How many of us were spanked as children? My guess is probably a lot. Our parents most likely thought they were doing the right thing by swatting us on the behind, and that spanking was an acceptable way to discipline a child or show them “who’s in charge.” However, times have changed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement warning against “the harmful effects of corporal punishment in the home.” A 2016 National Institutes of Health analysis of multiple studies found that children do not benefit from spanking. And recent studies have shown that corporal punishment is associated with increased aggression and makes it more likely that children will be defiant in the future.
These days, there has definitely been a shift away from thinking it’s okay to spank children, either at home or out in public. We’ve noticed this in our Westchester Health practice, and when parents ask us about the value of spanking, we strongly discourage it. In an unhealthy way, spanking perpetuates a cycle of rebellion, aggression and resentment rather than cooperation, kindness and respect.
In an article for TRUparenting.net, a counselor named Andy Smithson describes 3 reasons why spanking is not a good form of discipline, and offers 3 alternatives, which we would like to share here.
3 reasons why spanking doesn’t make sense as discipline
- Spanking doesn’t teach what we want it to teach: What do children actually learn by spanking? Maybe to surrender against their will, but it will not teach respect or morality. What it does teach is that physical aggression is an acceptable way to express anger and solve problems rather than calmly expressing their emotions and finding solutions to a problem. Ultimately, spanking does not teach them right from wrong, but instead, that making mistakes and getting caught can really hurt.
- Spanking does not build the relationship between parent and child: How would you feel toward someone who hit you? Not loved and appreciated. How you would interact with them? Would you continue to be their friend? Would you confide in them, trust them and seek advice from them? No. Our relationship with our children is one of the most important ways we can influence them to be good people and to make smart decisions.
- Spanking is ultimately very hypocritical: In essence, we say to our child, “If others don’t do what you want, you shouldn’t hurt them, but if you don’t do what I want, I can hurt you.” Finding alternative solutions to problems and ways to teach important principles to our children takes a lot of personal strength, self-regulation, time and energy, but when we do this, it teaches lessons that will imprint them for the rest of their lives.
3 alternative ways to influence your child’s behavior
- Teach during the good times: Set aside moments every day to teach your child a positive principle or tactic for compromising, sharing, empathizing with others, solving problems, setting and achieving goals, or any other topics that come to mind. Try to find a time when your child is happy and receptive and make it fun, in ways that apply to their age level.
- Set clear limits and boundaries: Help your child understand the natural consequences of their actions when they overstep or ignore these boundaries. Giving them chores and responsibilities as a contributing member of your family can help reinforce this, even if they don’t like them. Very important: Don’t allow your child to hit or hurt you.
- Enforce negative consequences of their actions with love: Every choice has a cost associated with it. Sometimes this means your child must clean up a mess they made, pay for something that got broken, or not go play until a chore is complete. It’s crucial to allow kids to experience the consequences of their own choices but also to empathize with them in an understanding way. If your child becomes upset or suffers disappointment due to the consequences of their actions, help them think about ways to avoid doing this again in the future.
Helpful articles we recommend
- Spanking Is Ineffective and Harmful to Children
- Americans’ Opinions On Spanking Vary By Party, Race, Region And Religion
- Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect (CDC)
- The Connections Between Spanking and Aggression
- Which Is Better, Rewards or Punishments? Neither
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
At any age, count on the pediatricians of Westchester Health and Northwell Physician Partners for vital information to help you raise happy, healthy kids. Whether you have teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re here to help you with yours. Please call us at (914) 232-1919.
Want to know more about alternatives to spanking? Come see us.
To talk about ways to discipline your child other than spanking, please call (914) 232-1919 and make an appointment to come in and see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We’ll listen to your concerns, offer advice from our many years of helping parents care for their kids, and together with you, come up with strategies that work for you, your child and your family. Most of all, we want to help you feel confident as a parent. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, Lead Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners