Most parents have passionate feelings about spanking.
They’re either adamantly against it, thinking it’s abusive, or adamantly in favor of it, thinking it’s a necessary form of discipline.
The older I get, the more opposed I become to spanking. My son is 12, and I haven’t spanked him in years. I hope I never do again.
It’s indisputable that parents spank in a fit of anger. I know. I’ve done it. Spanking sends a terrible message to a child – that it’s OK to hit to make a point. Spanking says more about a parent’s loss of self-control than it does about a child’s unruly behavior.
Now, an alarming new study concludes that spanking can cause long-term developmental damage, make children more aggressive and antisocial, and even lower their IQ, according to a Reuters article.
The study, published this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reviewed 20 years of published reports on spanking.
“There are no studies that show any long-term positive outcomes from physical punishment,” says Joan Durant, a University of Manitoba professor and one of the authors of the new report.
Some parents would disagree vehemently. They would say they learned respect and self-discipline from being spanked themselves. So they hold onto the right to spank their kids to instill the same lessons.
A mom defends spanking as evidence against effectiveness mounts
One spanking proponent, a mother of three, spoke out on a National Review blog.
“As the mother of a toddler, I think it’s important for moms to come forward and quit being afraid of discipline that’s been tested by time,” wrote Nancy French, who co-authored a book with Bristol Palin, Not Afraid of Life. “Moms tend to keep this a private matter, to avoid conflict or hard discussions with other parents. … Spanking is far less emotionally manipulative than twenty nagging reprimands. It’s fast, and it’s certainly effective. And by the way, it’s legal.”
She’s right. Spanking is legal in the United States. But more than 20 countries – including Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden – have banned it, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article.
Will the U.S. ever outlaw spanking? I doubt it. Too many people argue that parents should have the right to decide how to discipline their child. Politically, spanking opponents could never succeed in getting laws passed to ban it.
I wish spanking proponents would at least consider the mountain of material that denounces the outdated practice. Besides the new Canadian study, a four-year-old American Academy of Pediatrics report also says spanking is ineffective and harmful.
“Although spanking may immediately reduce or stop an undesired behavior, its effectiveness decreases with subsequent use,” according to the academy report. “The only way to maintain the initial effect of spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate into abuse.”
Do you want to take that chance? Do you want to spank your child, realizing that you might lose control and wind up abusing him or her?
I don’t. Neither should any other parent.
Fortunately, spanking is gradually becoming less socially acceptable. Adamant proponents remain, but they’re ignoring the advice of almost all child-rearing experts.