Is Spanking Okay?

sad_child2Many parents grew up getting the occasional slap or two on the rear and may believe that it’s an effective form of discipline and nothing to get too excited about.

It used to be that some psychologists even advised parents to spank disobedient children between the ages of 2 and 6 as a matter of course.

But not so much anymore. The trend has clearly gone the other way and now there is even more evidence to prove that this old-school technique does more harm than good.

This particular study, done at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, and reported on by CNN, found that the negative effects of spanking can be long lasting, cause a worsening in behavior, and interfere with mental development.

The researchers noted that little children don’t have the ability to really understand right from wrong or the notion of punishment itself to get anything out of spanking (besides pain, fear and confusion, perhaps). The kids who were spanked as one-year-olds behaved more aggressively at two and scored lower on thinking skills at three.

For the most part, parents tend to duplicate the strategies that their own parents used on them, even when they are harmful and ineffective. This is how family violence gets passed down from one generation to the next. In a way, these behaviors become “normal” even though they clearly are not.

But there’s always room for improvement and as parents it’s up to us to keep learning how to do our jobs better. Parenting classes can teach other more effective ways to dole out the discipline and there’s no shame in signing up. There is no innate instinct when it comes to parenting. We have to learn it all. And if our models were not too terrific, we can always get the straight scoop from professionals who are there to help.

All things considered, it doesn’t pay to turn to physical punishment when you’re angry and dealing with an uncooperative child. Spanking not only doesn’t work, it creates other problems as well. And if you’re serious about teaching them to “use their words” instead of hitting, then you’ll have to take your own advice if you want them to listen. Never forget, “Monkey see, monkey do.”

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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