Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why I Don't Spank My Child

Photo Credit: Erica J Photography

I was on occasion spanked as a child (maybe twice in my entire life). 
I was not in any way abused or mistreated.
I certainly have not suffered any lasting psychological damage from the couple swats I received on the bum.

Regardless of these facts, my dear hubby and I have chosen not to utilize spanking as a means of punishment in our household.  I fully respect the right of each parent to make their own educated decision on how they choose to discipline their children.  I have no intention of casting judgment on those whose choices are different than my own.  This is merely a list of reasons why spanking is not the right option for us. 

 I would never hit an adult.  Why would I hit a child?  Hitting another adult is not only frowned upon by society, but it is against the law.  Regardless of whether I agree with an adult's point of view or want to teach them a lesson, hitting is simply not allowed.  It is assault. If hitting an adult who is capable of defending themself is a crime, how can I justify hitting a defenseless child?  Before I gave birth to my sweet little Cupcake I spent a great deal of time contemplating this question.  The answer I came up with is… I can’t. 

Research. As a lover of psychology, I have spent a substantial amount of time reviewing research.  What studies have found is that while spanking may correct short-term behavioral problems, it can cause more harm than good in the long-term.  Obviously, not every child who has been spanked will be aggressive or suffer from psychological damage.  However, meta-analysis indicates that risks of physical punishment include depression, unhappiness, anxiety, feelings of hopeless, and general psychological maladjustment.  Perhaps the research was a bit broad and should have specified the level and intensity of the physical punishment that resulted in these consequences.  There are certainly many adults who were spanked as a child who have grown into responsible, well-adjusted adults.  However, there are also many adults who were spanked who suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.  While I hardly believe an occasional spanking will doom a child to a future of psychological issues, I do believe frequent spanking utilized as the primary means of discipline is potentially harmful. 

Personality. Cupcake thrives on affection and praise.  She is greatly motivated by positive reinforcement.  At this point in our lives, rewarding her for good behavior works well for us.  While I do not anticipate that this will be a fix-all forever, we presently have little reason for punishment of any kind.  The times in the past when I have utilized punishment (never spanking), I have found that the situation became more intense and stressful for all involved.  Every child is unique, but my little love simply responds better to rewards than to punishment.  If I were to have another child, my methods of disciple would likely need adjustment to meet the needs of their unique personality.

It has the potential to go very, very wrong. As a parent, I am far from perfect.  Sometimes I have a bad day.  Sometimes I lose my temper.  Most proponents of spanking agree that it must be done immediately.  The moment a toddler does something especially naughty or defiant it is nearly impossible not to feel frustrated or impatient.  If a parent utilizes physical punishment while they are angry or emotional they are very likely to overreact.  It may be easy to say this would never happen, but it does happen to many well-intending parents.

I am raising a child to face the real world.  My goal as a parent is to teach my child about consequences in the real world and how to make positive decisions.  In the real world, hitting other people does not solve problems and is not a behavior that adults should tolerate.  Spanking is not a consequence that they will experience in the real adult world.  Obeying out of fear does not give a child the opportunity to develop intrinsic motivation for behaving in an acceptable manner.  Decision making skills and self-regulation are valuable skills that are best learned when modeled by a calm, loving adult.


  1. I completely agree. I was *maybe* spanked twice in my life, and never very hard at that. It's easy for me to say now, as my daughter is only 9 months old, but I truly don't think we will ever spank her. It just doesn't vibe with the parenting method I believe in. NOT that we will spoil her and let her get away with anything she wants, but I won't use physical harm as discipline.

  2. Can I challenge the concept of discipline?

    Just something to think on... discipline, by definition (not that which it usually gets turned into), is an internal characteristic, often noted in association with integrity, reliability, contentment, and empathy. It is something we develop when we see others demonstrate it, and we see it benefiting.

    Discipline, as in spanking, timeout, consequences, etc.. is actually punishment.

    Punishment is retaliation and it works because of the threat that the mind perceives. The mind associates punishment/consequence with pain and discomfort (physically or emotionally), and so because the mind is wired to seek the best for the organism it is responsible for, it adjusts - it does not function in a state of fear and threat.

    Consequence when not formulated or generated, is better termed as RESULT of action. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When we stop artificially generating our child's environment, simple results can provide so much more meaningful and intelligent responses that the mind can absorb and assimilate, and in a non threatening environment.

    The mind does not expand when it senses threat. It does not produce new connections and forge new pathways, it does the opposite. It does however have an amazing capacity to associate cause and effect.

    I hope some day people will know deeply that example, reasoning, demonstration, and trust of the process, along with the simplicity of genuine response, will produce a much more intelligent, independent, and capable, WHOLE being who grows and develops and benefits self and others. Punishment, threat, retaliatory response (i.e., fabricated consequence or punishment - whether it's premeditated or knee jerk) also has its place, it's very good an recreating itself and the need for its existence.


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