THE PROBLEM WITH SPANKING
is unfortunate that corporal punishment is used to discipline children
in any situation. We can argue the intricate details of spanking
versus abuse, however it is a rather pointless exercise if you look
at the results of both actions.
adults today grew up in households where they were hit, and they
strongly defend that style of punishment as a measure of loyalty
to their parents. Most say that they deserved it and therefore believe
that children should be spanked when they misbehave.
us take a look at what the most extensive research tells us about
this behavior. Based on studies of over nine thousand families in
America, Dr. Murray Straus in his book titled, BEATING THE DEVIL
OUT OF THEM, Corporal Punishment in American Families, has found
that: "Children who are spanked quickly learn that love and violence
can go hand in hand." In the twenty years of research compiled in
this book, the findings indicate that children who are spanked are
from two to six times more likely to be physically aggressive, to
become juvenile delinquents, and later, as adults, to use physical
violence against their spouses, to have sadomasochistic tendencies
and to suffer from depression. We are not talking about physical
abuse here; we are talking about "spanking."
my own experience of working with more than 1,500 families over
a period of many years, hitting comes from a lack of knowledge of
how children actually learn. If adults truly understood this process,
they would realize that what they teach when they hit is that when
you are upset with someone, you should hit them.
are facing a crisis in the rise of violence in younger and younger
children. Discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Discipline
is about teaching children what they need to know to become self-disciplined
and responsible. It is about helping them to do better the next
time. Punishment is about making children feel bad about themselves,
which undermines the development of self-discipline and doesn't
help them to do any better next time.
fact that so many parents, and even some school personnel, use hitting
of any kind is an indication of a crisis in creativity in developing
constructive relationships with children. Firm discipline is a critical
element in helping children to become capable and responsible human
beings, but it is the antithesis of hurtful punishment. Assault
is assault is assault, whether it is called child abuse or whether
it is called spanking.
adults resort to corporal punishment because they haven't learned
to control their own emotions, they don't understand how children
actually learn, and they may carry a combination of anger and loyalty
in regard to their own parents.
are a multitude of discipline strategies that are far more effective
and longer lasting in their outcomes. What is needed is a willingness
to learn to deal effectively with emotions, to have an understanding
of how children actually learn, to set appropriate limits and to
teach children to solve problems.
someone hits you, does it make you more open to listening and learning?
Or does it make you want to hit and hurt, as well? Why would anyone
think that children feel differently?
brain research indicates that when children feel threatened their
higher level thinking skills close down. The limbic system, which
is responsible for the fight or flight response, takes over. When
this happens, chemicals in the brain are released that actually
affect the developing architecture of the brain. This type of high
stress on a regular basis has been proven to produce a brain which
is impulsive, hyper reactive and which does not have the ability
to think before acting. This means that this type of experience
does not help a child to do better but, in fact, increases impulsivity
and violent tendencies.
To this point, I have discussed the problems with spanking from
the point of view of child development. In addition, to that very
important aspect, it is also critical to look at the unfolding relationship
between parent and child, as well as the social and political aspect
of investing in spanking as a method of controlling children's behavior.
and hurting engenders fear as a motivating factor. The naturally
occurring problem with this outcome is that eventually a child grows
to be as large or larger than the parent. If fear has been utilized
by the parent to control a child's behavior, as the balance of power
changes we find parents who now fear their children. This is obviously
not a good situation for a parent who is growing older, weaker and
smaller than his or her adult child. This issue has become a growing
problem, particularly within families where domestic violence has
been present. The broad sampling of nine thousand families in the
study cited earlier indicates that approximately 93% of parents
hit toddlers. This percentage decreases to about 50% by the time
children reach their teen years.
imitate what they see. When children are hit and hurt with the explanation
that it is "good" for them, what is the lesson that they are learning?
This provides a powerful model of behavior for hitting and hurting
in order to deal with anger and frustration. Is this really what
we want to be teaching?
concerns also need to be addressed. In the United States we have
a political system based upon democratic principles. Those principles
are eloquently stated in "Of the people, by the people and for the
people." The laws protect us from assault and battery, as well as
slander. As we teach young children the rules required to live successfully
in our system of law, we run into numerous conflicts in principle
and practice in regard to spanking. How can we take someone to court
for hitting us and yet feel perfectly comfortable in hitting our
discussions with parents, spanking is the issue that most divides
individuals. This is an issue that generates a sense of passion
or outrage. Whenever this is the case, it is critical to understand
that we are dealing with more than meets the eye.
we are truly committed to helping the next generation to be healthy,
capable and responsible, we must be committed to learning the skills
necessary to support that development. We do not lack the research,
which clearly states the answers. If we want children to be respectful,
then we must treat them respectfully. If we want children to be
responsible then we must learn how to set limits in helpful ways.
If we want children who are capable of making good decisions, than
we must allow children to make decisions within the bounds of safety,
until they are skilled in decision making.
hurting and spanking, do none of the above. Those behaviors on the
part of parents or other adults create a strange link between love
and violence. In addition, they engender resentment; they teach
children to become skilled liars in order to avoid pain and punishment.
But most destructive of all is that those behaviors replicate themselves.
Hitting encourages hitting. Hurting others in order to enforce your
will becomes a lesson in morality. When children are hurt, they
become dulled to their own pain. As a result of that, they become
unable to feel for others. They lack empathy.
Gruen in his seminal work, THE BETRAYAL OF THE SELF, writes, "Empathy
is the basis of morality." He talks quite eloquently about the fact
that when children must give up their autonomy in order to be loved,
they loose what is truly their soul. Do what you are told and we
will love you, is the lesson that so many children learn. They spend
the rest of their lives living out someone else's expectations.
punishment is not an effective tool for teaching discipline. The
word discipline comes from the Latin and it means, "to teach." The
behavior that we model is what we teach. To justify hitting children
because they are children needs to be examined more closely. As
adults, we're only justified in hitting someone in self-defense
according to the law. Why is it that children do not have the same
President of Parenting U International
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