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Spanking is bad for all kids

Time-outs work just as well, without the loss of trust and other drawbacks.

By Anne Hurley Sep 9, 2013 7:54PM
To spank or not to spank? The research on spanking children for misbehaving over the past 50 years has changed remarkably, but parents' actions and attitudes haven't always followed suit. Spanking was once a common and accepted way to discipline children, but doctors and psychologist generally recommend against it.

New research suggests that spanking is not only ineffectual but that it's harmful to most kids, across the board.Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff at the University of Texas at Austin published an article recently titled "Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children." The research, discussed in depth by Psychology Today contributor Darcia Narvaez, looks at how spanking affects the behavior of children who've been spanked.

The children studied include those who misbehaved in the short term, those who misbehaved over the long term and those who exhibited aggression. Researchers found that children who misbehaved and were spanked did change their behavior in the short term, but that time-outs worked just as well in 30 different scenarios in which a mother asked a child to perform a task or exhibit a behavior. So if time-outs work just as well in the short term, why not use them?

Researchers also found that over the long term, spanking did less and less to turn around disobedience. Partly it's because spanking, though harsh, is inconsistent, and a parent cannot "catch" every single incident of the misbehavior. Narvaez points out that every time a child touches a hot stove burner, for instance, the burner is hot, so in a consistent instance like that, a "punishing" action results in a change in behavior. But more than that, spanking does nothing to show how to substitute undesirable behavior with desirable behavior, and even very young children pick up on that.

"Children learn positive behaviors from practicing actions that work, ones that lead to a sense of belonging and competence," Narvaez says. "They internalize what they practice and what their family practices. They learn reasons for their actions from what they hear and are told, but active practice has the deepest impact."

Lastly, Gershoff's research shows that spanking a child who is being aggressive not only does not reduce the likelihood of the child's becoming less aggressive with time, it results in the child's becoming more aggressive. "Spanking predicted increases in children’s aggression over and above initial levels [of aggressive behavior]," her study says, and "in none of these studies did spanking predict reductions in children’s aggression over time."

Finally, spanking erodes trust. Children begin not to trust parents who spank.

Narvaez says, "[Children] build a self-protective shield around themselves in terms of relationships generally. Children increasingly mistrust the motives of others and become more threat-reactive. Spanking leads to aggressive expectations; children are ready to aggress first before they are aggressed against."

Parents who want to learn tips and methods to stop spanking and substitute more positive disciplinary actions may want to visit the resources section of StopSpanking.org. After all, it's never too late to become a more effective parent.
Sep 9, 2013 9:52PM
Sorry, they are WRONG. Spanking IS sometimes necessary for the strong willed child who DEFIANTLY will not listen to repeated warnings. There is a five word quote that is more powerful than the old biblical *spare the rod, spoil the child* quote...."Correct them or society will.* The problem today with parenting is the amount of indulgence and passive, permissive parenting that is being applied. Children are able to make demands, act foolish in public, talk back, be rude, and just downright disrespectful all the while the parent just stands there and takes it. People who do this to their kids are MISSING an invaluable teaching opportunity. 
Sep 9, 2013 8:53PM
these so called experts is annoying me. And  we wonder why these kids are so out of control and they are killing and hurting their own parents.  Experts my foot.   They need to be put in a room with the baddest kid they can find  then they can tell me.
Sep 9, 2013 8:44PM
I disagree.

Spanking is in no way harmful to children when it is done right, HOWEVER if done to where it leaves anything more than a light red mark then it should be considered abusive.

In my elementary school the principal used a paddle and I don't remember much if any problems at that school and everyone seemed to be well behaved at least on school grounds if only because they did not want to be paddled by the principal.

The major problem with children today are the people who spew out the kind of nonsense that says spanking is bad.

Another thing. Why is it that something which has been done since most likely the beginning of civilization is now all the sudden deemed to be bad?

From personal experience I can attest to the fact that timeouts don't work as well as spankings. When my mom would give me timeouts to where I had to sit in my room doing nothing at all it didn't bother me one bit.

There are many different discipline methods and no one method works for every child. One has to find the right discipline method for their child.

When I have kids I don't need or want anyone telling me what discipline methods I can use with my kids.

I also disagree with the first video that is played.

I work with kids at church and it is very easy to tell the kids which get spanked as they are for the most part the better behaved kids.

Also there are many people in the world that got spanked as a kid who turned out just fine.

The only time any of what the first video spewed out may be true is if the spanking has crossed the line to where it is physical abuse.
Sep 9, 2013 11:25PM
this is crock..my kids never had trust issues with me spanking them but they also knew the consequences of their actions..how is it when older ppl talk about things like this when they were kids and they never had these so called problems experts say today? Matter of fact they turned out quite well..todays kids are disciplined by the new system of thinking and we have more behavorial problems,no respect for authority or parents so which one is working?

Sep 10, 2013 1:39AM
Look at kids today compaired to when we were kids that got spanked spanking when done right is now harmfull  I spanked my kids and they are all great adults now with kids of there own they never got in to trouble todays kids are thuges no respect no fear and only care about them self and no body else and every body owes them
Sep 9, 2013 9:33PM
Hate to spank but 'time out' does not seem to have any effect what so ever.

Sep 9, 2013 11:35PM
Big people? Adults are supposed to teach children the correct way to behave. zit worked good back in my day and now that it has been stopped, the kids of today are the most undisciplined, out of control, self centered, cheeky, spiteful individuals. Time out works a lot of the time for minor misdeameners, but for some of the things that kids do that's not enough. Lying, stealing, framing others for their own bad deeds,  bullying, disrespecting disabled people, abusing animals is wide spread and the only resonsable way to punish that is with a loud talking to, a lecture on good and bad and a good spanking to go with it.  If people learned the difference between smacking as a punishment and "violence" hitting they would do more good than not. Society hasn't advanced, we are all going backwards where people's behaviours are concerned.  The use of paddle boards, straps, belts etc should be banned. Only the open hand should be used and only on the bum or the back of the legs.
Sep 9, 2013 9:37PM

I would have to read the study.  I find statements suggesting that spanking is inconsistent because "a parent cannot "catch" every single incident of the misbehavior" pretty weak, as you will *never* catch every single incident of misbehavior, whether you incorporate spanking, time-outs, or a pat on the head.  Meta-analysis has its flaws, some of the research used can have some pretty small groups that statistics are drawn from, one of them used extensively by Dr. Gershoff had 11 children in the study.


My own brief (and admittedly limited, although I have read almost 100 reports) "meta-analysis" has shown that research published by authors *without* children are predominantly in favor of not spanking, while publications from authors *with* children were almost evenly split, with a slight majority in favor of some form of *limited* corporal punishment, especially when issues of immediate safety were concerned. I do not know if Dr. Gershoff has raised children.


My amateur conclusion from that is that authors with children balance academic study with reality.

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