Why Parents Should Not Spank Their Children

Parents put a lot of effort into showing their children love and care, all to the end result of happy, healthy adults.
Parents put a lot of effort into showing their children love and care, all to the end result of happy, healthy adults.

"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?

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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.

Hitting models hitting. If your toddler sees you (or another adult) spank/hit (them, their sibling) they will do the same when another child wrongs them. They see you do it so it must be right.
Hitting models hitting. If your toddler sees you (or another adult) spank/hit (them, their sibling) they will do the same when another child wrongs them. They see you do it so it must be right.

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.

You tell them they are special and that you love them. For kids, how can you then turn around and hit them for spilled milk.
You tell them they are special and that you love them. For kids, how can you then turn around and hit them for spilled milk.

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.

If they spank another child for doing something wrong, don't be surprised if they get really upset when you spank them in return. They will doubly wronged because they thought they were doing the right thing. "It's not fair!"
If they spank another child for doing something wrong, don't be surprised if they get really upset when you spank them in return. They will doubly wronged because they thought they were doing the right thing. "It's not fair!"

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.

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."

Some adult's most vivid memories are about being spanked by their parents. These negative memories are easier to recall than the good ones.
Some adult's most vivid memories are about being spanked by their parents. These negative memories are easier to recall than the good ones.

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.

Your Past

Were you spanked as a child?

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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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Comments 17 comments

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

Spanking a child is a barbaric act done by parents who are either too uneducated and/or lazy to discipline him/her in a more progressive and intellectual way. Usually it is parents from the lower socioeconomic group and/or from large families who use spanking as a form of discipline. Highly educated parents and/or parents from small families favor more intellectual approaches in disciplining their children.

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment gmwilliams. I agree that spanking keeps parents from thinking of progressive and intellectual ways of discipline. Sometimes those that were spanked spank their children too, whether they are in a lower socioeconomic group, large family or not. Those that have chosen not to spank, despite having been spanked as children, are those that likely decided it was a terrible thing they did not want to do to their own children.

venera 6 years ago

Good, well-summarized arguments! Getting your kids to behave should be based on the groundwork that you do to set the right expecations and boundaries and teach your kids the right ways in life. Also, isn't it amazing how teachers manage to get attention and respect without spanking? Here are some tricks that they use:


bettybarnesb profile image

bettybarnesb 6 years ago from Bartlett, TN

My 4 children are now grown but while they were growing up the form of discipline I used was stick. I was divorced while there were very young and so I had to maintain in control of my home and them. I was loving and compassionate but very we had rules to follow. So when punishment was needed, they got it and you know what, they turned out find. All 4. I am very grateful and blessed.

If you look control of your child now, what will you do later? Just think about it.

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 5 years ago Author

Venera: Thanks for the comments. I think that list is very useful. Parents could use it with their kids. For sure, you have to know your kid because each is different. What works for one may not work as well for another, so a list of different things to try is great. Parents need to have and try different options first before they spank, if they ever. Some would say spanking is not an option.

Bettybarnesb: Thank you for your comment. I'm sure you've done a wonderful job raising your kids - it's a tough thing to do. And while you've been blessed by them, I'm sure you've been a blessing to them.

Now, I simply think that if someone can do without spanking and still raise disciplined kids then it's better to go without spanking.

jerry 5 years ago

If you want to have control over your kids. You need to become something they admire. If you fail to do that. You have lost it completely.

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment jerry.

I think that's similar to what I often think - that I want my kids to listen and obey me not because they are afraid of me (that I will "hit" them) but rather because they respect/love/(whatever the word should be) me and don't want to hurt others or want what is best/good for themselves and others. Sorry for the complicated and probably run-on sentence.

MAGICFIVE profile image

MAGICFIVE 5 years ago from New York

Hitting promotes hitting. You teach kids hitting is wrong and then YOU hit THEM? Spanking makes NO sense! I never once did it with my daughter...never even THOUGHT of doing it...I hope anyone who does will read your hub and change their mind! Spanking seems...barbaric! Are we NOT civilized? There are so many better ways of handling things...like acting out scenes with stuffed animals, then talking about how the bear feels when the rabbit takes his toy..stuff like that! I mean, I just thought of that idea right off the top of my head, but it would probalby work! Parents can also watch Super Nanny for ideas!

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment Magicfive. I agree that there are better ways of handling things. The problem with spanking is that it seems to "work" at first because it stops your kid at that very second; so parents end up relying on it as a quick solution. But, it prevents them from thinking up more creative ways (like your stuff toys example) of discipline/explaining what the wrong/bad was. It's just terrible when children are spanked because later that child will "spank" (ie. another child) when someone does something bad in her eyes. She's just following her parents' example - but then she'll be spanked again for hitting. How confusing - that's why it makes no sense, right Magicfive?

WisieDailyWisdom profile image

WisieDailyWisdom 5 years ago from Atlanta

Spanking is certainly not the way of disciplining children, although it might seem the easiest because it almost happens on reflex, out of frustration. Spanking leads to lying and dishonesty as the child starts cooking up stories to avoid being spanked. It is tougher to keep your patience and make the child understand the value of honesty and truthfulness.

One has to be patient and understanding when dealing with indiscipline or when your child has committed a mistake. Only then can you ensure that the message you are trying to convey to your child gets communicated.

The values of honesty should be instilled right from childhood so that your child develops the courage and inclination to own up to his/her mistake even before you come to know about it from elsewhere. Spanking certainly is not the way to develop this confidence. You need to inspire and motivate your child and to make him/her understand the value of honesty in life.

jshon 5 years ago

i remember i got spank for picking on my brother and he told and my mom spanked me and i had belt marks all over my body and i never talk to her the whole month on november

Anonymous 4 years ago

I'm 13 (14 in two weeks) and my younger childhood instances all I recall is my dad beating me with a belt, he still does today... the last time was December 6 (yes, I can remember the date and time... that's kind of sad isn't it?) and I wrote on my calendar how I didn't see a point in life and wanted to end my life since I was in major depression and my dad saw and immediately whipped me with his leather belt studded with metal saying how I was selfish. If your child has thoughts of suicide, shouldn't you help them right away instead of hurt them? I have deep emotional and physical scars from his outbursts and wish I could be adopted...

johannanoelle 4 years ago

I agree with how parents should not spank their kids! My hubby and I also went through a time of spanking our son, and we've learned a lot through that season that led to our not spanking him anymore... If you want to take a look, I share more about this experience in http://christian-parenting.net/child-discipline/sh...

tiffany delite profile image

tiffany delite 4 years ago from united states

this is a fantastic article. i grew up with beatings with the belt, backhands (and fronthands) across the face, and other corporal punishment as seen fit by my father, but i always secretly hated him for it. and it didn't help me any. it was confusing and sent the wrong message just as you explained in this article. blessings!

Cecilia 4 years ago

We were a well-to-do, although not necessarily "rich" family. Both parents graduated from college. We weren't a "lower socioeconomic class", nor were we of lower education levels. Yet I got spanked a LOT. Usually it was bare-bottom, with a paddle, and if I cried, I got spanked again. Usually, my mother administered the spankings, but my dad got his licks in regularly. And Dad was a BIG man, whereas I was a small girl (I'm tall, but fine boned). My dad also drank a lot so his spankings were truly brutal. One time I came home late because the chain had fallen off my bike and I wasn't able to put it back on without the tools to remove my chain guard. So, I walked home with the bike and I ws about 20 minutes late. Dad was drunk, I apologized for being late and explained why. He wouldn't listen. I had disobeyed, and now I had to be punished. As soon as he bolted out of his chair, livid and red with anger, I got scared and ran. That just infuriated him more. He chased me, caught me in the front yard, and whipped the snot out of me as hard as he could with his belt. I managed to turn away and ran again, but he tripped me up, I fell, and he kicked me over and over again. I ended up with 2 broken ribs and tons of bruises. When my mom came home, I told her what happened. She simply said, "Don't make him mad and that won't happen to you." No doctor visit for the ribs, no ice for my bruises... but I got another spanking from her for making Dad mad. BTW... I was 9 years old. I'm 47 now, and I still have nightmares about this.

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 4 years ago Author

Dear Anonymous now 14 Year Old:

It's really terrible that you are experiencing this right now. I don't even know what to say and I don't know how to help you physically. But, I do know how I can help you - and maybe you don't believe in Him, namely the Lord Jesus, and that He is above all things, and that even how frail my belief in Him can be at times, He is able. It's not about whether I can pray hard enough, etc., it's about the one who answers the prayer - if he can and if he does. Well, God can and does. He may do it at His time, and we can never understand this because we always want answers fast and now. But, I know when I've asked Him for help and it's in His will (not something selfish or outwardly selfless, yet inwardly selfish) He answers and He answers rightly. I've asked Him before for help and never waited for His answer, I just acted on what I thought is best and in the end, He had to fix my even bigger mess. So, I will pray to Him about your situation, whether you like it or not and I will trust in Him to help you - whether it's to change your father's thoughts about this or to change the people around him that influence him, or whatever solution God knows is best - I will leave it to Him because He always does what is for our best. God bless.

DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 4 years ago Author


I wish kids/teens and even adults didn't have to experience this. Thank you for sharing. I wish those with experiences like yours could share with those who currently do this about why it's not good - in an anonymous way that's somehow effective. And at schools, they have programs to help teachers identify abused kids, etc., but sometimes some kids who've grown up with spanking and eventually belting, etc., have grown used to it and maybe don't think of it as abuse anymore and nothing ever gets told. Plus, they're scared that their parents will hit them even more if they were told on, and then there is the uncertainty that if their parents are reprimanded, who would care for them? Because, in their thoughts, if your parents, who are supposed to love you the most, seem not to (because they hit you so much), who could love you? What a difficult situation for kids.

I'm sure you are a well-to-do individual yourself, but I'm sure it would be better for you if you could remember good things and not this sort of thing as an adult sharing stories with your own children.

I pray you don't get nightmares about this anymore.

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