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Spanking Your Children: Good or Bad?

“You’re gonna get such a spanking …”

As children, it was a phrase many of us dreaded. In the 1950s, the words “when your father gets home” finished the sentence. In the 1970s, mothers stopped waiting and finished the sentence themselves. Often times it was an empty threat. But sometimes our moms and dads delivered.

While spanking was generally an acceptable—even expected—form of discipline for our parents, it is a murkier question today. That got the folks at OpposingViews thinking, so we opened up the question for debate: Is spanking an acceptable form of discipline?

Not Acceptable
The Center for Effective Discipline uses simple terms when describing spanking: “… it is a violent act. If an adult were struck, we would call it ‘assault.’” The Center questions why there aren’t laws protecting children like those protecting battered women.

The CED says while spanking may work in the short term, there will be consequences over the long. “Studies show that the more children are spanked the less likely they are to be compliant and well-behaved in the long term. Spanking does not teach children why their behavior was wrong or what they should do instead; it teaches children that the only reason to behave appropriately is to avoid being punished.”

Another spanking critic in the Opposing Views debate, the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting, admits spanking often times works, but at a cost. The CNVEP claims research shows “spanking is harmful to a child’s developing personality” and “to the long-term relationship between parent and child.” Supporting that, the CED says those studies reveal physical punishment by parents tends to make their misbehaving child even more aggressive. If accurate, is that what we really want?

The CED adds that spanking is not the be-all-end-all approach to tame your wild child. There is something called “positive discipline,” where parents explain to their children how they are expected to act, and what the consequences will be for not delivering on those expectations. In addition, children are praised for their good behavior. In general, as violence becomes less acceptable in society, says the group, parents seem to be moving away from spanking. As the CED points out, “It has only been a very short amount of time that we have rightly named violence toward women ‘domestic violence,’ and violence toward children ‘abuse.’”

Yes, Acceptable
Noted parenting expert John Rosemond will have none of this. Using a simple term of his own, he calls a ban on parental spanking “hogwash.” Rosemond says there is no credible evidence that spanking is harmful to children, and he doubts any assertion that spanking damages the parent-child relationship. “I talk to people my age who were spanked, some with belts or other devices, by their parents. With very rare exception, they claim to love their parents.”


He also says he’s yet to see any research that proves spanking “confuses children.” 

“There’s no research on this,” Rosemond says. “But I’ve asked lots of people who spank with their hands if their kids clearly know the difference between when they are about to receive a pop on the rear and when they are about to receive an embrace or a pat on the back. Do I need to tell you what they’ve all told me? I didn’t think so.”

Rosemond says spanking has been around for centuries, and points out that “today’s kids are significantly more prone to violent behavior … yet today’s kids are not being spanked nearly as much.” An interesting correlation to consider. Rosemond does admit that spanking is not always the answer. But he says there are some offenses that do indeed call for a spanking.

Because many parents spank for the same offenses over and over again, he contends “the problem with spankings, therefore, is the manner in which they are delivered.” He goes on to say any spanking must be followed up with “corrective” instruction. “Punishment without correction is a waste of everyone’s time,” Rosemond writes. “So, the problem is not spanking. The problem is that most parents do not understand how to ‘discipline a child.’”

Recent Study: 200,000 Students Hit in U.S.
Okay, so maybe you’re saying, “I have the right to discipline my children as I see fit.” But what about in school? Do you want strangers spanking your child? A recent study from the Human Rights Watch and the ACLU says upwards of 200,000 American school kids were spanked during the 2006-2007 school year. (Twenty-one states still allow corporal punishment in school.)

The CED says more school shootings happen in states where paddling is legal. Despite these claims, John Rosemond says state prohibition is not the way to go, claiming it would result in “accomplishing Karl Marx’s dream.”

This debate topic has no shortage of opinions, and many adults will disagree on the subject. Spanking hits at the heart of parenting, and based upon initial comments at OpposingView, it’s sure to rage on for some time.

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