts of drunken temper.

    Physical pain and humiliation are worse, imo, when they’re administered by a loving parent. They’ve undermined my ability to trust, both others and myself, and this has persisted throughout my life (in spite of therapy). My first love relationship was with an abusive guy. I couldn’t get past the notion that people who love you can and must use physical force to “improve” your character and personality.

    My parents regret/regretted their approach, later on. They did everything they could to make it up to me and my brother as adults, and reiterated that they never thought either of us was a bad or difficult child, but they just didn’t know any better. But knowing this consciously is not the same as internalizing it. I still feel terror, shame and guilt when people get angry at me. I’ve dealt with depression off and on for all my adult life.

    So when people start sending those stupid spanking memes around on FB, when they tell me my attitudes about spanking are “just pc garbage,” I just can’t even…

  • January 5, 2014 at 4:15 PM // Reply

    Here’s the thing. We need to be sure our children realize that actions have consequences. I think that tends to be the heart of raising disciplined children. I think spanking can be a relatively natural consequence for an unacceptable action, if done correctly. — “If you do this or this, then I will do this.” Done hastily, in anger, or with the deliberate intent to hurt, it’s more likely to seem like a devastating random hurricane than a result of anything the child has done. It’s very easy to cross that line from discipline to abuse.

    However, that also applies to just about any form of discipline parents use to control their children. Suspension of privileges can lead to the slippery slope of removing necessities. Verbal reprimands can easily edge into verbal abuse.

    Which is not to say children shouldn’t have discipline. But we, too, need to consider that our actions have consequences in their minds and lives — and that children have longer memories than they are usually given credit for. I vividly recall the few times I was spanked as a child, mainly because they were exceptional occasions and not regular activity. My husband _was_ abused as a child, a lot of it disguised as parental discipline, and he can recite a laundry list of horrific things done to him and his siblings. Even after having a double-stroke, and thirty years outside of his parents’ direct control. Fearing his parents only made him want to get away as fast as possible; I never feared mine, and somehow she instilled in me a sense of shame and guilt that squashed any wrongful impulses after a while. (I did test it at times. I’d rather be beaten than shamed. The first is temporary pain; the second haunts.)

    Thankfully my state does not allow corporal punishment. There is a reason why the stats for school shootings in states that do. School authority has been a joke for decades, protecting the bully and abuser and punishing the victims of same because it is _easier_. If a teacher or principal had laid on a disciplinary hand on me in school, I would have snapped because it would have proven conclusively that no one and nothing was safe or could be trusted and that I was indeed consigned to my personal hell without reprieve. There would have been no reason to stay my hand or even to discriminate between my enemies.

    But that my anecdotal experience. Most people are more comfortable reading data.

  • Glad to see/hear this post. Didn’t read the first on since, you know it was on Christmas Eve. I talk about this issue quite a bit in my college course both as a psychologist and as a parent. I have never once spanked or otherwise hit my children. I think I have ever yelled at them once, maybe twice. Seriously. I routinely hear from strangers, teachers, and my peers how “good” my kids are and how well behaved and kind they are. I have two boys the youngest of whom my husband and I have often thought would be abused in many other households b/c he has lead with aggressiveness since birth – biting, hitting, head butting…you name it. The punishment and discipline that both boys received involved a loss of a priviledge or opportunity or whatever was age appropriate. Often times, the punishment felt more like a punishement for us than our kid…which is why I think a lot of parents fail in effective consequences. That and they are not consistent and lack follow through. How many times have any of us heard parents say “If you do that again then (whatever). I mean it.” Kid does it again. “I’m not kidding.” Kid does it again. “I’m seriously.” No you’re not or you would have followed through already. Kids learn VERY quickly. And BTW, for those that think spanking or the like is necessary to keep your kids from running into the street…try telling them if they can’t keep themselves from running into the street (which they can’t yet b/c they’re kids…which is why they have to learn from us that we mean it) haul their asses inside. Yes it will royally suck for you to have a seriously upset kid or kids inside with you…but you can bet that if they WANT to be outside but you haul them in b/c they aren’t listening…they will learn to listen. No spanking necessary. What is necessary are parents who are strong – no physically by mentally. Parents NEED to be mentally tough and many are not. (btw…since I can unless you send me to the “spam obli-thing.” (I need to look that one up – I blog on developing strength of self… – which is from where I think much of mental toughness resides). Rock on!

  • January 5, 2014 at 5:15 PM // Reply

    Chuck, I understand your points but I disagree.

    First, my own anecdotal evidence: My parents spanked my brothers and I as a child. Not often and never in anger, but usually 2-3 lashes with a belt. I do not consider it abusive; when I look back on those times, I see a disrespectful kid who deserved discipline. Being spanked did not encourage me to violence; I’ve never been in a physical fight nor hit anyone* in my life, and neither have either of my brothers. I now have three sons of my own, one in college and the others in high school; I admit that I spanked them as well when they were much younger. Again, not often and never in anger. None of them ever get physical either. I asked them after reading this article how they felt about being spanked; they said it wasn’t a big deal, then proceeded to tell me the mistakes we DID make when raising them. At least I know they’re being honest.

    Of course, like everybody’s personal stories, mine means nothing to the overall argument.

    I can see where you’re coming from. There are lots of ways to discipline, you can raise children well without ever resorting to it. Heck, it may even be better that way. I have just a few points to make:

    1. Every child responds to discipline (and different forms of discipline) uniquely; what works for one won’t necessarily work for all. My oldest feared any punishment to the point it was rarely necessary. The second was the exact opposite, pushing the lines so much he was in trouble constantly. The third absolutely loved time-outs for some reason, making it worthless as a method of discipline.

    2. Spanking (non-abusive) is far superior to giving no discipline at all. I have friends who criticize it every bit as strongly as you, yet don’t dedicate the time to making sure their own children receive proper discipline. And, there’s no doubt that most other forms of discipline take fare more time and effort on the part of the parent.

    3. Taking a hard-line stance on spanking effectively demonizes a lot of parents who choose to do it, yet are not being abusive. Maybe spanking isn’t illegal, but it’s not unheard of for CPS to take children out of a home due to reports of abuse by those who feel it should be. It can take a long period of time and a great deal of expense for a family to work themselves out of a situation like that, traumatizing the children and family alike.

    4. It’s possible to be horribly abusive while never laying a hand on your child. The most lasting part of physical abuse is not the scars or bruises, but the psychological damage; and you don’t need the former to inflict the latter. Don’t focus on physical abuse so much you ignore the rest.

    5. Please, do what you feel is right for your own family. If you don’t like spanking, don’t spank. If you feel strongly about it, speak up. Just don’t demonize others who feel differently.

    There are about a thousand different mistakes you can make raising your children. Most of us make a few hundred of them at least. Amazingly enough, kids usually turn out only screwed up a little bit despite all that.

    * Noting that some will disagree that I’ve never hit anybody after my spanking admission.

    • I cover most of these comments in the post, but here’s the thing — what I’m pointing out here is that it’s somewhat irrelevant what people *feel* about this subject. In the same way that what people *feel* about global warming or evolution matters doesn’t actually change the reality of either of those things. The science is in, and has been, and the results are: spanking isn’t good for your kids. Whether you want to call it abuse or not, the point is that it a) isn’t as effective as people want and b) it has a potential cost that fails to match the potential results.

      It would be one thing if we had no other way of dealing with your children, but as it turns out, we have a whole lotta ways of dealing with our kids. Same as we have ways of dealing with one another, or our pets, or whoever.

      It’s not about demonization or condemnation — it’s about a sea change, and a shift in the way parents deal with their children.

      Generally, if a kid “needs” to be spanked, there are other issues going on in line with what some other commenters have noted: learning disabilities, emotional disorders, or just general sensitivity. And in such cases where spanking is deemed necessary, it actually will do *more* harm. So, the perceived need is actually a red flag signaling something else, and spanking is throwing gas on a campfire.

      — c.

      • Two things.

        1.) Chris—yes, though you may have never been in a fight, the empirical data says that if you have spanked a child then you have hit someone.

        2.) I too have never been in a fight, except with my brother, as a boy, constantly, to the point that my mother, pushed way beyond the edge of her tether, chases us from the kitchen once, brandishing a giant yellow plastic spoon, and if we hadn’t been able to run faster than her, well …

        Which is to illustrate that we were ‘spanked’ occasionally, as it were.

        The point is this: “The science is in, and has been, and the results are: spanking isn’t good for your kids,” is not a reality-based statement. Anything predicated on any sociological science simply cannot be stated with authority in the way theories based on the physical sciences can.

        To wit: anecdotal evidence, my own, Chris’s above, and the many others who contributed to this discussion, here or elsewhere, illustrates quite clearly that there are many persons for whom being spanked as a child has had no observable, detrimental effect. This is what we might call a scientific fact.

        We can say quite happily that spanking is generally not the best option, which notion I agree with whole-heartedly. But we cannot say that spanking “will do *more* harm” because there is data available which refutes this statement. Similarly, if there was data which showed that some things don’t accelerate at at 32 fps/s, absent atmospheric resistance, then we could not state that the force of gravity is a constant.

        Spanking: not actually bad for some people, strangely enough. But then, people are strange, ain’t they.

        • Your anecodtal evidence is also scientific fact?

          I am a little confused by that.

          The point isn’t — you know what, it’s not worth it. The post and my original comment cover it. Like I said, you are free to do as you want. The law says so.

          But the reality is: spanking your kids is still hitting your kids, and that can come with a host of detrimental effects.

          — c.

    • A belt! I can’t believe people are defending attacking a child with a weapon. That’s not just spanking, that’s whipping — is it really legal over there? It has been a crime in the UK for a long time. I can understand the basis for justifying a single, open-handed swat, that happened to me (but only to me, my parents decided to stop doing it when I was around five and, rather irritatingly for me, this meant neither of my younger siblings was ever hit, therefore I know it’s perectly possible to achieve good results without hurting your child). But a BELT! No. No way. I know your parents didn’t do it out of hatred, and believed they were doing right, and they and you may have been lucky enough not to have seen lasting negative results. But they should never have done that to you. If nothing else they hurt you AT THE TIME. Nothing you could have been doing was so bad that there was no other way to set you straight. We don’t do that to criminals, and you weren’t a criminal, you were a kid.

  • A comment: While those saying “I was spanked and it had no effect on me” are anecdotes, so are”I was spanked and it left a mark on me”. I want to say that I am not discounting genuine reactions to abuse, which so many of you describe (and which makes me so sad; childhood should be safe).

    I haven’t read the original post Chuck, and given some of the reactions of your followers on this post, I don’t think I will. I do think we would be better off if spanking was used much less. My personal opinion that using a tool to beat a child is abuse. But I think that we do need more discipline than is being seen. Consequences are important (I am definitely not saying that spanking is the only consequence), and it seems to me that there is a loss of personal accountability and responsibility in general society today, and I wonder where that comes from.

    In a personal anecdote, I admit that I was a child that was spanked; rarely, as I was a good kid. I do not remember any of them with clarity, and I only remember that my mother was the one who would do it more when she was angry. Equally though, I remember her explaining why not do things calmly.

    My little brother was a very energetic and disobedient child, who received the lion’s shares of spanking. Exactly the same parenting style but different behavioural issues. Sternly telling my brother not to do something or timeouts or other punishments never seemed to work. “Don’t run under the house” was one and my brother opened his forehead up running under the house. “Don’t lick the knives” went before him opening up his tongue on one.

    I will add my brother has never been diagnosed with any behavioural or attention disorders, even though some of his teachers tried to tell my parents that he did have. We had no sugars or additives in our diet and did get lots of exercise. He’s grown up to be a wonderful young man and responsible and mostly respectful. As far as we’ve discussed it he has no ill effects, and he’s never been afraid of altercations with our parents.

    I’ve particularly always been afraid of my parents’ disappointment and disapproval–guilt was always a far better tactic with me.

    I have a question for parents out there (I am not a parent myself), and I am curious. For the young ones, particularly those on the move with little language skills, where reasoning is much less likely to be understood, what techniques do you use, particularly when immediacy is required? But overall too. How do you time out a child that can climb out of the crib or won’t stay in the spot for their timeout?

    • The nature of anecdotes is why I used this post to present data. (And not a small amount of it.) The data shows what the anecdotes back up: some kids are affected more negatively than others, and you increase your chances that a series of problematic effects could occur. This won’t happen universally, but that’s not a very good reason to do it — I could also open fire on a crowded mall with an AK-47 and it’ll only kill 3 out of 10 people, but that doesn’t mean the choice I made was a positive one.

      Children who are without reasoning skills respond to a whole host of parenting tricks and techniques that I listed elsewhere but come down to varying degrees of communication, compassion, and limitation.

      — c.

      • Sure Chuck. I wasn’t commenting on anecdotes for this post as such but the comments on this by others. I appreciate you sharing the data on it, being the believer in science that I am.

        Thanks for your reply. If anyone else knows of a good resource about behavioural techniques they could recommend, I’d be really interested, for the future. 🙂

  • Just gonna put in my two cents–my father spanked me as a child. He screamed at me, too. It never taught me ‘respect’ or to be ‘good’. It taught me to fear him. When he gets loud, even if it’s over a football game or something inconsequential, I -still- get nervous. I cringe. If it’s loud enough, sometimes I have to leave the room. I love my father, don’t get me wrong, he was brought up with being smacked around with a belt, spoon, etc. All he did was spank me and scream, but it’s really fucking sad because it’s all I really remember from my childhood. It didn’t happen often, but when it did it was terrifying. There are other and better ways to discipline a child. Hitting a kid doesn’t teach xir to be good–it teaches xir to be afraid.

    I wouldn’t want my kids to be afraid of me and I hope others feel the same. Breaking that feeling of trust that you can go to your family and talk about things without being beaten/hit/whatever is a horrible thing for a child to have on their plate–and once you break that trust, it’s damn hard to get it back.

    • You took the words right out of my mouth. Being spanked as a kid didn’t teach me anything except fear.
      It didn’t teach me respect for other people, it taught me to lie and then to lie better. It didn’t teach me not to do wrong, but simply to cover my tracks.
      Of course, my parents did the best the knew how and they taught me good things as well, like being polite and helpful. But they didn’t teach me that by hitting me, they taught me that by explaining it to me and by setting an example.

      One of my most vivid childhood memories was my older brother getting slapped. It was because of me; maybe he had teased me, maybe he had actually hit me. But I remember that my father dragged him into his room and gave him a clip round the ear. And I sat outside, bawling my eyes out. My father told me and my brother that if I hadn’t been crying, he would have given my brother a slap on the other cheek as well.
      That’s how horrible spanking was for me. It made me cry, even when it wasn’t me that was getting it, even when my brother got it as punishment for being mean to me. And that was used as punishment against me, when I did childishly wrong things. Talk about cruel and unusual.

      You know, this subject makes me glad that I don’t have any children, only two cats. No-one ever tells you that you have to spank your cats when they misbehave, because everyone knows that if you hit a cat, it will not do any good and will only make it scared of you.

  • The first post was such a great read for my wife and me. We have decided that spanking is problematic in some of the ways you mentioned, but your commentary on it was just the profanity-laden tirade we needed to remove our doubts. I’m being serious. And describing it as bullying was the home run ball for me, especially as I deal with an especially passionate 4-year old who can often stir up some serious madness in the home. I really didn’t need part two, but it is a great addition to the strong word you offered to begin with.

    Thanks for posting this. It will continue to ring in my ears as I raise my kids.

    • Thanks for saying so, Jason. Kids are crazy-making and frustrating and they don’t come with an instruction manual, so I’m sympathetic to the urge — if you view spanking as something that can be done dispassionately and quickly and as a thing to remove some of that frustration, it becomes very appealing. Particularly when you buy into it as something that doesn’t hurt anybody. Except the data is increasingly pointing toward that as a false narrative, revealing spanking to be a thing that can hurt people in a deeper, stranger way than perhaps imagined.

  • The hardest thing I do as a parent sometimes is CHOOSE not to hit my child. Because I was spanked. I was threatened with wooden spoons and giant spatulas. I was told that if I mis-behaved in school, my parents would let the principal spank me. (What kind of a message does that send to a child?) I think because of this, my instinct is almost to lash out when I’m frustrated. To want to smack someone.
    When we had kids, this was a choice my husband and I made together, and I’m so very glad we did. It’s harder to sit the kid in time out 20xs until he stays there than to just whack him out of frustration and anger, but it’s easier to hold the “no hitting” rule over their heads when they want to lash out against each other. We teach our kids to respect other people, and their bodies. That no one has a right to touch them, and that they don’t have a right to touch anyone else.
    I watch my brother hit his kids, and I cringe every. single. time. When you’re raised having been hit, you see that as normal, so the whole “I was spanked and I’m fine” doesn’t ring true for me. It’s not fine to hit a kid. Ever. And if anyone else ever touched mine, so help me, they wouldn’t be on this earth long.

  • I got an occasional smack to the back of the head from my mom when I did something dumb. Like tip a carton of milk upside down while it was open.

    Honestly, I got more of a verbal lashing. That was more frustrating, and it came out in my teen years when my relationship was rocky at best with my mom. My poor wife, there are things I’ll get defensive about because she’ll say something that reminds me of how my mom said it. I hate every second of it.

    I don’t have kids, and I’m not sure I ever will, but I don’t believe in hitting them or verbally berating them. I try to actually use logic with my many nieces and nephews.

  • I was spanked regularly. With a belt usually. As a child/teen I found it humiliating and extremely distressing but I didn’t think of it as (part of) the unintentional abuse my parents put me through until I was in my mid-twenties.
    My parents love me. They were involved, concerned, affectionate parents. I never went hungry, I never lacked a coat, does, gloves, school supplies. They worked hard to be all of that because they’d both had unpleasant childhoods, particularly my mother, whom was both impoverished and abused. They were strict, controlling, but I understood that they felt they were doing the best they could.
    But we have a very strained relationship. I never felt LIKED, I never understood why I was never good enough to make them happy with me, I didn’t feel respected or autonomous. And let me tell you, I was a really good kid. No one is perfect and teens are obnoxious, but I was always complimented by other adults for being me.
    Now as an adult I have trust issues, aggression/temper issues, low self esteem and am constantly feeling like I’m not good enough or deserving. I see a therapist and hope to one day feel the confidence and peace I deserve. I certainly don’t feel that I can turn to my parents for help finding it. An additional effect seems to be one I haven’t seen anyone else mention: I enjoy an occasional sexytime spanking, but ONCE a partner took his belt off and playfully threatened me with it. My reaction was to become hysterical and to begin begging to be left alone in exactly the way I use to as a child. I had the EXACT same negative feeling and could never let go of feeling afraid of him. Obviously, the relationship didn’t last and I do not tolerate belts in the bedroom.

  • Using coercive force against kids prevents kids from going to jail? Well, these are some follow ups to that assertion, coercion enthusiasts:

    When has a judge ordered a thorough spanking on a convicted felon?

    Where do they deliver the daily spankings to the inmates to remind them of their criminal behavior? How does hitting a child with your hand equate to how justice or authority is meted out in the real world beyond your reach. Seems like time out and removal of privileges is EXACTLY what we do to people who consistently break the rules. It seems like hitting them once they’re in custody would be abusive.

    Taken to an extreme: a felon is caught by police and thoroughly beaten in a public square while his crimes are touted to the people. After a humiliating beating, the police release him from custody — what did this teach the person? Other than getting caught for bad behavior should be avoided at ALL COSTS.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I agree and this is a fascinating topic. I can’t wait until beating on children as a shortcut to parenting is as ridiculous as those butt-jigglin’ belt machines people used for weight loss in the fifties.

  • Here’s what I know from being spanked, screamed at, and constantly criticized as a child, all for the sake of “good parenting”.

    My knees turn to water during confrontations. I don’t know how to stand up for myself. My youth was spent in fury at the world. And I sought men that liked to punch me so that I could finally punch someone back.

    It doesn’t work. When I see someone hit a child, I want to hit them. I know what they are doing to that kid. They are taking that kid’s sense of self esteem away, possibly for the rest of their lives.

    I’ve spanked 3 times in my boys 9 year life, always in anger and frustration. Everytime I’ve hated myself for it and still do. So, about 6 years ago, we went with a “no hitting” rule and it’s never happened since. But I still feel guilty, likely will forever.

    Kids don’t need to be hit. There are other ways. And yes, kids will always push boundaries, try your patience, etc., ad nauseum. But parenting is an act of self sacrifice and bravery.

    And if a stranger hit your kid, you’d lose your mind. So why would you do it?

    • “Here’s what I know from being spanked, screamed at, and constantly criticized as a child, all for the sake of “good parenting”.

      My knees turn to water during confrontations. I don’t know how to stand up for myself. My youth was spent in fury at the world.”

      This is me 100%. I still cringe at raised voices, even if the speaker is simply enthusiastic about something (like a football game), and avoid those kinds of situations. I’ve become the negotiator, the soother of hurt feelings, the one who strives for harmony in life in order to keep things from ever getting to that screaming and yelling point. No matter how firm I am on a subject or belief I Do. Not. Argue/Debate. Period. Because arguing/debating always ended with a spanking.

      I have anger issues, though few would believe me if I told them. I have trust issues. I have difficulty expressing myself if my beliefs veer sharply from those around me. I’ve learned to blend in, to not cause a stir, to be invisible.

      That is what spanking taught me.

  • I strongly agree with you. If it’s illegal to spank an adult without their permission, it is wrong to spank your child. If you did that to an adult it would be assault or sexual harassment or both. But it’s different because it’s your kid? No, kids are people and deserve better than that. Sure it can be exhausting to constantly have to use your words and explain a lesson to your child, but how do you teach them to use their words and that hitting us wrong when you don’t follow that philosophy yourself?

  • Chuck, these posts are great! I love seeing this sort of no nonsense approach to something like “disciplining” children.

    As countless people have said, “children are our future.” Frankly, I don’t understand how people can still argue that spanking is “helpful” or even “good.” I was never spanked as a child, my parents weighed the options and firmly decided against spanking my brother and I. My ex-fiance was spanked. Let me tell you, she is, sadly, one of the most despicable human beings I’ve ever known. Nearly eight years with her left me drug-addicted, broken, friendless, and suicidal (not that those things are expressly “her fault,” but the toxicity in our relationship certainly contributed to a large degree). Thankfully, I’m recovering now after realizing I have ADHD and likely bipolar disorder and seeking recovery from addiction. She is still in pain and still doing things like hacking my Facebook profile to send vicious messages with nude photos of myself to my family and friends. Oh, and she tried to take all my money…can’t forget that one.

    Yes, this is also anecdotal and “proves nothing.” I don’t know if her being spanked and hit with belts even contributed to her current depression and other neuroses. However, I do know without a shadow of a doubt (I’ve studied psychology…a lot) that her parents are both major factors and causes of her Major Depressive Disorder. At this point…I just hope she finds a way to get out of that house and get better as I have.

    So, thanks Chuck! I appreciate a rational look at spanking. Its good to see people at least trying to extricate themselves from the emotions involved in child-rearing.


    In Earnest,

    Adam ~ Pollux

  • I truly appreciate the description of spanking as a tool of one of a multitude of parenting tools available for use. I agree that spanking can and does have detrimental future effect for some kids. That said, I have do have the spanking tool in my tool box. Now, admittedly, it is deep down in the tool box and labeled with the symbol given for radioactive material. I will threaten one of my children with a spanking in advance for egregious behavior, such as blatant disrespect of and/or hitting their mother (they somehow learn hitting at school from other kids, imagine that!). I can’t think of anything else that would bring a spanking from me. Except I did spank my son for repeatedly spitting on a kid in his class, after he had been told to stop, and his mother was forced to sign an incident report form at the academy he attends. I understand fully what spanking is, it’s punishment, plain and simple. I would never use it to attempt to teach anything constructive.
    I admit though, I’m a little different than most parents. I love my kids but, man I cannot wait for them to grow up and leave. (I’ll finally be rid of all the snarky comments, and the know it all, destroy everything in my path that I didn’t pay for attitudes) I’ve gone far afield here but, I just had to get that in. I won’t give you any anecdotal info to support my position. Mainly, because my own family has been representative of your position. Out of 5 kids only one is anywhere close to a success story (Me). Although, I will say I received about 3 to 4 times more spankings than my other 4 siblings combined. My dad claims he learned as time went on and didn’t spank my youngest sibling at all. Just so happens, that sibling is the most screwed up one of all.

  • I have read through this post and some of the comments and regardless of what side you fall on one problem I see is no one on either side seems to have defined “spanking” except to say “to hit” which is incredibly broad. (admittedly – maybe someone buried in all these comments has – but this discussion could be alot clearer if this definition were placed somewhere prominent). I respect what those against spanking say and I think most people on all sides have the common goal of trying to do what is best for their children – no reason to demonize either side if what is being done does not cross into abuse (recognizing everyone has a different definition of this). My hubby and I had this issue a bit when we married… to him spanking meant to be hit with a belt repetitively until he quit crying (to show acceptance) and this left bruises all across his back and legs… he quit receiving spankings when he started laughing during them…. I found this to be terrible and horrible – not spanking at all. To me spanking means to be hit 1-3 times on the butt with a HAND – never hard enough to leave a bruise – and we were always told clearly what we had done and how many swats we would get. It stung, but never hurt afterwards for more then about 5 minutes. It was done in private and not to a very old age (4 or 6). I don’t have a clue why someone would spank a 8 year old as I would think their pain tolerance would be such it would be tough to do with a hand and without harming them physically and the point of a spanking – or any parental punishment – should never be humiliation. My parents were never angry that I recall when I was spanked. It was does solemnly and with sorrow – looking back I think I felt worse about pushing them to a point of having to do it then about any pain it caused me. To me Hitting a child with a weapon – belt, board, stick, or device designed to cause maximum pain – is not spanking and in addition can be hard to control – failing the definition of on the butt and not leaving any mark. Repetitively smacking a child with no end in sight also fails the test. Weather a spanking or a time out or a grounding a child should always know what it is they must suffer as a consequence – otherwise it could easily become a beating in which there is no perimeter for parent or child except some random sense by the parent. There is probably some wiggle room there but that is how I view it…. and I suppose if I had to come down firmly I would say regardless of how a parent gives a spanking – if they are leaving bruises/cuts or hitting the legs and back at all then it is not a spanking – if the child requires medical treatment/first aid of any kind or is expressing pain later in the day after a spanking – it wasn’t a spanking and shouldn’t be part of a debate about spanking. Anyway…. that is my half thought out definition…. In my experience all discussions are much clearer if everyone knows exactly what “spanking” we are referring to… my hubby and I’s discussions were much clearer when we realized we both meant totally different things. Puzzlingly, “spanking” can mean anything from a love tap two basketball players would give each other to a single swat on the butt over clothes to using a belt from head to toe to a sexual act – without a definition I think it is just to broad to discuss. Additionally someone needs to define by whom when they say spanking. I am a Christian and do live by the Bible (though that is not the basis of my point that this discussion needs to be better defined) – though I agree that Proverbs is not a literal book, but some books are. Also most of the OT is there to show why we can’t live without Christs sacrifice or to give us the history and prophecy to understand Christ’s relevance, because the law is impossible to follow – and the law is no longer the guideline for daily life as clearly shown in the New Testament. The thing I would bring up is to me as I understand it, Biblical, “spanking” is unique to a parent/child relationship – if it is being done by governments, schools, neighbors, friends, other kids, or random people off the street it falls in a different category and need not be part of this discussion. I can not recall anywhere in new testament (the guidelines we live under today) scripture that talks about schools spanking other peoples children… But I would bet there are others here who would define by whom differently then me… I suppose when I have time I should go through some of the studies, but I also wonder how many of them clearly define what exactly form of “spanking” they studied as so many people – nearly all of them – assume everyone means the same thing when they say “spank” and in my experience people mean wildly different things which can confuse communication on the issue. I apologize for the spelling and grammar errors in this – hopefully it is understandable – I typed it rapidly during my daughters nap!

  • Oh, I could not agree with you more, Chuck Wendig. Thank you for being so outspoken. My favorite excuse is “I was spanked, and I am fine”. Sure, sure, tell that to an incest/child soldier/child prostitute/[insert-your-favorite-childhood-horror-here] survivor. Spanking subdues the mind and teaches fear, not respect.

  • I was rarely spanked, only on rare occasions and it was usually just one at a time. There was no ceremony or ritual, no bending over, no belt, no paddle. Just a spur of the moment, lost control of my anger, swat on the butt. And in my mid-thirties I still have a great relationship with my parents.

    All that being said……..

    I’m a mother of two youngens. And ooooohhhhh do they test my patience. But that’s what kids do. I have a reward chart, I do time outs (though sometimes I question their effectiveness) and when they have calmed down and out of the intensity of the moment, we talk. I get on my knees in front of them so I’m eye level and we talk about what happened, why they were disciplined and what to do next time.

    And with all that being said…

    I’ve bopped the kids upside the head a couple of times. Nothing to make them cry, but sometimes to break their focus. I’ve lost my temper with them, I’ve raised my voice, but I’ve actually never spanked them. And the bops…yeah I catch myself and I refrain. I now use my words, just like I preach to them.

    I’m human. And I’ve slipped up. But I’ve done the research, I’ve seen the error of my ways. And yes, my kids constantly test…it’s what they do, it’s what they’re supposed to do.

    This was a great post, Chuck. An awesome post.

  • I am a devout Christian who has never spanked my children. I think it is abusive, totally unnecessary, and wrong. It is a completely contradictory message to children to tell them not to hit others when their parents are hitting them. I can’t understand how people cannot see the hypocrisy in that!!! Thank you for stating your views about this topic. I just hope that some readers have seen the error of their thinking! God wants us to love one another. We need to be the best examples of that love with our children. There are so many more acceptable ways to discipline (teach right from wrong) our children.

  • ~Thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this together the way you have (though I rather prefer the “shits” and “fucks”)–I needed to read this. To keep it short, I was spanked and became depressed by age 14, at which time I developed Borderline Personality Disorder, began using drugs and drinking, and then I had dropping out of school, stripping, prostitution, and years of hardcore drug and alcohol abuse to look forward to. Not to blame my parents (who were/are devout Christians)–they did the best they could with what they had, and if I could go back and change anything, I wouldn’t, because I love my life today. (All of that shit is great fiction-fodder)
    ~I have four kids, who I have spanked before, but for the past few years–in sobriety and healing–I have taken out the spanking, and now I will occasionally “bop them on the head”, you know, like little bunny foo-foo and shit. And I justify it because it’s not technically spanking. But you are right, it is striking, which is hitting, whether it’s hard enough to leave a mark or not. I’ve been to plenty of parenting classes to know there are so many other, more effective ways of disciplining. Really, it’s just lazy parenting. Thank you for making me think more about how I can be a better mom to my kiddos. I really appreciate it. Write on 🙂

  • Someone above asked how you do time-outs if a child won’t stay in place. Many, many years ago when I worked in daycare we had a couple kids who would hit/hurt other kids & needed timeouts but wouldn’t stay in place. I’d sit down with the child in my lap using my arms to keep their arms from flailing around and talk quietly until they calmed down. I did this when babysitting also.

    With my stepson (8 when he came into my life with major anger issues) we worked together on finding things that worked. From him recognizing he needed a time out to always being consistent on follow-through of threats to matching “punishments” to the crime. Use the phone too much, lose phone privileges, longer each violation. Not where he was supposed to be grounded, longer each time. Didn’t clean his room, discussions about why you need to get into good habits for the future & additional rooms around the apartment to clean for each day he didn’t pick up his room. Being a brat/disrespectful I’d cancel plans for fun things he wanted to do. Misbehave in public & we go home. When he was 14 he moved in with us by choice after a bad incident stating that he knew he could count on me to be consistent. I didn’t set a lot if rules – the big one was “when in doubt don’t do or expect to pay for the consequences”.

    Kids are supposed to push boundaries. They need to know that you care enough to stop them when they go to far. A look, tone of voice, consistency, never make a threat you won’t follow through.

    And please when taking kids on boring rides, restaurants, or asking them to sit quietly bring things for them to do, books, coloring, favorite toy. I find one if the reason kids act up so much in public is they are being asked to be quiet and are bored for too long. When I used to go out more many of my friends kids knew me because “she’s that cool lady with the box of stuff”. I kept a box full off paper, crayons, books, puzzle/coloring books, & card games in my car & when meeting friends at restaurants I’d bring the box in & the kids would be fine. Some parents I know have a box of things the kids only get to play with when out & about so the stuff is “special”. It’s a bit harder with a really young kid in a shopping cart but velcro and rope does wonders at keeping toys attached.

  • Thank you for this Chuck. Just thank you. You say what needs to be said, and say so eloquently. Now when my in-laws try to suggest that maybe all my kids need is a spanking I can direct them here. I don’t suppose you have any suggestions for how I can get them to stop hitting their kids when they are in our house?

  • I hope this comment is one that’s unique to this debate but with the many people in the world, and the numerous comments I’ve glazed over so far, it’s probably not. Chuck, I was of the opinion that spanking was reserved for the worst “crimes” a child could commit. I am the father of a 4-year-old daughter who I have spanked a few times in her life. All (but one) of which was when she was absolutely out-of-control. The “but one” was because I’d had a shitty day and her albeit small tantrum got on my last nerve. The look I saw in her eyes when I gave her that last one was nothing more than fear. I’d promised myself (as arrogant and ignorant as it was to do so) a great many things when I first considered being a parent. One of those promises is that my children would respect me, not fear me.

    I will admit I came into your first article because the title caught my eye when it came into my inbox. I half-expected it to be funny. I have always believed in spanking as a last-resort means of disciplining a child for doing something wrong. But your article woke me up a bit. My daughter, being as she’s only 4, is incapable of doing wrong. What she is capable of is annoying me, making too big a mess, and crying when she doesn’t get her way. None of these things are MORALLY wrong. They’re just a little kid’s job as they stretch out toward what little independence is available to them. I realize that while spanking has been an effective tool up to this point, it has put a temporary rift between myself and my daughter each time…the opposite of the effect I wished her punishment to have.

    I hope that this comment, long and winded as it is, will give you hope that your words can change mankind one person at a time. I was always a bit on the fence about it anyway. Since my parents spanked (and hit) me when I was young, and I resent them for that and many other things I won’t go into here, it only makes sense that I not discipline my children in the same way.

    Again, Chuck, thank you. You’ve made this father see the error in his ways.

  • Every kid is different. This is why there have always been loopholes in education. What works for one kid will not work for another. Yes, I was spanked on occasion and I would say I don’t have anything necessarily against it. It worked for me. Why? Because on the occasion that I was rude and disrespectful to my parents, it taught me to take their advice for stuff and listen to them. In general I was a pretty good kid so it was rarely a necessary action for my parents. On the other hand, it might affect kids who are different than me quite badly. We’re all made different and that’s okay. You’ve got to find the form of discipline that will work for your kid and that you’re okay with. If it’s just a little whack on the wrist or butt and will make your child behave, what’s the harm? If it’s abusive and harsh or will not work for your child, then don’t do it. The end.

  • A lot of people’s stories about spanking come more from abuse, not discipline. That’s what I recognize.

    I was spanked as a child. It was over heinous things, like lying on purpose to hurt someone or if I stole from someone. Timeouts were for lighter things. However, my discipline was meshed out for hurting people. That’s it. I stuttered, but I wasn’t disciplined for that. I didn’t do well in school, but discipline wasn’t meshed out for that. Discipline should only be used when someone harms someone. Everything else is a learning experience. Spanking to me was a transaction, a humiliating one, but there were no feelings behind it. It follows the words: you did the crime, now pay the time.

    I was also abused as a kid. My mother choked me, my father hit, there was a lot of verbal and physical abuse when I was younger. I was once beat with a spray bottle my mother said was a spanking. However, this is NOT punishment. This is FRUSTRATION and ANGER. This is what I see when people say they got spanked.

    Discipline should have no feelings behind it. You should explain what happened with the child, why they did it, but they still did the crime. This is what happens.

    I will spank my children, if it is effective and needed. I will not ABUSE my child. If they make the transaction, I must complete it. But I will love them and respect them. This is just my opinion of course.

  • Also, a note. I believe there should be more experimentation and studies over this because I don’t believe the data you receive is correct. By that, I mean, it is rather skewed and interpreted wrong. If discipline is used correctly, then scientists may be able to find better results on this topic.

    That said, if I went by my experience, I would say no one should ever yell at a child. Because what I went through completely destroyed me mentally in that department. To the point that I, as a grown man, almost started tearing up when my girlfriend yelled at me. So, trauma can be in other disciplines as well. We should not deny this, but work to create effective discipline. Not to say yelling is terrible and I should demonize those who do. It was not effective on me or used the right way.

    I think, to fully see which is more effective, scientists would have to be in a controlled environment, with children, and deal with the discipline without the emotion. That’ s what may need to be done.

    Anyway, my apologies for another post. This is my take on the whole debate.

  • Further, how do you reconcile teaching kids about avoiding sexual abuse with hitting them? If you tell your daughter or son “if anyone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, even a family member, you can ask them to stop, and if they don’t, that’s not okay.” and “Even if they say it’s a way to show love, or they say it’s your fault, it isn’t your fault” etc etc – but then you hit them and they can’t stop you and they learn that really, they don’t get to decide who touches them in a bad way, they just have to endure it. You’ve seriously undermined your lesson.

  • In my estimation spanking is only appropriate when inflicted upon grown women of questionable virtue in suitably sleazy locales. Admittedly the redemptive benefits therefrom are minuscule at best.. but the view from the top is truly exhilarating!

  • I was one of those kids that got the belt. My siblings and I were literally whipped for our behavioral transgressions back in the 1970’s. I don’t have children. None of my siblings spank their children and they have a loving relationships based on trust instead of fear. Well into my thirties I saw those beatings for what they were – a throwback to slavery. Our dad beat us, the way his parents beat him, the way they were beat by his grandparents, the way his grand parents were whipped by his great grand parents the way they were beat by slavers. I may have inserted the slavers late in the game, not sure as those historical accountings are shaky.

    I am speaking specifically of abuse in the form of punishment that was once acceptable. People need to be made aware of why they are punishing the way they do. A lot of people regardless of race abuse children, but I feel that the ancestors of slaves whip their children in greater numbers and it is accepted. Another damaging practice is the habit of telling children to fix their face to hide emotional response as if it is wrong to feel. This is my observation, I am not a scientist, but I understand learned behavior. And this type of punishment is a far reaching reverberation of learned behavior. My family is from Jamaica – because it is a tiny place you can see all of traits learned traits that echo back to slavery from the Scottish/African accents all the way to the very cruel methods of punishment. I’ve spoken to more than a few adult Jamaican Americans that have fractured familial ties because of those childhood beatings. I’ve spoken to enough black American descendants of slaves to know many have a similar story.

    The moment you tell/show people they are beating their children like slaves is the moment most of them would stop.

    As an aside, plenty of people were beat with a switch as children. There were all kinds of slaves – women and children were treated as chattel in this country for a long time.

    • I forgot to add that I ended up being a pretty wild kid. I determined that pain was nothing. If all anyone could do was beat me, then I could do anything I wanted. Mind over matter. The last time my dad gave me the belt I was 13 or 14. I did not cry. I screamed “you can’t control me – no one can control me” over and over.

      The following week, I wore shorts to a local fair at which I ran into my father on the crowded street. Running the length of my legs, front and back, thigh to knee were purple-black bruises, and cut skin. I didn’t even think about it. Bruised legs didn’t seem abnormal in my acclimated mind. Later I realized how embarrassed my father must have been in that moment when I walked up on striped legs to beg some pocket money. That marked the last occasion that I got the belt. The damage was already done.

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