What is Spanking?
Spanking is a form of corporal punishment used by parents in an aim to discipline children of all ages.
Best described in a well-researched paper written by Kendra Nenia, an elementary teacher, and displayed on the Northern Illinois University website:
"Spanking includes: whoopin’, slapping, grabbing, popping, smacking”
Kendra goes on to warn that If you hit your child with any object (belt, brush, fly swatter, wooden spoon) it falls under the U.S. definition of abuse.
She further provides a rather interesting fact that corporal punishment, (the use of physical force with the intention to cause a child to experience pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or the control of the child’s behavior) is not allowed on any inmate in the U.S. correctional system and is illegal, BUT corporal punishment against a child is overlooked time after time and is socially sanctioned.
Spanking verse Abuse?
Many view this differently.
We've already ascertained the definition of spanking or what some would describe as spanking. There are various other more in-depth definitions where some would state it needs to be open hand and not closed hand or between a certain age group (although many don't stick to this with research showing that people spank children as young as 6 months old forgetting the possible physical harm and permanent damage this could do to the child) as well as that you need to be in a certain mindset - calm verses angry when doing it.
For the sake of this comparison (abuse verses spanking) I will provide the definition of abuse. I will provide three definitions from three different sources:
- As per the Cambridge English Dictionary:
"to treat someone cruelly or violently: Several of the children had been sexually/physically/emotionally abused."
- As per the Medical dictionary:
"Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person."
- As per Merriam-Webster:
"Abuse is physical maltreatment"
Looking at the definitions above while keeping "spanking" in mind, does spanking fit the profile?
In my personal opinion, I cannot see a difference for the following reason:
If a parent hits or smacks a child in an aim to get him / her to change their behavior, some would like to refer to this as "spanking" and state that it is not abuse.
When a boyfriend or husband hits or smacks his girlfriend or wife for the same reason - he disapproves of her behavior and wants to change it - it is wrong...
How is this possible?? In both cases the one doing the hitting is bigger and stronger than the other (the difference even more extreme in that of parent and child) and both often claim to be trying to modify behavior they are in disagreement with and yet it is viewed differently?
"Spanking" Facts, Research and Statistics
There are various statistics and research papers written and freely accessible to the public demonstrating the long term effects of spanking.
For the sake of this article I will provide the facts in the form of statistical research conducted by various academics.
- Research at the University of New Hampshire by Murray Straus (which was presented in a paper at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego) has suggested that corporal punishment does leave a long-lasting mark in the form of a lower IQ. Extensive research showed that children who were physically punished had up to a five-point lower IQ score than kids who weren't — the more children were spanked, the lower their IQs. This research was conducted throughout 32 countries!
An article on this can be found on the "Times" website and the full paper on the University website.
- Experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan have found that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties. This was proven in a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan. This is based on five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The full article on this can be found on the University website.
- According to Alan Kazdin, PhD, a Yale University psychology and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, spanking doesn’t work “You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,”.
He goes on to say “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”
"I was spanked and I turned out okay"
Many choose to refute or use as their main arguement or defence "I was spanked and I turned out okay"!
I have a major issue with this statement.
I find this statement in it's self highly questionable. If you were spanked and you choose to spank your kids too then clearly you did not turn out okay or you would be able to acknowledge the facts provided in the research.
Secondly, if you were spanked and you choose not to spank your kids because you know what the effect of spanking was on you then clearly you did not turn out okay and thats why you'd like to break the cycle.
I fall in the second group - I was spanked as a child and I CHOOSE not to spank my son.
Many would argue that maybe I was violently beaten and badly hurt or spanked in a more extreme fashion but no. I was "spanked" the way many would describe spanking:
- Open hand
- On the butt or thigh not in the face
- With a slipper or belt
- etc, etc
The bottom line is, I was hit hard enough for it to hurt - and that's the point of spaking isn't it? If it doesn't hurt - it is not spanking, it's tapping.
Why I personally refuse to spank my son
I choose not to spank my son because I do not feel in any way that I learnt anything positive from being spanked. I do not eel hat it made me a better person, a more loving person or a happier person.
I didn't feel "loved" or cared for by my parents when they spanked me. I didn't stop doing whatever they spanked me for because I learnt that it was wrong or why, I did it because I was SCARED about being hurt again. I learnt FEAR not a lesson about why something is wrong or why I shouldn't do it.
I do not want my son to learn the same lesson.
Furthermore, when my son gets hurt - whether he takes a tumble from his bike, stumbles while running or takes a knock during a fall; I am the one he runs to or cries to for comfort. I make him feel better. I make him forget the pain and feel that everything will be okay. How could I, the same person who comforts and consoles him when he is in pain be that same person to inflict pain on him?? I could never. It would tear me to a million pieces. I just could not. I don't even think my son would understand.
Another lesson I would not want to teach my son is that WE HURT THE PEOPLE WE LOVE.
I mean logically, (in context of my domestic abuse example earlier in this article), are we seriously surprised at the high statistics surrounding domestic abuse when we spank our children and show them we "hurt the ones we love" and we "hit those we love when we don't approve of something they do and want to change their behavior"? I don't want to teach him that bullying is okay either by demonstrating that "you hit those smaller or weaker than you to instill fear in them to get them to do what you want!"
In conclusion: Why cause your child pain when it is not necessary?
This is not an article written to judge or insult anyone or their way of parenting.
As parents, we all love our children (hopefully) and want the best for them. Most parents who spank their children have said that they do so with love hoping to make their children better people, teach or discipline them and save them from future rebellion or long-term behavioral problems.
If this is the case, then we are all on the same page! We want the best for our kids and love them endlessly. Many parents who spank have stated how bad they feel afterwards and that they don't find joy in hurting their children - so why do it if it isn't even needed!
If there were a way to obtain the exact same benefits without any negative consequences and without inflicting any pain on your child wouldn't you want to do it? Or at least give it a try?
The good news is there are!
Alternatives to Corporal Punishment
There are numerous ways of disciplining your children to have well-behaved children and well developed and responsible adults one day without spanking them (Visit the "Alternatives to spanking" link at the bottom of this article) or any other form of corporal punishment.
Huffington Post provides a full article displaying 8 Expert alternatives to spanking. These include time-outs, the "clap-growl", focusing on the positive and outlasting the child to name a few. i have also linked to an article on the techniques I use and how they have been working for me.
Famous SupperNanny - Jo Frost states that she sees no justification for using a hand, belt or paddle on a child and supports the use of time-outs and talking to your children instead.
No matter the age, children have a fair level of understanding and you can explain things on their level. If they are too young to understand reasoning then taking objects away instead also works fairly well.
If you feel like you are completely lost when it comes to disciplining your child without using spanking, please do look into the alternatives.
If you are considering spanking - please don't.
If you are already spanking - please remember that it is never too late to stop.
For Further Reading
- Alternatives to Spanking for toddlers and Pre-scholars: Gentle Parenting | Love, Life and Relationsh
In my aim to avoid spanking and any other form of corporal punishment, I have made it my goal to try and test numerous alternatives to spanking. I list a few of these as well as some tips on using them.
- Supernanny - YouTube - Effective Desciplining Tecqniques without corporal punishment
Meet Supernanny -- a modern day Mary Poppins, who can transform the wild ways of children. She's able to solve problems with behaviour, sleep, mealtime, pott...
The Facts about Spanking
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal
Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal (author) from Johannesburg - South Africa on May 10, 2018:
That's terrible :( I am really sorry that you had to go through that.
I was spanked too and have never and will never spank my child. My son is 4 now and I have never spanked him at all.
Bill on April 14, 2018:
I remember the awful spankings I got as a child. It was terrifying to get all your clothes forcibly removed by your mom for a whipping with the belt. When it started (at about 5) I'd get 10 lashes on my bottom and 5 on my penis, and it went up from there as I got older. All it did was teach me to fear my mom and lie to her to avoid these whippings. The pain was awful and the nudity was humiliating. That is no way to raise a child.