Why Parents Should Not Spank Their Children
"When are you going to start spanking her?" my sister-in-law asked. The question surprised me. The truth is I already had, and stopped just as quickly as I started.
Before spanking my daughter I was following the idea that you should try to talk to your child when they do something wrong and remove them from the situation where they can do "bad" things. My daughter is obedient enough for a two year old now, but she had bouts of tantrums often, and even now. It was at such points in our frustration that we spanked her.
After that she started hitting back. She cried more with spanks and would go into crazier tantrums after being spanked. I felt she was changing for the worse. If she did something bad and knew it, she would then go into tantrum mode immediately, even before we could discipline her. It was the last straw when she ran to my sister to hide from us after doing something bad, and then she said, "scary mommy" as I was approaching to discipline her. It didn't feel good. I knew that with two years old comes "the terrible twos" and one could expect screaming, hitting and "no!" She wasn't quite two yet at the time, and it coincided with us spanking her all too well, so I knew this spanking thing was no good.
Do you spank your children?
If you spank, how often do you spank your children on average?See results without voting
Spanking is Hitting
Firstly parents, don't confuse it. Spanking is hitting. According to the dictionary: To punish is chiefly to inflict penalty or pain as a retribution for misdeeds, with little or no expectation of correction or improvement: to punish a thief. To discipline is to give a kind of punishment that will educate or establish useful habits. To spank is to strike (a person, usually a child) with the open hand, a slipper, etc., esp. on the buttocks, as in punishment. Thus, to punish a child by spanking them is not to discipline them. To achieve "good" behaviour, spanking is unnecessary as it is simply punishment.
Monkey See Monkey Do
Hitting models hitting. Even if you call it spanking, it is hitting. That is also how your child feels and sees it. Your two or three year old doesn't think hitting, spanking, kicking, etc., are any different. So, even joking around near them or with them is not a good idea. For one, they don't quite know the difference between being serious and joking around yet. I saw this with my two year old who copies everything all adults around her do, especially the ones she "admires" and likes the most. One day she saw me jokingly slap my husband and told me, "Don't do dat, Mommy." When I was corrected by her, I realized she didn't know I was just joking, so I apologized to my husband immediately in front of her. I also said to her, "You are right, Jacky. I should not hit Daddy." I was glad to see that she was getting the right idea. But, I also learned something that day. I really have to be careful around my daughter, because she sees more than I am aware of and she doesn't understand everything quite the way adults do. A little more on this later.
It Doesn't Feel Right (to Parents)
Have you ever spanked your child maybe too hard and come out of it feeling bad that you did, feeling like the punishment (not discipline) was too harsh. That's because your gut is right and telling you the truth about spanking - that it's not right. You are an authority figure and as an authority figure you should be trusted and respected. Your child will lose trust and respect for you when you hit them because they feel wronged by you. They will see you as the reason for causing their bad feelings. They will start to react different to you and their personality may change. Seeing the changes may make you feel like something is wrong. There is.
Spanking Confuses Your Child
Spanking/hitting your child sends a confusing message to your child. You strive to teach and show your child love, to build your baby's sense of being valued and loved. When you spank/hit your child for breaking a glass or ripping a book they become confused because your actions result in their feeling bad, feeling wronged. This negativity builds in your child and the good you put in takes up less space in him. What I mean is that he ends up thinking about negatives more than positives - feelings, thoughts, etc.
Spanking Creates Distance
With the connection you've formed with your child as a trusted, caring and loving parent, it is a shame to destroy this trust you've formed with your child. But, how can they fully trust you when you to keep them "safe" when you cause them hurt too, especially at an age when many don't quite understand. The child fears you now and later when they do something wrong may become afraid to let you know, even though you may be the only person that can really help fix it. Thus, the breaking of trust creates distance between parent and child.
Spanking Does Not Improve Behaviour Nor Does it Promote Good Behaviour
When you spank your child, you think it works because you get the desired immediate effect of their stopping what they were doing bad. And, if they cry because of your spanking you can threaten to spank again so they stop crying. The thing is, a child tends to forget what he is being spanked for because he is too busy feeling the physical pain from the spank and feeling the hurt from feeling wronged. Even when you try to explain why you spanked them, and they are likely still tearing from the whole experience, they will simply nod their head as if they understand. But, of course they don't. That's why the whole situation happens again and again. So, while you get the desired effect of immediate quiet or stoppage of fighting between siblings, you won't really get the more important behavioural change.
Consider also that now that they fear you instead of or more than trust and respect you, when you are not around and they have the choice to do a bad thing, they are likely to do it if they think they will not get caught. After all, the spanking only happens if you get caught. But if they respect you, they are less likely to do that bad thing because they simply don't want to "hurt" mommy's feelings or give someone a boo-boo. Instead of not doing something because of fear (of the subsequent punishment), they consider how you might feel, how it might hurt someone else.
Spanking Teaches Children the Wrong Lesson
Not only does spanking not promote good behaviour, it also teaches them the wrong lesson - that hitting solves problems. Because you use it to control them, they think they can do the same to others. They are simply modeling you - monkey see monkey do. So do not be surprised if you then see your child spanking a playmate for taking his toy. It is what he sees you do and as the authoritative figure in his life he takes what you say as true.
More Spanking, More Misbehaviour
Now, say you see your son has just hit his playmate for taking his toy. The first thing you do is pull your son around and spank him for hitting his friend. You then say, "why did you hit him? Just for taking your toy? No, you don't do that. It's not nice." First, he didn't hear anything you said. He's just staring at you (and possibly crying) in shock for spanking him, for spanking him wrongfully (he was just correcting his friend for taking his toy), and for the injustice of it all. "It's not fair!" He shouts and runs away from you. You feel he didn't learn.
Spanking Leads to More Hitting
When the soft spanking doesn't do anything (or he doesn't learn), have you found yourself spanking harder or using a slipper, or a belt or a stick? Yeah, it's starting to sound more painful. It's making you remember what they used to do in schools in the old days - slap your hand with a ruler - and how much that hurt. With corporal punishment, you can start small then get bigger and bigger, worse and worse, as the child becomes more and more numb to the pain. It's as if it doesn't work on them any more and you have to resort to worse and worse punishment; then you find yourself hitting them on the head or beating them up, maybe even publicly humiliating them with a bear-bottom spanking. Hopefully, it never gets to this.
Parents Get Tunnel Vision
As the spanking becomes harder and harder, parents resort to using more force because it seems to lose its effect as the child ages. The parent, used to spanking and getting immediate results, loses alternatives to spanking as the child misbehaves more and more. There's no way talking will work, the parents think. And so, the only thing relied upon is more spanking and the need to hit harder. The hand seems to lose its effect so tools are then used to inflict more pain. After all, it always worked before, you just have to make it harder. But, instead of looking for ways to hit harder, to hurt more, parents should be searching for other ways to teach children lessons or correct them.
Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics
- Mothers' Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children's Aggressive Behavior
The goal was to examine the association between the use of corporal punishment (CP) against 3-year-old children and subsequent aggressive behavior among those children.
Hitting Promotes Anger in Children
Children filled with negativity, and lacking trust in the most important and authoritative people in their lives will have low self-esteem, low self-image and little empathy for others. Children who are spanked become aggressive and this may lead to bullying problems. According to a 7-year study of 2500 parents published in Pediatrics, spanking is linked to aggressive behaviour in children. Children spanked for misbehaviour were certain to be more aggressive by age 5. Confounding factors including maternal child physical maltreatment, psychological maltreatment, and neglect, stress, depression, substance use among others, were assessed. They concluded that the increased risk of aggression resulting from spanking "cannot be attributed to possible confounding effects of a host of other maternal parenting risk factors."
Hitting Brings Back Bad Memories
After interviewing a few adults, and considering my own childhood experience with spanking, I found that some of our first memories of our childhood are about being spanked or the fear of being spanked. "After they found me, all I can remember is that even though all of my friends were all saying, "are you okay? are you okay?" my father arrives and the first thing and only thing he does is take this big stick and wack me across the back of my head. He turned around and left." One interviewee recalled. Myself, I remember always wearing pants for fear of being found with cuts and wounds or else I would get "belted." I understand now why my dad cared so much that I don't get scrapes on my knees (it leaves ugly kiloidal scars on us), but I would have preferred understanding it than just always being scared out of my mind.
Were you spanked as a child?See results without voting
When my daughter looks back at her childhood, I don't want her to recall a specific instance of spanking as one her most vivid memories the way most of us probably do. I can see that our negative experiences seem to sting and stay with us more easily than the happy good ones. I would rather that my daughter comes out of her childhood with positivity than fear and a low self-esteem. So, Parents, while I urge you not to spank your children, I still urge you to discipline them. For those who are considering having children or are about to or have young babies, don't even start spanking. Rather, teach them empathy towards others, and teach them with patience and love.
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