Rebecca Resnik, PsyD  
Bethesda, MD

Specialties: ADHD, dyslexia, developmental delays

Interests: Developmental Disabilities
Rebecca Resnik & Associates PC
Bethesda Office
Bethesda, MD
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Jun 29, 2009 - 44 comments





child behavior








Once again, people are talking about spanking and physical punishments. This time, thanks to the reality television program “John and Kate Plus Eight.” I have not watched the show, so I am not writing about that family and their parenting practices. However, I am always glad to see people talking about parenting. A lot of parents wonder about spanking. All of us who care for children need to think about how we feel about spanking and other physical means of punishment. Spanking, especially among parents of young children, is still very common. There is no topic related to parenting that stirs up such intense controversy as spanking. Want to turn that friendly parenting-group potluck into a war zone? Just start loudly voicing your opinion on spanking. It seems that the more it is discussed, the more people become entrenched in their positions—everything from spanking is absolutely necessary, to spanking is needed sometimes, to spanking is always wrong no matter what.

No one enjoys spanking a child. Remember that moment you first held your child in your arms? No parent has ever spent that moment looking forward to a time when they would want to hurt that little person. Yet everyone who already has children knows that a child’s behaviors can create most intense frustration we have ever experienced. Those times happen for all of us, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to think in advance about we will respond. My goal in writing is to send a hopeful message-- that you can raise wonderfully behaved children without spanking, and to describe why it is a good idea to avoid it.

Of all the things we do for our children, discipline is one of the most important. Children desperately need limits and consequences. Taking the time and effort to discipline thoughtfully is a great act of love. But many people do not know that discipline and punishment are not the same thing. Discipline is teaching children to choose to do what is right, instead of what is easy or feels good. It includes all of our methods for teaching them control their own behavior. The goal of discipline is to teach children to become people of good character, not just to make them submit to our authority.

Punishment is different. Punishment is a specific act done to create unpleasant consequences (such as physical pain, shame, or discomfort in the case of spanking). The goal of punishment is to reduce or eliminate an undesirable behavior. Spanking is a form of punishment. Many people do not know that you can be a very effective disciplinarian without ever using harsh punishments or spanking.

This posting is organized as a discussion of arguments I hear in favor of spanking and physical punishment. The information below reflects scientific evidence about parenting and child development, my clinical experience as a psychologist, my work as a special educator, and undeniably my experiences as both a mother and daughter.*

1. “Spanking is the only thing that really works!”  
Many people who spank do it because they believe it is an effective tool for improving child behavior. Parents are surprised to find that this is actually not true. When scientists have compared spanking to other methods of changing behavior, they have found that spanking is actually not very effective. Scientists who study spanking have learned that parents believe spanking works because it often stops the unwanted behavior ‘right then and there.’ This sounds great; however, the important thing to know is that while spanking stops the behavior for the moment, it generally makes the problems worse. I liken spanking to scratching poison ivy. Spanking, like scratching poison ivy, does bring a moment of relief. Yet as anyone who has had poison ivy will tell you, the more you scratch it, the worse it gets. Spanking does little to eliminate or reduce problem behavior over time. Spanking does not teach the child to engage in better behaviors, it merely stops the behavior for the moment. Unfortunately, the unwanted behavior is very likely to return, and then it becomes harder to stop.

Scientists have been studying spanking for decades. Results across studies show that spanking and use of harsh punishments increases children’s level of aggression. Children who are spanked tend to become more defiant in response. This is not surprising. When a parent hits a child, she teaches him that it is ok to hit someone weaker than yourself as long as you feel you have a good enough reason. Children who are spanked are more likely to be physically aggressive towards others, including little brothers and sisters, teachers, friends, family pets, and even their parents. Psychologists others who work with children know that it is all too common for children and teens to hit their parents. Children who are hit learn to hit back, and they grow bigger and stronger each day.

In addition, just as with most punishments, children who are spanked get used to being spanked. It loses its effect. Over time, it can take more and more spanking (or spanking harder) to get the child to comply. Unfortunately, many parents find themselves rapidly depending on spanking once they start. They find that their kids are harder and harder to control. This is awful both for the children and their parents when everyone becomes stuck in a cycle of never-ending power struggles.

2. “Spanking works well if you do it in a controlled, loving, manner.”
I have heard this ideal of the ‘calm’ or ‘loving’ spanking held up as a ‘gold standard’ how to use this technique. However, this idea does not match what we know about human nature and how people behave when angry. In the real world, many parents can not meet the ideal of staying calm in the face of challenging child behavior. Studies show that many parents spank when they lose their temper. Multiple studies also show that when parents spank, the risk of crossing the line into abuse grows. Parents who spank more frequently or who spank with objects are at the highest risk. The reality is that parents who spank are at higher risk for going too far and harming the child as compared to parents who do not use physical punishments.

Our children can make us more angry, more afraid, and more frustrated than just about anything else in the world. As any parent knows, our children’s provocative behavior produces an extreme stress response. It certainly does not make us feel calm and loving. During emotional stress, our heart rates increase, we get an adrenaline rush; our bodies get ready for a ‘fight or flight.’ This is the time when we are least capable of thinking clearly. It is the time when we have the least self-control, when we risk going too far in punishing our children. It is easy to say “Oh that will never happen to me.” It is harder to face the idea that it could.

Surprisingly, releasing our anger physically tends to make us angrier and more aggressive. Scientists who study the human brain have learned that releasing aggression produces pleasure—it feels good to release pent up anger. The satisfaction we take in releasing anger makes it all the harder to stop. We all have it in us to do damage to others, and avoiding spanking is one way we can protect our children. Mixing messages about love with actions that cause shame and pain is very confusing to a child. The last thing we want to do is to teach our children, particularly our daughters, that it is fine for people who claim to love them to hit them.

3. “Spanking will help my child become a better person”
Many well-meaning parents use spanking in the hopes that it will help their children to acquire morals and values. While the goal is excellent, spanking teaches a very different set of lessons about how to treat those weaker than yourself. We can use pain and shame to force people to comply with our demands, but spanking does not teach our child how to be more loving, empathic, or considerate.

Imagine that you arrive home and tell your spouse that you forgot to make the bank deposit. Suppose your spouse then punches you in the face to ‘teach you a lesson.’ You might never forget the deposit again, but what would that punch do to your relationship? Would you ever feel the same about your husband or wife again? Would you gratefully accept that kind of treatment because you really did make a mistake? Human beings respond to punishment with anger, avoidance, and feelings of vengeance. Too often, people then turn that anger loose on whoever is available. Children may be afraid to hit the parent back, but they can hit the new baby, kick the dog, or beat-up the small kid in their class. As it is often said, children ‘learn what they live.’

I have often heard people argue that because spanking has been used in the past, that parents should keep doing it. However, people of the past did many things that we find unacceptable today, such as practicing racial segregation, allowing husbands to legally beat their wives, and abandoning children with Downs Syndrome and Autism in institutions. We have come a long way in our understanding of how such behaviors hurt people. Today’s parents are fortunate to have access to more effective means of changing behaviors. Every generation abandons practices when the research shows us better ways of living. For example, today’s doctors would never tell women that breast feeding is unhealthy for babies, or encourage parents not to hold and cuddle infants, but these were common child-rearing recommendations of years past. Today, we know better, and we can choose to do what works.

4. “If I don’t spank them, my kids won’t respect me.”
Parents do need to be authority figures. They do need to be in-charge if their children are to learn to self-control. However, parents are not in-charge when they are screaming at the kids, weeping with anger, or so angry they are ready to hit. Consider a work-place example. Employees are unlikely to respect a boss who has regular tempter tantrums. They might fear him, but he would not be likely get loyalty and devotion. Just as an adult would do with a punishing boss, research shows that children who are spanked learn to avoid their parent. Instead of learning to ask for guidance, these children learn to hide their mistakes, or plan revenge. Instead of creating respect, spanking is toxic to the parent-child relationship.

As tough as it is, the best way to teach our children to respect us and our rules is to ‘practice what we preach.’ Parents can demonstrate that even when you are furious, you do not lash-out at others. Parents can show that just because you feel like hurting someone, you do not give in to those feelings. We can teach children that being an adult means being able to master your impulses.

Finally, I have heard people make the argument that spanking is necessary because of “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.” Some believe that “Spare the Rod” is an essential directive for parenting. Clearly, I am a psychologist and not a theologian, but I would offer this thought about that idea. The ‘big picture’ of all religions is the message of self-control. Human beings are charged to rise above our fear, aggression, and other baser instincts. Every religion teaches the central tenet of “do unto others” we call the Golden Rule. There is much in religious texts about mercy, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. These most important messages can serve as excellent guides for all of us making parenting decisions.

*Note: There are many excellent discussions of the scientific literature regarding spanking, and this post is intended to highlight a few of the key ideas in the debate regarding spanking. What I have written here summarizes ideas from many minds far greater than mine, and I would encourage anyone who is interested or skeptical to investigate further. The reader is directed to the following sources to learn more about managing difficult behavior:

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Dr. Alan Kazdin
The Men They Will Become by Dr. Eli Newberger
The American Academy of Pediatrics www.aap.org
The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene
How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Touchpoints by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton
To examine the research about spanking for yourself, go to PubMed, an online database of journal articles:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Post a Comment
172023 tn?1334672284
by peekawho, Jun 29, 2009
Dr. Resnick,

I appreciate this journal entry.  I would hope that many Med Help members can find some useful thoughts here--especially about your comments on the "Spare the Rod" ideology.   We hear that one quite a bit here.

Thank you again,


Avatar universal
by teko, Jun 29, 2009
Well, I had six kids. So maybe Im not in the loop so to speak about this particular subject. Some of my children never got a spanking in their lifetime and then some of them did. I remember when my 3rd son was about 4 years old. Whenever we went somewhere, either out in the yard to the store etc, he would take off running toward the street. Constantly! One day he almost got hit by a car. Did he learn no. The next time he did it, I ran after him leaving the others to wait on me and when I got hold of him I spanked him good! I mean good!  Never had the issue again because he was afraid (yes, afraid) he would get another, and yep, he would have. Now he is 36 years old and it is a big joke in the family.  Did it wound him? no Permanantly damage him? NO.  Does he abuse his children or feel like I dont love him? NO

The results are in the pudding so to speak. IMO

483733 tn?1326798446
by TrudieC, Jun 29, 2009
What a wonderful article!  I love the way you worded things and the comparison to an adult hitting another for making a mistake is very powerful.  

Thank you for posting this.

193137 tn?1367880063
by sk123, Jun 29, 2009
I was never spanked as a child, but my parents did threaten to spank me. I'm assuming that threatening to spank is also off limits based on this blog.

Thank you for the insight. Very well-written.

715930 tn?1338722436
by lmc2132, Jun 29, 2009
Thank you for this article.  What are the best alternatives to spanking?

535822 tn?1443976780
by margypops, Jun 29, 2009
Thank you Dr Resnick for your article I found it very interesting and echo your views on spanking, indeed as you say we are teaching good or negative behavior,I particularly liked your piece "practise what we Preach'. Children do respond to the affectsof parents focusing on their positive side.,the happiest children I have known are where they are part of a family who understand how a child feels and walk in their shoes,the parents are still in control but it is done with quiet kindness and understanding and not the rule of the hand or rod..

675347 tn?1365460645
by ginger899, Jun 29, 2009
I got spanked when I was a child. Not very often, but it happened. I once said the 'F' word to my parents in anger, and got a spanking, for example. I set the woods on fire, and got a spanking. It wasn't the spanking that made me think, in that case, it was the horror of seeing my precious woods burning, and the fire brigade called. I was so upset.
We expected to be spanked if we did something really wrong. In those days, there were no ifs and buts about it. Everyone I knew got it. Corporal punishment happened at school too. I got that once, for 'inciting a riot' (getting a little gang of kids together to run round the little kids' playground, pretending to be monsters :-O)
Did it damage me?
Did other things damage me very badly later in my life, that had nothing whatsoever to do with physical assault of any kind?
But I wouldn't spank a child, and wouldn't ever hit a dog. I couldn't bear to do it.

325405 tn?1262290178
by 888mom, Jun 29, 2009
I got my mouth washed out with soap once as a child.  I probably would have preferred a spanking as I had diarrea and the taste would not go away in my mouth.  Yuk.

951353 tn?1246342457
by JadeAmi, Jun 30, 2009
My Mom was BIG on spanking. I guess what happened to her is exactly wjat you discribed as well as the complete opposite. My mom was an unwanted pregnancy and her mom gave birth to her on the floor alone and left her there to die. If it hadn't been for her aunt hearing her she might have died. Then through out her life she got beaten badly as her mother saw it as the only way to raise a child. Mom believes this too. I would get beaten for not doing the dishes or not making my bed in the morning or leaving the yard when i didn't ask. She also had a no boy policy where i can't so much as look at a boy or she'd spank me. And i couldn't leave the house more then 2 twice a week and i had to ask before i left and most the time it was used to go grocery shopping. She also felt as the oldest girl i had to learn to cook and clean and learn to take care of everyone else in the house or no many will ever marry me. If i refused to do any of these or disobeyed or didn't do it to her standard i would get spanked. I don't mean spanked with her hand. She'd beat me with whips, stilletto, knives, belts, rods, eleteric cables(those hurt the worst), anything she could get her hands on! Although i grew up with this it won't cause me to act the same way with my children. Although i feel once in a while spankings are ok (But not with objects). Also none of my brothers of sisters feel the same way and they don't beat thier kids. I'm 17now and the 7th of 8 kids that my mom has. Most have moved out already (Or been kicked out) But i still live with my mom. It did have an impact but i was able to develop out of it and become the person i am now. (Which i'm said to be the nicest, calmest and gentlest out of all my friends)

254689 tn?1251180040
by 40smama, Jun 30, 2009
My husband & I have a 14 month old boy who seems to be a little strong-willed.  I have four older children - my husband has none - and he frequently talks about being spanked as a child & how he thinks it's an effective method of discipline.  He says something I hear lots from those who advocate spanking:  I was spanked as a child & it didn't hurt me.

I have to be honest - once I attempted to spank my 5 year old at the grocery store (he ran out into the parking lot scaring me to death).  It was a disaster - i guess I didn't do it right because the little guy started laughing and then i laughed too.  He had to go to time-out when we got home - much better as he'd rather not do that.  Spanking didn't work w/my oldest daughter.  After that, I never spanked again knowing there's a better way to teach & even administer unpleasant consequences when necessary as well as positive re-enforcement.

I'm very concerned about my husband - I feel like I'm going to be constantly holding him back so I'm very glad you wrote this article.  He respects any medical journals/opinion by professionals/experts (he's a pharmacist) so by reading this, perhaps he'll change his attitude.

606078 tn?1247264553
by kiddthekatt, Jun 30, 2009
  My husband and I have 3 grown children, 2 sons and a daughter, who by the way is the baby. I did spank my kids while they were growing up, but I did not beat them. My husband was the good guy, me the bad guy...:) My children grew up healthy, opinionated and they are all wonderful parents. I could most times sit them down and have " THE TALK" with them and they hated it. I would have them all in tears before I was finished. It didn't take screaming, or threats, just easy pointed talking.

  We have 9 grandchildren, my hubby and I are raising the oldest boy and he is 14. My oldest son at 15 found girls..:( and he became a Daddy at 16. His girlfriend didn't want the baby and let me adopt him and bring him home at 3 days old. We are his Granny and Papa, and I've never spanked this child. So, I am looking at both sides of this article. I never received a spanking that I didn't deserve. My Mom was so good at having "THE TALK" with us that spanking hardly ever occurred.


535822 tn?1443976780
by margypops, Jun 30, 2009
You see I see the term 'Spanking' is used and it sounds like a light whack ' on the tush but what is this definition , spanking it could cover a multitude of 'hitting 'so guys what do you do when you spank I have seen parents in a store or else where hit their child across the head, grab them hard by their arm, push them, so really I would want to know what is your method of 'spanking" In England now the Government, had stopped all forms of 'hitting' as thats what it is, it is against the law., I dont like the idea of government ruling all our personal life but I dont like the control of hitting that it gives some parents.

483733 tn?1326798446
by TrudieC, Jun 30, 2009
I only spanked my son twice in his life and those were because of very dangerous behaviour.  All he got was a light  swat on a padded diapered bottom.  He was not old enough to really reason and I had to stop the behaviour.  In essence it wasn't any harder than a hug but the look on his face at the thought that his mom would spank him broke my heart.  Growing up his respect for me and not wanting to disappoint me helped to keep him behaving.  Taking away privileges and doing extra chores were our methods of punishment.  We only had issues when we were inconsistent with our rules and punishments.

With children we need to also look at the circumstances around their behaviour.  It angers me when I am out grocery shopping in the late evening and see a mother shopping with her overly tired toddler who is acting out.  Children need a regular schedule for sleep and meals.  Break that and they can turn into little monsters.  It is not their fault but the parent's.

148691 tn?1260194903
by vsentz, Jun 30, 2009
I was spanked as a child.... and while many, including myself I can say: 'It didn't hurt me'.... I can honestly say: It might have....
I can't stand if someone touches me inappropriately... (what woman likes it!?!?) but, my instant reaction is to turn around and PUNCH that someone right in the face or grab my (very heavy) purse and hit him as hard as I can....
This hasn't happened only once in my life... and unfortunately, the last time this happened I actually did some damage to this guy's face since he was wearing glasses. Although, it would be enough reason in my mind for a guy to deserve such beating for sticking his dirty hand under my skirt, I could have gone straight to jail if he would've reported me.

I have anger issues when it comes to someone touching me.... that I don't know, and my reaction is NOT pretty in most times.


I used to think very differently about spanking before I had my child. Now, I speak to my husband about it, and he says the same as 40smama's husband... that he has no problem with spanking.
I have actually come to the point of threaten him and, honestly, if he EVER ... dares to put a hand on my girl.... he WILL get punched in the face, and that would probably be a good cause for a divorce.

Sorry, but spanking is BAD no matter how you see it.

Avatar universal
by nora006, Jun 30, 2009

Thanks for a well written and interesting article that will definetely make people think twice before they spank their children.

You wrote:
"Of all the things we do for our children, discipline is one of the most important. Children desperately need limits and consequences. Taking the time and effort to discipline thoughtfully is a great act of love. "

I do not agree with this statement. Dicipline is dicipline and not love! That is only a certain morality, based on religious belief(especially found in th old testament).
All kinds of physical abuse including "spanking" is prohibited by law in Sweden since 1979.
I hope all countries will follow this example and define it as a crime to hit/spank or even threaten children.


Avatar universal
by bradyc, Jun 30, 2009
You wrote, "John and Kate Plus Eight.” I have not watched the show..."
Then why did You mention the show??
I did see the pictures and She was wrong. She was probably imagining it was JON!
The poor little tiny tot was playing with a "WHISTLE" while Kate was on the phone.
What good Mom sits on the phone with 8 Kids? She should have been playing with them!

I believe every Child in different. Some Kids respond to just the thought of a spanking. Other's
aren't affected from a spanking. Mom's just do what They feel is right. Would YOU
want to be hit for blowing a whistle!?

Avatar universal
by medicmommy, Jun 30, 2009
I agree there is a distinct line between discipline/ punishment and beating your child. I was disciplined by spankings or unpleasant punishments (like sitting in kitchen chairs knee-to-knee with my brother for 20 minutes after we had been fighting) by my Mom when I was a child, and later "disciplined" (ie. beaten) by my stepfather when he came into my life. The "discipline" from my stepfather was designed to instill fear and pain, whereas the "punishment" from Mom was to deter bad behavior and make one consider the consequences of poor decisions beyond getting spanked.
I now have a 10 1/2 yr old daughter. I can count on one hand the times that I have given her a "swat" on the backside to deter unacceptable behavior (eg. running away from the grocery cart in a busy store parking lot) and she is a well-mannered child that is respectful to others. I have seen other parents who are inconsistent in their parenting and have little monsters as a result. I think every child is different and there are no "one-size -fits-all" guidelines for raising children, but I do believe consistency, monitoring your children, and  good parental modeling will decrease the frequency of the need for spanking or other punishment...

Avatar universal
by jo929, Jun 30, 2009
I was spanked as a child, and so were my brother and sister when we grew up we looked back and said it hurt but look at us we turned out ok no theives no dopeys no murderers I think the law and the goverment need to attend to other matters and not get involved in the family affairs it is geting to much like the ole Russia telling people how to live I would not have a child in these times for anybody,you cant raise them as you should, to many nosy neighbors that think yhet see something they do not. I do not think a spanking hurts any child, and why let them run wild i know a lot that do run wild the parents say well, i do not know what to do with them.They grow up and just do as they please.  jo

287246 tn?1318570063
by Michele, Katy, TX, Jun 30, 2009
I agree w/ teko, medicmommy, jo929 and probably others.  I didn't read all of the responses....Just skimmed......I do believe every child is different also.  And I believe that there is a HUGE difference in spanking/swatting than beating a child.  I DO NOT beat my children.  I love them w/ all my heart, but they have been spanked on occasion.  It is rare though.  And it is last resort form of punishment for me.  But to say that no child should be spanked, ever, no matter what they do.......Um, no.  I don't agree w/ that.

167 tn?1374173817
by jenstam, Jun 30, 2009
I have given my share of spankings, not beatings. I was spanked as a child, usually with the swat end of a fly swatter. Boy, if my brother and I saw mom coming with the fly swatter we ran!
I want to know why kids are so disrespectful nowadays? Can someone answer this question? I have heard over and over again by my elders that kids are out of control and that they need a good swat. My grandmother, whom I look up to more than anyone believed in spankings. All of her girls turned out very well, very successful and respected their parents. Kids don't respect their parents nowadays. What's wrong with a little bit of fear? I'm sorry, and I know people are going to probably attack me for this, but I do believe that sometimes it is necessary. Beating, no. Spanking in some circumstances, yes.
I will ask this question again. WHY are kids so disrespectful now? It never used to be this way. And parents used to spank their children if they got out of line. Kids don't respect their elders, or most of the people around them!

145992 tn?1341345074
by mami1323, Jun 30, 2009
I agree with Michele as well.  My son is very strong willed and he does not listen and we have done the time outs and are consistent with them but it hasn't changed behavior.  So I have also been known on occasions to swat him or spank his tush.  Not to the point of beating him but it has deterred him from continuing the action that I didn't want him to do.  Beating is another issue, that is definitely crossing the line.  I was one who said I would never spank my child and then I had my son.  

203342 tn?1328737207
by April2, Jun 30, 2009
I have to disagree with you, Nora. A loving parent will indeed discipline their child as an act of love, not punishment. I've seen the outcome of children who were never disciplined and it's not a pretty picture. These children run all over with no boundaries, are allowed to back talk to grown-ups resulting in no respect for authority figures including their parents, teachers, police officers, etc. They then grow up to be in trouble with the law, drifters, etc. We all have to live by rules every day, even as adults. We have laws where we will be punished if we break them, right? We have rules at work, etc. If we don't learn to obey the rules and laws as children we will constantly rebel against authority figures as we grow up, resulting in loss of jobs (because we argue with our boss), possibly being arrested (when we disrespect the cops and break laws, etc.) Do you see where I'm going with this?
Children actually want to have boundaries and thrive when they have them because it makes them feel protected and cared for. Children who's parents don't care enough to discipline their children have children who are angry, confused and kids with no direction.
You should never hurt, humiliate or neglect a child. Discipline can be done in a loving way with the objective being to teach a child self control and right from wrong. Heaven help us with the children who were never taught that.

184674 tn?1360860493
by AHP84, Jun 30, 2009
I only wanted to make a point to the above example scenario: "Imagine that you arrive home and tell your spouse that you forgot to make the bank deposit. Suppose your spouse then punches you in the face to ‘teach you a lesson.’ You might never forget the deposit again, but what would that punch do to your relationship? Would you ever feel the same about your husband or wife again? Would you gratefully accept that kind of treatment because you really did make a mistake?"

I think it is wrong and shameful if a parent uses spankings for when their children make mistakes. What I do NOT see as wrong is using spanking to deter defiance, disrespect, and disobedience. Mistakes are something ENTIRELY different, as those are unintentional, but defiance, disrespect, and disobedience are intentional. Children do these things to push boundaries, to figure out where their boundaries are and if they can get away with crossing them. And they may try more than once.
I have no disagreement with spanking for intentional acts of defiance, disrespect, and disobedience when it is used as a last resort for punishment. I think discipline should be used first, and then if the discipline is failing to get positive results, then use spanking as punishment. However, I agree that spankings do not work for every child. So for some children, spankings may be entirely inappropriate because it will still give failed results for positive behavior modification. But for an average amount of children, including my own son, last-resort-spanking as punishment due to failed response to discipline, such as time outs or taking away priviledges, does work, and it works well.
I will probably get bashed for saying this, but I compare discipline and physical punishment to training a dog to stay within the boundaries of its yard. Boundaries are made with a fence, so the dog knows its place...but it wants to see if it can get out and explore, see how far it can go.
So it digs out. The owners track down the dog, bring it home, fill in the hole and put a few rocks around it, and keep a close eye on the dog to tell it "no" if they catch it trying to dig again.
The dog gets used to hearing "no" for digging and stops, but instead decides to chew and claw its way through. So the owners now not only watch the dog to tell it "no" when caught in the act of chewing and clawing, but spray vinegar around the chewing area. After a day or two, the dog stops.
Then it begins jumping over the fence. At this point, the dog is not only at risk of running away or getting hit by a truck and killed, but also injury if it lands wrong after jumping the fence, not to mention that every time it gets out, it heads straight for the neighbors' dumpsters, resulting in angry complaints.
As a final resort, the owners get an invisible electric fence and collar for the dog. Every time the dog gets near its KNOWN boundaries and tries to cross them, it gets a static shock to the neck. After awhile, the dog doesn't even need to wear the collar because it does not want to cross its boundaries, where beyond it is dangerous and/or disagreeable to the neighbors. The dog will never understand this, but a human being will learn to understand the reasons why discipline and punishments are used as they grow and mature.
I would never spank my child for making a mistake. That is ridiculous and it is abuse. And I can gladly say that 98% of the time, my son responds to discipline extremely well and I very seldomly have to go as far as punishment. I can't even remember the last time I spanked him. Not only that, but he has had so many compliments from family, friends, his teachers, and strangers about how well-behaved and well-mannered he is. He has never had an issue with being violent and hateful in preschool towards other kids his size or smaller, or animals. On the contrary, he is the most loving and gentle child with animals and he adores babies and small children.
I think the children that end up having such "issues" from spankings are the ones whose parents overuse spankings and use spankings to punish for unintentional mistakes.
Just my two cents.
Thank you for posting this article; I hope it will open a lot of parents' eyes to how spanking is never the first and only option, and certainly not something to use if your child makes a mistake.

Avatar universal
by nora006, Jun 30, 2009
Hello April2,
I appreciate your comments and thoughts.

I do not believe in authoritarian means to control people, whether they be adults or children.
And I don't care for the word DICIPLINE. It's militant and the word unmistakably holds the connotation of controlling somebody.
In my opinion you have totally misunderstood what respect is. Fear is NOT respect! And you also confuse obedience with respect as well.
Children who have been truly loved will never be disrespectful to other people. Why on earth should they? People who don't give their children guidance surely neglect them.

I do not believe children need dicipline, but they first and foremost need to be met with respect and understanding.That does not mean that they shouldn't get reactions when they trespass other people's boundaries. That is only natural and they understand this very well.

I don't think you have to "teach" a child self-control. That will develop naturally if the child is treated respectfully and have good role-models. A child will mimic her parents and mature naturally. All a child wants is to become a grown up, an independent human being with a resonable sovereign integrity.


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by babypooh, Jun 30, 2009
I really enjoyed this article and in my opinion, spanking is never the correct way to discipline or punish. I believe that when parents spank their child as a form of punishment, it is due to an inability for the adult to control themselves. Children do frustrate us very much, but we need to find other ways to discipline and punish. It doesn't work in the longrun and I can say that from my experience as a spanked child, I grew up resentful and very insecure.

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by April2, Jun 30, 2009
I think you misunderstood me too, Nora,but that's ok, I understand that happens. I don't believe in making your child fearful of you, either. They should respect their elders, yes, but not be afraid. I do think we have to teach them manners, etc.
Kids will always push your buttons and test the boundaries. That's normal. We do have to remain calm, keep the communication lines open with our kids and show them the consequences to their actions when they choose to rebel or do wrong.
I don't spank, either, unless my child deliberately ran out in the street after I told them no. Then I might give them a swat on the bottom and explain why that was so dangerous but that's probably the only scenario I could think of that might warrant a spanking.
I'm a big advocate of talking to your kids. In a situation where you might have a rebellious teenager who won't listen to you, then sometimes you have to take away privileges while explaining how their actions caused this. I had to ground my teenage daughter for a whole Summer once as a last resort to get her away from a bad influence and because she kept breaking our trust over and over. It worked. She got tired of how she was acting and as she said it, she got tired of getting into trouble all the time! Lol. She's doing great now, by the way. She's a good kid. :)

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by AnnieBrooke, Jun 30, 2009
I think parents spank because they want the outlet for their own frustration.  

Avatar universal
by medicmommy, Jul 01, 2009
I cannot speak for others, but I have only spanked my child with a single swat to the backside, after previously warning about dangerous or unacceptable behavior, and this is followed by a lengthy explanation of how her actions lead to the consequence. My child is 10 1/2 yrs old, and I can count on one hand the times she has been spanked in her lifetime. I can assure my incidents of spanking were not from frustration. To this day, she dreads the lecture that follows punishment for unacceptable behaviors more than the actual punishment itself.

Avatar universal
by winner727, Jul 01, 2009
spanking Is the last desparate act of an ignorant ,frustrated parent .period !   thats my  opinion .

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by rcthor_vendors, Jul 01, 2009
If parents cannot control their frustrations or emotions then they need to pray for the Holy Spirit to calm and lead them before administering ANY kind of correction, direction or discipline. This is much easier said than done, but our duty as parents is to become a good role model and show that by the power of our Lord Jesus, we can become victorious and give Him all the glory. Not being in control of ourselves is a warning sign to show us that we need to spend more time with God in prayer, in His Word and in fasting. God will provide the strength needed to overcome every situation if we can only humble ourselves and ask Him for guidance and then obey.

Parenting is hard work! No two children are alike. I have at least as much problems in figuring out what to do as anyone in this group. My techniques will certainly not work for everyone. When spanking (limited to three spanks) is used along with loving and guiding talks with the child, I have noticed that it is very effective in stopping the negative attitudes and emotions of the child (at least temporarily). It is done to get the child's attention, not to hurt them. The child has to KNOW when they are sinning and have the wrong attitude. Just talking about it tends bring on thoughts of denial, and often leads to arguing with the child. If you try to "make a deal" with the child, the child feels rewarded for their bad behavior (now, you've got a REAL PROBLEM). If the parent is not in control (calm, understanding and loving), then the child is in control. Most children only want to be in control if they do not trust the parents to be able to keep them safe or are angry at the world. If the child feels that he or she can manipulate the parent to get what he or she wants, they may THINK that they will be safer, but his or her feelings are mostly FEAR. Thinking "Oh no, I'm really in charge. I really don't know what to do. No one is able to make me do what I need to do. Now, I'm REALLY SCARED." Learning to become a good parent is the most challenging and rewarding job out there!

Avatar universal
by tlh777, Jul 01, 2009
From http://nospank.net/prescott.htm

James W. Prescott, Ph.D.

Every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy. Every child is a wanted child. Unwanted children are typically unloved, abused and neglected and become the next generation of delinquents, psychopaths, violent offenders and alcohol/drug abusers and addicts.

Every pregnancy has proper nutrition and prenatal care - medical and psychological - and is free from a toxic womb of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other toxic agents of stress.

Natural birthing - avoid where possible obstetrical interventions: medications, forceps, induced labor, episiotomy and premature cutting of umbilical cord. Mother controls birthing position with no separation of newborn from mother. Newborn maintains intimate body contact with mother for breastfeeding and nurturance.

No genital mutilation (Circumcision) of boys or girls. The traumatic pain of newborn-child circumcision adversely affects normal brain development, impairs affectional bonding with mother and has long lasting effects upon how pain and pleasure are experienced in life.

Breastfeeding on demand by newborn/infant/child and for two years or beyond as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. Failure to breastfeed results in positive harm to normal brain development and to the immunological health of the newborn, infant and child. Encoding the developing with the smell of the mother's body through breastfeeding is essential for the later development of intimate sexuality.

Intimate body contact is maintained between mother and newborn/infant by being carried continuously on the body of the mother for the first year of life. Such continuous gentle body movement stimulation of the newborn/infant promotes optimal brain development and "Basic Trust" for empathic, peaceful and happy behaviors. Mother-infant co-sleeping is encouraged two years or beyond. Mother-infant/child body contact can also be optimized with daily infant/child massage. The father must support mother as a "nurturing mother" and also learn to affectionately bond with his infant and child by being an additional source of physical affection.

Immediate comforting is given to infants and children who are crying. No infant/child should ever be permitted to cry itself to sleep - day or night.

Infants and children are for hugging and should never be physically hit for any reason. Merging childhood parental love with parental violent pain contributes to adult violent love.

Infants and children are honored and should never be humiliated nor emotionally abused for any reason. The emerging sexuality of every child is respected.

Mothers must be honored and not replaced by any institutional day care because it harms children under five years of age.

Avatar universal
by DrJunior, Jul 01, 2009
Spanking is not bad. My parents spanked me, and I'm 14 right now and I am mentaly stable.
And not only that, they loved me very much. They never let me cry to sleep, they cared for me, never, NEVER remotely abused me, or humilated me, etc. If I acted up, however, they would politely tell me to behave and that they would spank me, and they would if they needed too. No offense, but the whole "spanking is evil" crap is only true if the parent really piles it on.

Nice article. :D

Avatar universal
by doourbest, Aug 26, 2009
I suppose if we want the rate of crime among teenagers/children to reflect that of the EU states, we should definitely follow their example and ban spanking altogether.  I have personally lived overseas and seen what happens when good parents are subject to the fear of overzealous, social reformists.  The rate of child abuse rose dramatically coinciding with banning of spanking, as did (surprise) the rate of crime among youth.  What parents need nowadays is to be treated with more respect from the professional community for what they do right as parents instead of constant critique for what they should do better.  


Avatar universal
by PDeverit, Sep 18, 2009
Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:
Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.
Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.
I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.
There are several reasons why child bottom slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:
Plain Talk About Spanking
by Jordan Riak,
The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
by Tom Johnson,
by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

Avatar universal
by Minnesota27, Jul 11, 2010
As a late in life dad who didn't face his psychological pain and fetish addiction with spanking I will state that even the threat of spanking can traumatize enough to create many problems.   I sought and recieved help, went through post tramatic stress disorder flashback for about two years.   The discussions by advocates of spanking, especially from adults who see themselves as "untouched psychologically by their own spankings has been challenging but I'm slowly overcomming feelings of inferiority for being so damaged when others claim not to have been.   Yet my therapists of six years does share that many surviors of corporal punishment live in denial and or not in touch with there own effects from coroporal punishment.   One element a the term spanking that is lost in this debate is the degree of deliberate shame that a parent is inflicting on their child is the real punishment in spanking.   The other lost element is sexuality of spanking.   Most parents take the moral high ground of claiming they are the caregiver and parent and nudity issues creating shame do not exisit then.  That's very false especially when the context of creating the forced nudity and genital exposure is for punishment alone.   I could go on and on about what I've learned and how religion with it's inherent bias to support spanking to ignore modern psychological knowledge about damage from spanking but it's usually lost on denial based on self experiences or theological obedience to religious interpretations usurping psychological facts.

I will share a link to a Canadian child abuse web site that discussed the various effects of child abuse of which this link addresses the topic of spanking and spanking fetish creation.  The real life victims telling their stories is real truth in a world full of denials.   Although masocistic desires are not the majority of sexuality in adults it is a minority that is damaged for life by the practice of spanking and beliving it's a totally harmless means to punish children.   The truth about fetish damage from spanking starts when shame and sexuality get commingled when a parent forces partial or total nudity and punshment by pain infliction to be all combined together in deep psychologically traumatic experience.

I have current excellent academic psychology book resources for serious study to open minds to suggest on this topic if interested.   Here is the web link to others stories of their life long damage of spanking fetishes from spanking.  


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by KORY68, Nov 10, 2010
There are mistakes and then there is willful defience.
Children still need to learn to submit to authority figures - otherwise we will continue to see behaviour issues in the schools and the poor teachers cannot do anything or else they get reprimanded or fired.
I was spanked - on the butt.
Never out of anger. And ALWAYS because I willfully went against something and that if I didn't learn it, it was usually something that would hurt me if I did not learn. I couldn't never ever say I was abused that is for sure.
I believe the LACK of discipline is another form of abuse altogether because it leaves children at a loss and makes MORE burden on others outside family to 'fix' something that could have been prevented.
Children today are treated like pets, not human beings. They are coddled, never told NO (nothing that sticks anyway), and rarely have the chance to think on their own. As a result, we have high school teachers bearing the burden of having to ready these children for university academic structure. What a task!
And for teachers who don't bother, the universities find themselves with children instead of young adults and they cannot spell or write a basic essay.
All of this boils down to lack of discipline taught at home - with or without spanking.
Children have to be taught self-thought. The ability to figure things out on their own. And we have to stop coddling them! LOVE is not the fear of having them break.
LOVE is knowing that you've raised them so that they can COPE and ENDURE and RISE ABOVE as adults in any endeavors they choose to explore.

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by katrinika, Jan 30, 2011
I and my siblings were spanked, scorned, and otherwise humiliated routinely.  It created an atmosphere of terror that resulted in so many negative traits in each of us.  But I think the worst result was that we became accustomed to being in a state of apprehension and expectation of the next incident.  Every last one of us has had to deal with addiction or mal-adaptive behavior which I, personally believe was the outcome of having become addicted to adrenaline... Every one of us escaped at the first opportunity (or were thrown out) and went on to engage in behavior that guaranteed chaos.  

Two siblings took up lifestyles that brought them in contact with improved nutritional, exercise, and spiritual development and they have excelled (though not without difficulty - one seeks adrenal stimulation in extreme danger, the other in extreme risk... successfully, thank God).  Speaking of God, so far as I know I am the only one of seven on speaking terms with God, and I had to go through hell to get there.

The rest of us have self-medicated, doctor-medicated, acted out, or imploded.  Many have been in trouble with the law.  None of us was around for my father's death... two of us chose to stay away during our mother's last years - one because she was certain she had never been loved or appreciated, myself because I was afraid that either she would take advantage of a last opportunity to tear me emotionally to shreds and/or that I might crack and give her a piece of my mind for the first time in my life.  She, of course, punished us by giving family heirlooms to others.

There are no good parents among us (I can just imagine the uproar that statement would bring if any of them heard it).  Three of us elected not to have children, each for our own reason all of which are intimately related with our experience of parenting.  The others have children who exhibit addiction to adrenaline or adrenal exhaustion.

We are all in or approaching our 60's and are only now starting to talk to each other, selectively.  The conditions we endured as children are forbidden subjects... Some are in denial, some have forgiven, none want to re-live it.  Every one of us has illnesses related to adrenal fatigue/exhaustion... all but I are in denial about it and want to attribute these ills to personal failure, age, or genetics.

Spanking, when it is used to induce fear of further punishment, is an ignorant way of guiding a child, and a direct reflection of a parent's lack of commitment and/or love.  My opinion and one to which I am highly entitled.  You may receive this with denial and I will understand.

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by acker, Jan 30, 2011
for me as a child i got LIGHTLY smacked - which i agree with and it got my attention - and then it sometimes got MIXED IN WITH enraged violent aggressive forceful uncontrolled ASSAULT. it didn't bother me for many years, but now it does, 30 years later. i now have zero respect for my father in this regard. i was a small child and likely annoying but not criminal. i'm resentful about it all and gradually healing over the betrayal and loss  - dad was my hero and i thought he was the greatest. i believe the silencing and confusion and dissociating that occurred has contributed to health problems i've got today.
so there are degrees of smacking, which is where the confusion can show. it was a blurry line for many years. i feel if it's something that you would get charged for if you did it to someone in public - then it's too heavy-handed.
there are now many articles on 'spanking is bad' - but not much instruction on what to do instead. we need better guidance on this because it's a generations-old domestic violence that is gradually getting exposed - but needs to be replaced with alternatives

Avatar universal
by purplewillow, Mar 27, 2011
So what are the alternatives?  You've offered things that have been repeated a gazillion times.  Yes, it is well written, but let's be frank, you are not really telling us anything useful.  No spanking, I get.. but what else can we do?  What do you do when you have tried all the other methods?

Take my daughter (she is 6) this evening as an example - she knows she goes to brush her teeth at 7.30.  This is repeated every single evening without exception.  Not even on Friday or Saturday when she has no school the following day.  I give her plenty of warning, reminding her throughout the late afternoon and evening.  She is reminded at 7pm that she has to go to brush her teeth and get ready for bed.  At 7.25 I remind her again.  Then I point at the clock at 7.30 and say it's time.  She, as I expected, throws a tantrum and says she doesn't want to go and wants to stay and play.  I elimiate all distractions and tell her she must go.  She continues to find way to try to weasle out of it.  I ask her nicely again and again.. then raise my voice.  She ignores me - until I am pushed to the limit.  She hates it when I get angry and she knows the consequences (which are not always necessarily a spanking... sometimes I just pick her up and drag her to the bathroom), yet she still refuses to comply.

I am at my wit's end and I really don't know what to do.  This is a routine that we have established ever since she was born (more or less) and yet she still defies and refuses to do.

So, back to my question - what are the alternatives??

Avatar universal
by Squeakysmummy, Feb 07, 2012
I think that it is easier to spank/hit /swat a child when they have misbehaved or acted up then to tell them what they did was wrong and explain it to them. Spanking in whatever the situation is a lazy and selfish way to parent.

Avatar universal
by msmagoe, Sep 18, 2012
Personally I was abused as a child I once got hit with an extension cord and I got welts or blood clots all over my body other I i was slapped and fell into a piece of wood sticking out in our office which was under construction it went threw my neck lucky it did not kill me i was strangled before and beat with a belt at the same time because I fought a boy in school for slapping me why was i getting a beating from my parents idk but they strangled me and said I'll kill you when I was young I remember getting beat until i learned my phone number I remember protecting my brother becuase my parents fought their last fight until they divorced i broke them up begging them to stop while I kept my brother hidden those were a few of thousands of piching slapping almost killing I got bloody sores deep cuts I remember always getting a certain feeling in my bottom when I knew i was going to get a beating it was like a feeling of fear and having to use the bathroom I always got that when i knew my parents were mad at me and i hated it lol anywho i don't have kids but i had alot of painful memories of myself and sisters and brother we all were abused and I feel that spanking hitting or hurting a child does have effects dont think your child will fear or repect you more it may seem that way but no lie when I was a teenager years ago I couldnt take being hit and abused anymore that I beat up my mom oh yeah she called the police and I was sent to a treatment hall or whatever all I know is you might think oh i spank my child so now they know they better not hit or talk back or they gon be outta gas gues what your wrong they may not cause they dont see an oppourtunity but if gthey do they will go for it this is my personal view its a shame that i ended up like this but I go to therapy now and I have depression so I'm on medication I really feel my depression is from previous abuse being abused I felt I was wrong and I had to be punished and it's al me me me well why would you want your child to feel that way ALL I'M SAYING IS SPANKING IS WRONG AND IF I'AM PREGGERS WHICH I BELIVE I'AM I WILL NOT HIT OR SPANK OR RAISE A HAND TO MY CHILD ATLEAST I WILL TRY BECAUSE I KNOW HOW BAD I FELT AND I REMEMBER PROTECTING MY BROTHER THAT WAS SCARY NOT A GAME!!

Avatar universal
by CMorgan978, Jan 08, 2013
As a child I experienced both abuse and spanking. I knew then what the difference was and I still know to this day. I am not violent or dysfunctional in anyway, but I did learn not to do certain things again.  Now that I have my own 3 children I know that they are all individuals with different responses. One child I have never had to spank while the other two have been spanked but I found that somewhere around 6 years old the threat became good enough. I plan on having another child or two and I don't plan on changing a thing! I would rather teach my child about consequences myself because it's coming from a place of love and I know for sure that the bottom of a police/c.o. boot hurts much more. Teach your children limits and respect cause if you don't; life will!

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by Hollus, Jun 23, 2013
This is a great discussion and a great article! I too was spanked as a child and I don't feel that it had any ill affect on me. I feel that the verbal and sexual abuse I suffered affected me more! As far as spanking goes, my parents were always very controlled about it. Meaning, I always new it was coming! We always talked about it before the spanking was given; why I was getting one, what I had done to receive the punishment. Also, spanking was NOT the primary punishment. It was saved for really bad or life threatening behavior such as running out in front of a car or leaving the house without telling anyone; my mom thought my brother and I had been kidnapped because we just disappeared!

Avatar universal
by dawnayoung, Jan 01, 2015
My children are grown up now and I am a grandmother.  I hold very mixed views about spanking as a form of discipline.  I think parents should try other things first like time-outs for young children and grounding for older children.  Still, if these fail, I believe there is a place for spanking.  My youngest son was not an easy child to raise.  He constantly got into trouble for one thing or another.  We did everything.  We had him in a church with a good youth minister. We got counseling.  We tried reasoning with him.  It didn't stop him one day from vandalizing some property with a boy he had been forbidden to play with.  So, being at our wits end, I stood by while his father gave him a good, old fashioned spanking.  I mean over his knee with his pants (not underwear) pulled down.  He was eleven at the time.  I think the embarrassment of it got his attention.  It was after that that his behavior started to change.  I don't attribute it all to his getting spanked, but I do think that was a major event for him that did some real good.  So, try to avoid it.  However, realize that not all kids and all situations are the same.  There can--rarely--be a place for spanking.

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