There was a time when spanking was thought to be the “go-to” discipline method and it was seen as a way to “keep kids in line”. But what this method doesn’t do is keep the relationship between parent and child strong in the midst of corporal punishment. Before we had our son I wasn’t sure if I would be pro- or anti-spanking, but even as a new parent, I know that I never want to physically strike my child as a means of discipline. I know that it would break my heart. Instinctively I know a lot more about parenting than I give myself credit and I came across a book that has loads of sound advice for novice and seasoned parents. Take a look at the 10 reasons from the book “The Discipline Book- How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten” by super-couple William & Martha Sears.
1. Hitting Models Hitting
How can you possibly expect your child to understand that they shouldn’t hit others while you’re in the midst of beating them ? The whole “Do as I say, not as I do” has never been an effective way to communicate anything. Children imitate what they see, especially people they love and respect. If they see you hitting, then they will hit. It’s part of human nature. Your child’s home environment will help them learn what is right and what isn’t. Teach them good things, not violence.
2. Hitting Devalues the Child
The Sears couple writes, “For a child to act right, he has to feel right.” If a child believes he is bad, he will act bad. If he believes he is good, he will act good. It all starts with the parents and how they treat their child. If there’s an accident and something breaks, if you spank the child or scream at them, you are stating that the broken item is more valuable than the child is. Best to keep breakable items away from small hands. Children that are spanked get the message “You are weak and defenseless”. Children either withdraw from spanking or they act out, neither of which is good.
3. Hitting Devalues the Parent
Deep down, parents don’t feel right about their discipline choices- they feel more powerless. Many times they act in desperation. Spanking is a knee-jerk reaction and is something that is “easy” to do- it takes minimal mental effort to implement. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Being an authority figure means you’re trusted and respected, not that you’re feared. Lasting authority cannot be based on fear. To be a proper disciplinarian there needs to be pre-determined go-to methods for handling situations, and it’s best if both parents agree on it. Ontop of all this, the child is not being taught proper behavior- they are only getting punished for bad behavior. Corporal punishment puts a distance between the parent and child and weakens the relationship between them. Oftentimes the child cannot trust the parent and will often build resentment toward them.
4. Hitting [Will] Lead to Abuse
I replaced the book’s “may lead to abuse” with “will lead to abuse” because it’s inevitable that it will happen. Once you begin punishing a child a little bit, where do you stop ? The issue eventually becomes “who’s stronger ?” rather than dealing with the problem itself. What do you do if the problem isn’t remedied ? Hit harder and harder until his bottom is so sore that he can’t continue to “disobey” ? What began seemingly innocently escalates into child abuse.
5. Hitting Does Not Improve Behavior
Many times parents say, “The more we spank, the more she misbehaves.” Spanking makes a child’s behavior worse, not better. Remember : the child who feels right acts right. Spanking undermines this principle. A child who is hit feels wrong inside and this shows up in the behavior. One of the goals of disciplinary action is to stop the behavior. During and after spanking, the child is so preoccupied with the humiliation of the physical punishment that he “forgets” the reason why he’s being spanked. Many parents choose spanking simply because it’s easier.
6. Hitting is Actually Not Biblical
Don’t use the Bible as an excuse to spank. (I personally am not religious, but there is still the issue of misinformation among those who are.) One verse, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him,” (Prov 22:15) makes it seem like swatting a child is the message. “Rod” (shebet) means different things in different places of the Bible. It can mean a stick, whether for punishment, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, or other activities. While the rod can be used for hitting, it is also used to protect vulnerable sheep- and children are certainly more valuable than sheep. The shepherd’s rod was traditionally used to fight off prey and the staff was used gently to guide sheep along the right path, as in the phrase “your rod and your staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). When you read the “rod verses”, use the concept of parental authority rather than the concept of beating or spanking.
7. Hitting Promotes Anger- in Children and in Parents
Children are more likely to rebel against spanking than any other correction technique. This can prevent punishment from working as you hoped it would. While spanking may appear to make the child afraid to repeat the misbehavior, it is more likely to make the child fear the spanker. Children that were spanked detach themselves from a world that they perceive has been hurtful to them. They find it difficult to trust, becoming insensitive to a world that has been insensitive to them. Parents who examine their feelings after spanking often realize that they have only relieved themselves of anger and have accomplished nothing. This release becomes addicting.
8. Hitting Brings Back Bad Memories
A child’s memories of being spanked can scar otherwise joyful remembrances of growing up. People are more likely to recall traumatic events than pleasant ones. Although happy memories may have been present, children will always be able to vividly recall the details of whipping scenes. One of our goals as parents is to fill our children’s memory banks with pleasant scenes.
9. Spanking Has Bad Long-Term Effects
Spanking can leave scars deeper and more lasting than a fleeting redness on the bottom. Children who were raised in homes with a lot of corporal punishment turned out to be more antisocial and egocentric and that physical violence became the accepted norm for these children when they became teenagers and adults. Those who recall being spanked accepted spanking as a way of discipline and intend to spank their own children. The more frequently a child was given physical punishment, the more likely it was that they would behave aggressively toward other family members and peers. Toddlers who were slapped on the hand showed delayed exploratory development seven months later. Those who were abused in their teenage years had a rate of spouse-beating that was 4x greater than those whose parents didn’t hit them. Husbands raised in severely violent homes are 6x more likely to beat their wives than men raised in non-violent homes. Studies of prison populations show that most violent criminals grew up in a violent home environment. The life histories of notorious murderers, muggers, rapists, and other violent criminals are likely to show a history of excessive physical discipline in childhood.
More physical punishment ——–> More aggressive behavior
More that children are spanked —–> More likely they will be abusive toward their own children
Spanking plants seeds for later violent behavior
10. Spanking Doesn’t Work
Many studies show the futility of spanking as a disciplinary technique, but none show its usefulness. Parents spank less as their experience increases. Spanking does not promote good behavior. It creates a distance between parent and child. It contributes to a violent society. Parents who rely on punishment as their primary mode of discipline don’t grow in their knowledge of their child.
Program yourself to be against spanking and be committed to creating an attitude within your children, and an atmosphere within your home, that renders spanking unnecessary. It’ll force you to come up with more creative and trust-building ways to enhance the relationship you have with your child. It’ll not only make you better parents but the long-term result will be that your children will be more sensitive and well-behaved. We all want that, right ?