Spanking A Child: Should You Or Shouldn't You?

Spanking A Child Should You Or Shouldn't You

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Six-year-old Sammy and Ben are playing in the living room. They get into a fight, and Sammy hits his friend for taking his chocolate. Ben starts crying and Sammy’s mother immediately takes him to the next room, bends him over her knee, and spanks him saying, “You do NOT hit people. Do you understand?” There are more tears in the house as Sammy starts crying.

Sammy’s mom was hitting (or spanking) her child and telling him that it was bad.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Hence the question – should you spank children? Here, MomJunction tells you about spanking, the theory behind it, and how it affects children in the long run.

The Act Of Spanking

Spanking is the act of beating on a person’s buttocks with open hand.

According to some, spanking is not hitting. But is not? Really?

Hitting is a violent act, whether it is called spanking, slapping, punching, or kicking! Some may argue that is is a harmless act of discipline that is essential to make the children obedient and God-fearing. Some even proudly boast that the spanking that their parents gave them helped them stay on track and focus on becoming successful in life.

If a little spanking is all it takes to keep a child in line, we would not have any failures or dropouts in high schools and colleges. The truth is, spanking is violent and sends mixed messages to the children. And, the next question will help you understand why.

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Is Spanking An Acceptable Form Of Discipline?

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Most parents believed that for a long time. Until they realized that may not always be the right thing to do. But is it right to spank the child , even if it is once in a while? Or should spanking be out of your parenting books altogether? The debate is ongoing with parents taking stand for and against spanking children as a disciplining technique.

Here is what we think: Spanking is NOT an acceptable form of discipline. No matter how you define it, spanking is a form of violence as it involves beating or hitting the child, even if it is with your bare hands. Whether once in a while, or rarely, spanking hurts the child physically.

Spanking has been outlawed in over 53 countries around the world and several states of the US. Around 54 countries including India have committed to banning spanking or any form of corporal punishment for kids in all settings (1).

However, spanking is still a common practice, and highly disturbing statistics mentioned below are a proof of that.

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[ Read: How To Discipline Child ]

Statistics And Facts About Spanking

Is it okay for an adult to hit a child when it is not okay for an adult to and hit another adult? In my opinion, it is not. However, a lot of parents tend to disagree.

  1. 81% of Americans think that it is okay to spank the child when it is appropriate!
  1. Compared to 85% of Baby Boomers and 88% of Matures, only 72% Millennials think that spanking is a necessary evil for disciplining kids.
  1. Among those that believed that spanking was appropriate, almost 86% were spanked as children.
  1. Among those who were spanked, 21% said they experienced highly violent beating while 79% said there wasn’t too much violence in spanking.
  1. One in four parents spanks the child at a tender age of just six months! Spanking children aged less than 18 months only increases the chances of injury. Also, the child will not be able to make the connection between the behavior and punishment at such an age, which makes spanking an act of abuse.
  1. Children, aged three or less, who were spanked more than twice a month are 50% more likely to display aggressive behavior by the time they are five years old (2).
  1. Spanking can affect the child emotionally and intellectually too. Studies say that childhood spanking might reduce the child’s IQ by five points (3).
  1. One in four parents revealed in a survey that they used an object such as a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, or ruler to hit the child.

Research also states that when parents are stressed, depressed, tired, and angry, they spank a child more (4). That sounds more like taking the stress out on the child rather than trying to discipline him or her! But with such a large number of people believing in spanking …

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Is Spanking Effective?

No. Spanking almost always leads to detrimental outcomes for the child (5). It definitely does not work in changing a child’s aggressive behavior. Also, no studies have proved that corporal punishments, including spanking, improve a child’s developmental health (6).

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), corporal punishment may remedy the problem immediately, but it does not have a long-term impact on the child’s behavior (7). If anything, the child may end up learning that physical force, or even violence, is an acceptable method to get things done.

And, spanking easily does that and more to the child. Read to know the bad impacts of spanking on children.

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[ Read: Effects Of Verbal Abuse On Children ]

Spanking Is Bad For Children

Spanking is an act of violence, whether mild or intense. It is a negative experience for a child and can leave him or her with a lot of pessimistic sentiments, making him feel inferior and guilty. This can damage his self-esteem, and too much spanking will leave the child wondering “What’s wrong with me?”, making him believe that he is not good enough. Here are some more reasons why spanking is bad for children.

  • Spanking is an example of aggressive behavior and could encourage the child to imitate the parent’s actions later in life. It also gives them an idea that violence solves problems. Spanking is also linked to increased aggressive behavior in preschool and school-going children (7).
  • Spanking, even if not very violent, can be painful and instill fear in the child. When the child is in pain and fear, there is little chance that he or she will learn about correcting the behavior.
  • Spanking sends the wrong signals. When you spank, you are implying that the parent can beat the child because he or she is stronger and older than the child. The only thing that a child may learn here is that whoever is stronger and older is right. This could later reflect in the child’s behavior towards others.
  • Studies have proven that spanking may have negative impact on a child’s cognitive behavior and can also increase the risk of mental health problems in the long run. Your intention may not be to create psychological problems for your child, but you may end up doing this when you spank them (8).
  • When you spank a child, you are causing them pain and emotional trauma. And that impairs whatever bond and trust you have built with your child. After all, your child wouldn’t possibly think, “My mother loves me so much that she spanks me”.
  • Considering that spanking is painful and embarrassing, the child would try and evade it. Children are not strong enough to stop the parents from hitting them, but they are smart enough to manipulate. Spanking increases the chances of your child lying to evade the punishment.
  • You may lose your influence on the child if you spank him too much. Kids who get used to getting spanked might learn to tolerate the pain and may not fear the punishment.
  • Spanking may give rise to defiance in the child. Spanking a child too much, knowing that it is embarrassing for them, can make them resent you for it. Over time, they might become rebellious and hate you for it.
  • Spanking also shows disrespect towards the individual, which again can lead to feelings of resentment and hatred.

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[ Read: How To Handle A Disrespectful Child ]

Spanking is bad for parents as well.

When parents look at their precious baby, they don’t think “I can’t wait for him to grow so that I can spank him.” All they think about is how they can love the child, give him the best, and help him become the best person in the world!

But then, helplessness and frustration can push parents to aggressive or violent behaviors like spanking. Spanking is usually the last resort for most parents, who may have tried every other option they knew for correcting the inappropriate behavior. And when they finally spank the child, they end up feeling guilty, more often than not.

What’s worse is that parents may even feel that they have failed at being good parents, given the fact that they had to resort to hitting the child.

So what can parents do, if not spank the child, to discipline them? Keep reading to know.

Do This Instead Of Spanking

When you are angry and frustrated with the child’s behavior, remember that spanking the child will not help in correcting his behavior.

So, the next time you have the urge to spank your child for his unruly behavior, this is what you do.

Calm down!

The first thing to do is calm yourself. Reacting to a child’s behavior will only make yours worse. So instead, stop yourself and calm down. Go to the other room and take a few deep breaths. Come back to the child and talk to them in a calm voice about what you want them to do.

[ Read: Tips To Manage Out Of Control Kids ]

Have some ‘me’ time

Parenting is not easy. From dawn to dusk, you are busy taking care of the children. From making their breakfast and sending them to school to putting them to bed and reading them a bedtime story, parents do everything for their kids. While it is a responsibility that they cannot shun, parents also need to have some time off from parenting.

Taking some time off to spend with yourself can help you relax and rejuvenate your mind. A relaxed mind is better at coming up with alternatives to spanking the kid for behavioral issues.

Be kind but firm

A kind word has more power than a hard beating. No, we are not asking you to go soft on the child when he does something unacceptable. Take a firm stand but explain in kind words that he cannot behave in a way that affects others negatively. When dealing with younger kids, you could use monosyllables like “no” or “bad” to teach them what is good and bad.

Give choices

Instead of spanking, give them a punishment that they would not want, such as cutting privileges and grounding them for a few days. Use a firm tone when you speak, so that they know you mean what you say.


Sometimes, a child’s behavior can push you to the edge, especially when they are disrespectful and defiant. At such a time, give the kid some time out. You could say “I want you to take five minutes to sit quietly and think about what you just said to me. And when I come back, I expect you to treat me with respect.”

Logical consequences

Replace spanking with consequences that are relevant to the child’s behavior. This will help them make the connection between the punishment and their behavior. However, this works only with older kids who are able to reason.

Spanking may have been an acceptable form of discipline for ages. Most parents today have received a spanking as kids. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue the practice. The positive note is that an increasing number of parents are rejecting this technique and are choosing kinder and non-violent behavior correction techniques that actually work.

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[ Read: Common Child Behavioral Problems ]

What’s your opinion about spanking children? Share your views in our comments section.

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Sagari Gongala

Sagari is a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she uses to understand people better. This skill also helps her write better articles about kids and their behavior. She is meticulous in her research and gives you information that could be the ultimate help you’ll need in times of need. An animal lover, vegan, and coffee addict, Sagari puts her mind and soul into whatever she does. During her free time, you'll find her either rescuing a sick/injured animal with a friend, or glued to her couch watching Sons Of Anarchy on Netflix.
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