There have been studies over the past few decades indicating that spanking is bad for kids… Part of the problem with these studies, however, is that they tend to categorize “spanking” as anything from a hand to a stick to a blow with a broom – not what most of us would consider appropriate spanking for a specific offense involving something like direct disobedience and then an appropriate, one or two swat spanking with something like a paddle or wooden spoon. A couple of other things about this new report bother me specifically, including the fact that they point out:
“Spanking is most commonly used among parents who were spanked themselves, who live in the South, and/or who identify themselves as conservative Christians. These parents also tend to believe in the effectiveness of spanking or believe the child is at fault in a given situation, the study said.”
Hmmm… I would say that I would HOPE the child is at fault before they are punished. I would also not use a method of discipline that I didn’t think was working. However, since people who live in the south and who identity themselves as Conservative Christians are being specifically singled out as parents who spank, it raises red flags about the possibility of future prejudice against this group from social workers, etc.
Another thing in the study that raises red flags is a recommendation that “all parents can benefit from training classes.” Since the new administration wants to have government-subsidized nurses in the home from the moment a child is born (read more here ), I think this new study will give them even more fuel to push a program that would place government workers in private homes with new parents – whether they want them there or not.
Based on the previous comments about southern Christian parents, this might be pushed even harder in our region and especially among “Christian” parents who believe in spanking.
If you’re interested in reading the whole article for yourself, you can find it here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/16/spanking.children.parenting/index.html
If you do use spanking as a method of discipline, I would recommend a few common sense practices…
– NEVER spank your child in public. If your child is acting out in public, take them to a bathroom or (even better) excuse yourself from the situation, leave the restaurant or store or whatever, and administer whatever discipline is most appropriate for that situation. Even if you’re not spanking the child, it’s best to administer discipline without others watching.
– Even if you believe it’s your right to spank, do not advertise to others the fact that you spank your child.
– Use spanking sparingly. Try to make consequences fit the “crime” so to speak and when possible, avoid spanking altogether. We reserve spanking for direct situations of direct defiance. Fortunately, we haven’t had many of those situations and we rarely have to use spanking.
– When you do spank, make sure you’re calm and that the child knows what is happening. I’d suggest discussing the transgression with the child, THEN have the child bend over a bed or whatever and then giving one or two firm swats on the buttocks. For young children, you might also swat the palm of the hand. I’d also recommend that you discuss your discipline measures with your child(ren). Make sure your child knows what to expect.
Obviously it is detrimental for children to be HIT, but I also think the recommendation (in the report) of verbal rather than physical punishment could be just as detrimental. (The study showed that “verbal punishment” didn’t have detrimental effects like spanking. Hmmm.) So much of the child’s reaction is going to depend on how parents approach it. If children know what is expected of them (moral standards) and they know what to expect when they do not adhere to these standards (spanking, time out, whatever), and then punishment is administered from a loving parent, it’s likely that the child will actually receive “discipline,” which means to train or correct a child.
While some readers may not use spanking as their method of discipline and that’s fine, but I thought those of you who do occasionally spank your children might want to be aware of this new study. I’d recommend caution when the subject comes up among others in the general public because there have been cases where homeschool parents were taken to court on this issue alone.