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One empowered woman's struggle against the world
Friday April 19th 2019

Spanking: Effective Discipline

mom says
Smack in the middle of the “why are kids violent” issue is spanking. The groups against spanking want you to believe that spanking teaches violence. I happen to disagree and you can see why here at We Don’t Teach Kids Violence. Do away with the theories and just look at the facts and you will see that babies are inherently violent and display violent behaviors long before anyone teaches them anything. It is actually parental response to their violent displays as babies that teaches them not to be violent.

The Theory of the Anti-spanking Groups

The theory goes that spanking is hitting, hitting is violence, violence is abuse so therefore spanking is abuse and teaches kids to be violent. I think we all agree abuse is bad so there is no need for me to even go down that road here. The questions are, does all spanking = hitting, does all hitting = violence and does all violence = abuse? All three of those have to be true to come to the conclusion that spanking = abuse and therefore teaches kids violence. The answer is no to all three. Not all spanking is hitting by the definition, not all hitting is violence by the definition and not all violence is abuse by the definition. The groups against spanking would like you to believe it is all the same because it fits their theories and the agenda they are trying to put forth in the anti-spanking community.

Let me work backwards. Not all violence is abuse. People have violent reactions and commit violent acts that have nothing to do with abuse at all. A parent protecting a child can have a violent reaction that is not abusive, it is actually to protect the child. Look to the movies and you will see all sorts of violence in the name of good, justice and protecting the innocent. Look to history and you will see the same thing. So to say all violence = abuse is plainly false.

Is all hitting considered violence? Again the groups against spanking want you to believe that all hitting is violence but it just isn’t. A parent who smacks a child’s hand away from touching a hot stove is hitting that child but there is no violence there. The hitting is done out of fear for the child’s safety. A parent can easily reason that when they are in fear of their child being hurt they instinctively react it is not always a thought out process. A child who hits another child out of frustration and not knowing any other way is not considered violence. It is signs of violent behavior and needs to be corrected but it is not violence. True violence is done out anger and/or with some well formed thought to hurt another person or thing. So the groups against spanking cannot argue all hitting is violence.

Is all spanking considered hitting? Spanking is not hitting. It is controlled and with an intent to correct or prevent further violent behavior and not done out of anger so by the definition it isn’t hitting. The anti-spanking groups’ argument has failed as not all spanking is hitting, not all hitting is violence and not all violence is abuse. With that established then spanking isn’t abuse and doesn’t teach violence.

The connection from spanking to abuse and it teaching violence was made for the purpose of doing away with corporal punishment. If the anti-spanking group could get the public to accept that by definition spanking was hitting then they could argue that hitting is violence and violence abuse. They could then point to legitimate studies that abuse begets abuse so therefore spanking perpetuates and teaches kids abuse and by their definition abuse is violence so spanking teaches violence. Just the fact that someone has to change the definitions of things and then walk a person through the logic should tell you there are serious flaws in the logic.

It Is Not The Punishment; It Is How It Is Administered

I personally have no issue with spanking, when done properly, being used to correct and modify behavior. Any punishment can be abusive so it really isn’t the punishment itself but more how it is administered. Time-outs can be abusive. Isolating a child for a long period of time can be abusive. Proper administration of time-outs is acceptable though. Yelling at a child can be emotionally abusive but not all yelling is emotionally abusive. It really comes down to how the punishment is administered.

Any punishment given out of anger can be negative and create an undesirable effect such as encouraging a child’s own natural tendencies towards violence. So the argument that spanking is the cause of violence in children is false. It is the manner in which a spanking is administered, just like any other punishment. When a punishment is administered out of anger children get a message that they are powerless and at the mercy of the punisher. The message of: I am bigger than you, have more power and authority than you entitles me to take my anger out on you is the message kids receive. The next time the child gets angry they will react in the same manner.

A punishment that is administered in cool, calm and matter of fact manner sends a different message. First children have to consider what is going on. We want them to think about what they have done wrong not just see that what they have done something that makes us angry. If you display the anger then all children will connect with is the anger. We want children to connect with right and wrong, with consequences and we want them to be able to reason between right and wrong. The message we want to send is: your action was wrong and their are consequences for wrong actions; there is a right and wrong. A punishment administered properly will send that message, even a spanking. It isn’t about anger or violence or abuse it is about consequence. When a child is spanked properly it triggers a thought process. They recognize you aren’t angry or acting out of anger. Children recognize feelings even if they can’t verbally express them. Children can tell the difference between an angry parent and a calm parent. If you have followed up the spanking or any punishment with an explanation, which is way it should be, then they make the connection that the spanking or punishment was discipline and a consequence for their behavior not just an angry parent exerting power over them.

Kids are born with violent tendencies and we can cultivate those tendencies if we administer any punishment in the wrong way or in excess. Children certainly learn from their parents behavior. Too permissive and a child’s own natural tendencies will surface as they are not being taught to address those inherent violent tendencies. Over strict can have the same negative effect. It has been found consistently that excess in either direction can have undesirable effects. That being what it is, the punishment itself is not the cause, it is the manner in which it is administered. Spanking itself does not create a violent child. Spanking out of anger could indeed create a violent child. That applies to all disciplinary action though so to say spanking could create a violent child, you would also have to say that time-outs could create a violent child because both administered improperly can cultivate the already present violent tendencies kids have.

Progressive Discipline

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe spanking should be the “go to” punishment. I am not really on board with the whole concept of punishing kids. Kids need to learn correct and acceptable behavior more than be punished for bad behavior. I think it would be better to use a term such as corrective action but truth is the terminology is irrelevant if you do it correctly. Punishment is the term most used though so it is the term I use here. I believe more in progressive discipline that teaches a child. You don’t start out with the worst punishment for a first infraction. Even under the theory of time-outs, you don’t put them in time out for the maximum time. You start out with a shorter time and increase that time. Spanking should be used in the same manner. If a lesser disciplinary technique can resolve or modify the behavior then it should be used first. Progressing to the level of spanking only when absolutely necessary. Discipline is made up of a variety of tools and techniques. The goal is to teach them right and wrong behaviors and there are consequences for their behaviors. If a child can learn that through a time-out or other technique then there is no need to go directly to spanking for every misdeed.

Children need to learn consequences. If you have used three or four different disciplinary techniques and the child is still defiant and not modifying the behavior then the consequences you are using don’t matter to them. With progressive discipline you have to keep going until you reach a consequence that does resonate with them. It is ineffective to keep putting them in a time out if they keep exhibiting the same behavior after being in time-out several times. If the consequence means nothing to them and doesn’t bother them then it won’t deter the behavior or give them cause to recognize it as being wrong and change the behavior.

Spanking done properly is effective and it can not only deter behavior it can help reinforce the other disciplinary tools and techniques as well. These days most parents who do use spanking properly will tell you they use it rarely because it is rarely necessary to repeat it. Once a child has had a spanking and it worked then applying the other techniques becomes easier because the child recognizes that if they don’t modify the behavior and learn, that eventually it will progress to another spanking.

There is no reason to beat a child. There is no reason to leave bruises on a child. That is not spanking that is abuse. Just as putting a child in time-out and isolating them from everyone for several hours is abuse. Just as yelling obscenities at them or telling them they are nothing but bad kids is abuse. Any disciplinary technique can be taken to far and turn into abuse. This is where parents need to be educated on all the wonderful disciplinary techniques that are available and how to use them properly and progressively. In a good deal of cases, reaching the level of spanking doesn’t even occur these days. In times past, spanking was the go to disciplinary tool because it was so quick and effective but we have learned there are better ways we should try first. Use the different techniques to progress discipline until they learn but never take it to levels of abuse ever.

Other Techniques Recommended by the Anti-Spanking Groups

There are many things the anti-spanking groups call disciplinary techniques but fact is, if it isn’t going to allow the child be able to determine right from wrong and recognize there are consequences then it isn’t really discipline. These anti-spanking groups recommend a variety of different things and call them discipline but they aren’t discipline just ways to stop an undesirable behavior. The difference is that discipline helps the child learn what and why a behavior is undesirable and the consequence for such behavior whereas some of the techniques offered by the anti-spanking groups just get the child to stop the behavior without ever learning why it is wrong to begin with.

I have been told to use redirection but all that is, is a distraction. If I distract enough, the child will stop trying to do that activity. The child doesn’t learn why you don’t want them to do the activity or that there are consequences that come with doing the activity, they just learn you don’t want them to do it. If the child can’t recognize why you don’t want them to do it then they have a difficult time reasoning that it is wrong.

There is positive reinforcement. The theory is if you reinforce the positive things your child does they will do those things instead of things that are wrong for them to do. I have never understood how this teaches a child right from wrong. It certainly teaches a child what you want them to do but it doesn’t help teach a child why certain things are wrong to do nor does it teach consequences for doing wrong things.

Never tell a child no is a big one. Why the experts determined telling a child no was harmful is beyond me. Children need to recognize that they don’t always get what they want. If you always tell them yes and never let them feel they can’t have something or do something, they build up this belief that they are entitled. Once they get older and you need to be able to tell them no, you have a fight because now they feel they are entitled. Why set yourself for issues later on down the road? All you do by never telling them no is set yourself up for problems because eventually you will have to teach your child no. They will have to learn that sometimes they don’t get everything they want and the answer isn’t always going to be yes. They will eventually have to learn how to cope when they are told no. All you accomplish by not telling them no is delay the inevitable and make it harder on yourself and the child.

Reasoning and logic are a go to technique as well. I fail to understand how adults think children can grasp the amount of reasoning and logic they want them to. They are just children, they aren’t adults. Just because as an adult you can grasp it doesn’t mean a child can. This is the one anti-spanking groups use the most. Love, logic and reasoning that is all a child needs. We don’t hit adults we reason with them so we shouldn’t hit children we should reason with them. Fact is children are not adults. Their reasoning and logic skills are not on the same level as adults. And we do hit adults sometimes. If an adult has broken the rules and resist arrest, we definitely use force. But if a child breaks the rules and is defiant (essentially resist arrest) then using force is considered bad. Imagine an adult that is resisting arrest. Do you really believe that if the cop would just speak in calm and soothing voice or make eye contact and hug them or just listen to them and explain that they aren’t bad just the action they have done is bad; they will stop resisting and just get in line? That is silly and we don’t even attempt that. But that is what we are suppose to do with children because somehow a child who is less marture than an adult will respond to love, logic and reasoning that even an adult doesn’t respond to. When a child is being defiant they have already reasoned that either they are willing to suffer the consequence or the consequence is not one that matters to them. More reasoning on your part is not going to change things.

I believe some of these techniques recommended by the anti-spanking groups can be used with proper discipline techniques to teach children and could be benificial. However, without proper discipline, including spanking, children are not just going to know what is right and wrong so it takes more than these recommended techniques. Children are not just going to know about consequences. Children will give in to their own instinctive tendencies and if we don’t teach them how to deal with those tendencies and we don’t teach them about right and wrong and consequences, then good chance they will become violent children and violent adults. We need to use all the disciplinary techniques in the proper way to help our children be civilized and not the barbarian that exist in us all.

What Makes Kids Violent

There are a multitude of things than can cultivate the violent tendencies that already exist in us all. It doesn’t end with childhood. We see reports all the time of adults who have given into those tendencies and committed heinous crimes. We have seen reports of people who were always good and never did anything bad suddenly do something very violent. Do we really go back and say, “oh you were spanked, that explains it”. It doesn’t explain it. We all have the same violent tendencies inside of us we just learn differently how to cope and deal with them. The better a child is taught not to be violent the more successful they will be as the grow into adulthood. A child who receives little discipline or has abusive actions taken against them is more likely to give in to the violent tendencies. It is not about one specific thing. Parents who were never given proper discipline or taught how to cope and deal with violent tendencies will have a hard time teaching their children putting forth a cycle of violent behavior.

Spanking has gotten a bad rap. Because spanking uses force people reason it causes violence but the facts don’t support that theory. Any punishment in excess can cultivate violent tendencies touching is not a requirement. There was a time when paddling in schools was commonplace. It was an accepted practice and actually is still an accepted practice in some States to this day. Because paddling was so prevalent the anti-spanking groups pointed to paddling and the abusive properties as a reason to ban spanking. However, the anti-spanking groups didn’t bother to mention that paddling and spanking are defined in two different ways. Paddling goes beyond the definition of spanking. In other words, paddling is an excessive form of spanking and we already know punishments in excess can cultivate violent behavior in kids.

To completely dismiss spanking as an effective tool to correct and modify a child’s behavior is not in the best interest of our children. Spanking worked for many children. Children who were spanked properly and within the narrow definition of what proper spanking in benefited. Children were less violent because they learned not to be violent. Today we are so focused on making our kids feel good about themselves and making them believe they are all sweetness and light from birth and it is us the parents that make them violent that we are actually cultivating the violent tendencies in our children. Children are not all sweetness and light from birth they have the same violent tendencies as everyone else and need to be taught to cope and deal with those tendencies. It also doesn’t help that both parents work more now than before, neighborhood and community programs are less available, children are exposed to more and more information at younger ages and we have created this sense that kids are just little adults but all of that is for another post.

Spanking is an effective tool when used properly. It is but one tool though. If you don’t want to use it then you don’t have to use it, just as you can rule out using other disciplinary tools. However, if all has failed and spanking is the only thing you haven’t tried, give it some consideration. It is effective, it can teach children not to be violent, it can teach children consequences and it can teach children right from wrong. Don’t be afraid to use spanking properly, it is not abuse and it is not illegal in the United States despite what the anti-spanking groups would like you to believe.
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Reader Feedback

8 Responses to “Spanking: Effective Discipline”

  1. TealRose says:
    I am a 56 yr old grandmother who was spanked and who believes that it IS abuse. And useless. It IS violence and it IS hitting. Even my dictionary tells me that!

    Violence – behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt someone or something.
    Cambridge Dictionaries Online states:
    Spank : to HIT a child with the hand, usually several times on the bottom as a punishment

    It DOES damage children. Emotionally and physically and sometimes is even sexually abusive, even if the parent doesn’t intend it to be.

    My parents lost me from the first smack of the first spanking – forever. I lost my trust, respect and love for them. I couldn’t trust them, or respect them as I don’t respect anyone who hits people or animals, and I couldn’t love them as they just killed it stone dead. I learned they didn’t love me – and no, that post spanking pep talk of ‘oh we love you’ meant not a thing. They had hit me, you don’t hit people you love. [No you can’t spank with love. Try putting that into the sentence where your husband hits you and loves you .. er ..no .. he is abusive!] I learned that adults lied and would and could get away with anything. I learned fear, pain, anger, hatred and resentment. The fear & physical pain has gone now, but the rest is still seething inside me. And believe me, I am a quiet person.

    No child NEEDS to be hit. I can’t hit my husband, or dog but it would seem if I just say the magic word of ‘discipline’ then I can hit my child and everyone thinks its fine! Why is hitting our defenceless children not seen as the heinous crime it is ?? Discipline means to teach NOT to hit. If as an adult you can’t use your superior brain to think of a million and one ways to teach teach your child right from wrong without violence I despair.

    Just because something has been done for centuries doesn’t make it right. Wife beating, slavery and rape and buggery of small children in Ancient Rome have all been banned and so should hitting children.

    Not all children will become violent after being spanked but a great many do. Many adults say they were spanked and are fine. Really? What right minded person would think hitting someone 2/3 smaller than you right ?? And … how much FINER might you have been if you hadn’t been subjected to this ritualised torture? Hitting when angry can lead to real physical damage and death, hitting COLD blooded is just plain .. vile.

    No, it’s not illegal in the States, and I feel so sad for all of the children and adults who are still being hurt by the people they look up to to love and protect them. Their parents. And schools. It IS illegal here in much of Europe – and we are NOT going to hell in hand basket, we do not have as much violence or hatred here as the States. And THAT is a fact.

    Learn to love and teach your children right from wrong, stop being lazy, and brutal to the most vulnerable of our society.

    I never hit my children – and they are fine adults.

    • Stephanie says:
      You sound extremely angry about something that happened in your childhood, and so your ignorant biased opinion has no relevance or credible, nor is it factual. Your right that a child doesn’t NEED to get spanked, but sometimes the need does arise. People are saying that we need to talk to our children instead, but they aren’t considering the intellectual level of a three year old. A discussion is not going to help them understand not to hit their sister, but a pop on the bottom will. I believe in spanking and you can not sit here and bold faced say that I do not love my child. I live for him and he is my whole life. His well-being is the only thing that matters to me. So the love I have for my child completely proves your whole theory absolutely false. You might consider actually thinking before you write an irrelevant opinion with insufficient proof of truth or certainty.
      • TealRose says:
        Ignorant and biased eh?? Hmm.. interesting! Says a lot about how you think my friend.

        So … just because a three year old can’t reason – you will hit him to ‘help him stop hitting his sister’ ? Really? I mean .. aren’t you just perpetuating the violence and showing him what to do? It also shows me that if anyone is ignorant here, it is yourself because you clearly do NOT know anything about child development and age related behaviour.

        Also .. I now live in a foreign country where my new language skills aren’t yet up to being enough sometimes in the local shops etc. So .. should the locals hit me because I don’t understand, or because I can’t always make myself understood?? Should we hit others who don’t or can’t reason or understand eg learning disabled people – of all ages ?? I think not.

        YOU might very well love your child – but spanking /hitting do NOT go together. Try asking ANY abused woman/man! I bet your husband loves you too – but if he hit you because you did something he didn’t like – like answering him back, or whatever you would call it abuse. Quite rightly.

        How is it that all pro spankers conveniently disagree with the majority of reports and health officials, when even the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against it? Is it because you simply cannot give up something you have thought to be right as you cannot think of anything else ? If so .. I suggest gentle parenting classes – for the sake of the children and for your sake too.

        No, hitting is wrong plain and simple – as you probably tell your children ‘Use your words not your hands’ …

  2. YourMama says:
    @TealRose: You sound dumb!
  3. Hunter Rose says:
    Teal Rose;

    Please try to read the articles that you respond to before doing so. Ignorance is not a trait of the thoughtful.

    -HR

  4. TealRose says:
    Ignorance of how to treat another human being .. a child is a far worse trait. To not understand that spanking is hitting and damages in many ways. To not understand that there are a million better ways that you can teach a child, and raise it to adult hood – none of which put fear, hate, anger, resentment, lack of trust, etc into their hearts and souls.

    There IS not ‘proper way of spanking a child’ – just as there is NO proper way to hit you … or you neighbour .. or your dog or even the criminal in jail.

    • ehenders says:
      @Teal Rose

      I understand exactly how you feel. These mothers here are delusional. Spanking is inflicting INTENTIONAL pain, harm, and suffering. Regardless, if the punisher is calm or irate. This instills in the mind of the child that inflicting pain is acceptable when “teaching” someone a lesson. Spanking is violence and violates human rights.

      On the other hand, I absolutely agree with what “Mom says” about moderation in disciplinary techniques. While this may seem like common sense to most, others often lack rationale– unfortunately, that leads to extreme and adverse effects.

      However, her argument on “reasoning and logic” is completely ridiculous and absurd. The whole notion of raising a child is to develop self-sufficiency and self-control. This is can not be accomplished without learning to use reasoning and logic. Those are the most fundamental components! The way you convey these fundamental components to a child is determined by their age and the progression of their development. It’s as simple as that.

      Child development is only an emerging field of psychological research. This is one of the reasons why old discipline techniques were cruel– they had no knowledge or education regarding how children developed. Now that we have a better understanding, we can implement effective disciplinary techniques that promote the development of healthy conscientious young human beings. Likewise, it is true that there is a decline in corporal punishment by modern parents due to the fact that parents are paying more attention to the welfare of their children (mentally and physically). This is all attributed to increase public knowledge of child development and public health.

  5. ehenders says:
    @Teal Rose

    I understand exactly how you feel. These mothers here are delusional. Spanking is inflicting INTENTIONAL pain, harm, and suffering. Regardless, if the punisher is calm or irate. This instills in the mind of the child that inflicting pain is acceptable when “teaching” someone a lesson. Spanking is violence and violates human rights.

    On the other hand, I absolutely agree with what “Mom says” about moderation in disciplinary techniques. While this may seem like common sense to most, others often lack rationale– unfortunately, that leads to extreme and adverse effects.

    However, her argument on “reasoning and logic” is completely ridiculous and absurd. The whole notion of raising a child is to develop self-sufficiency and self-control. This is can not be accomplished without learning to use reasoning and logic. Those are the most fundamental components! The way you convey these fundamental components to a child is determined by their age and the progression of their development. It’s as simple as that.

    Child development is only an emerging field of psychological research. This is one of the reasons why old discipline techniques were cruel– they had no knowledge or education regarding how children developed. Now that we have a better understanding, we can implement effective disciplinary techniques that promote the development of healthy conscientious young human beings. Likewise, it is true that there is a decline in corporal punishment by modern parents due to the fact that parents are paying more attention to the welfare of their children (mentally and physically). This is all attributed to increase public knowledge of child development and public health.

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