Don't Spank Your Kids
- Should Parents Spank Their Kids? - Scientific American (2009)
A five-year effort to review the scientific literature ...by the family services division of the American Psychological Association (APA) concludes that “parents..should reduce and potentially eliminate their use of any physical punishment."
Don't spank your kids.
"But," you say, "Some kids need to be spanked. You don't understand..."
The studies are pretty darn consistent, and they've done a lot. When you spank a kid, the act tends to INCREASE, rather than decrease, the frequency of the kinds of behaviors you are trying to prevent.
Those are just facts. They've run this experiment a zillion times (see links of meta-analyses in the sidebar for samples), and that's just the facts -- no bias, no interpretation. Just bare bones. More spanking tends to result in more "bad" behavior. We've run it, said, "That can't be right," and run it again...and again...and again....around literally hundreds of times in about the past 60 years, and came up with negative results almost every single time. Go ahead. Look it up yourself.
- Research on Spanking: It’s Bad For ALL Kids | Psychology Today (2013)
"In terms of whether parental aggression (spanking) decreases aggression in the child, the answer is no. In fact, spanking tends to increase child aggression."
The next question is, "Why?"
The reason presented makes sense: If you teach children that aggression is the way to deal with behavior from people that *you* don't like, children will learn that aggression is the way to deal with behavior from people that *they* don't like.
I mean, think about it. If you step on someone's foot accidentally, and they say, "OW! That really hurt -- please don't do that," how are you likely to respond to someone stepping on YOUR foot a week later? Similarly, right? But if you step on someone's foot accidentally and that person steps on your foot back and punches you in the face, wouldn't you be a tad more likely to act a bit more violently towards the person who stepped on your foot a week later?
Keeping that principle in mind, here's what happens.
Toddler Johnny takes a toy from Toddler Danny. You spank Johnny. Johnny learns that this is the proper response to the situation. OK, so a few days later Susie takes a toy from Johnny. Johnny slaps her angrily and yells, "Mine! Don't take it!" Because he's learned from you that this is the way to deal with the situation. So you take Johnny and spank him for THAT -- reiterating and multiplying the scenarios in Johnny's head in which Johnny thinks it's fine to slap somebody. So Johnny becomes more aggressive, which leads to you becoming more aggressive...and it becomes in your mind a kind of arms race, while in Johnny's mind it's just an attempt to learn how the world works.
"The stronger association between corporal punishment and the aggression composite for boys may also be accounted for by child effects; because boys tend to exhibit aggression more than girls, they may also elicit more corporal punishment from parents than do girls. However...boys in general tend to receive more corporal punishment than girls. Taken together, these findings constitute a chicken-and-egg problem: Are boys spanked more because they are aggressive, or are they more aggressive because they are spanked more?" (Page 550)
What happens for many parents is that they think the child is "sinful" and they have to spank the sinfulness out of them, which turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy and vicious cycle in which the parent teaches the child aggression and then punishes the child for aggression by USING aggression, thus teaching the child aggression...etc. Although genetics do indeed play a part in aggression levels in kids, this practice of using aggression to punish aggression may be a major reason why you might think Johnny needs more spankings than Suzy -- Johnny gets spanked more and buys into the aggression you taught him, thus making it so that he needs more spankings. Suzy may need less spankings not because she is a better kid, but simply because she was not spanked as often earlier and is mirroring the less aggressive discipline techniques you taught her.
- Spanking and the Making of a Violent Society (1996)
"The research reviewed suggests that, in addition to many other benefits, a society in which parents never spank will be a society with less violence and other crime."
- Ironic? Spanked Children More Likely to Break the Law | Psych Central News (2013)
"Emerging research suggests university students who were spanked as children are more likely to engage in criminal behavior."
Now, the good news is that the earlier you end the spanking, the better. If you end the spankings around the time the child is 2 or 3, the child may recover, for the most part, or even completely (although there is a high likelihood that there will still be negative effects).
"But," you may say, "Johnny acts better when I spank him."
Well, of course he acts better right after you spank him, just as you are unlikely to step on the person's foot right after you get the shit kicked out of you. So it works in the short term. But as soon as he is in a position where he can copy your violence, will he?
Well, turns out they did studies on this, too. And people who got spanked were more likely to be violent towards their spouses and kids when they got older than those who didn't. Which makes disturbingly perfect sense.
"But I got spanked, and I turned out alright. Johnny should be raised the way I was so he can turn out alright, too."
Ummmmm...with all due respect, maybe you didn't. Maybe you're the grown up version of Johnny and you don't know how to resolve situations you don't like without violence, because that's how you were raised and it's what you know. Maybe you're taking out the aggression you learned in the way you were raised on your kid, and maybe how you turned out isn't what you're shooting for with Johnny.
Maybe spanking your kid is about your problems more than it's about Johnny's problems...but it will be about Johnny's problems if he grows up and continues the cycle on your grandchildren.
- Therapy for Parents, Therapist for Parenting Issues
It's not just for you. It's for you and your child. Maybe you're not a terrible parent -- maybe you just need some help and a few strategies. How valuable is a healthy long-term relationship with your child? Find a good therapist here.
So I'm not saying you're a bad person. Maybe you need help. Maybe you need to open up to someone skilled in discussing these matters (like a licensed therapist). Not for yourself, but for your kid and your grandkid and so on. It could make a difference...it WILL make a difference, either way.
But now you know. So what are you going to do?
Don't spank your kids.
Recent Research Suggests Sharing This Information will Make a Difference
- If informed of spanking's negative impact parents may change - UPI.com (2014)
U.S. adults exposed to research on spanking showing subsequent child behavioral problems may change their discipline methods, researchers say.