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Should Parents Spank Their Children?
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Oct 12, 2008
Updated on October 12, 2008.
According to National Family Violence Surveys and a number of research studies, over 90 percent of parents use some form of punishment that involves inflicting physical pain when disciplining their children.
In considering this statistic, the questions that come to mind are:
Can spanking our children lead to them having emotional problems in the future?
Are there methods of disciplining our children that do not involve hitting our children?
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, corporal punishment can lead to emotional and behavioral problems down the road. In fact, this study suggests that children who are spanked even occasionally are more likely to experience depression or low self-esteem compared to children who are not spanked.
The study in question was conducted by Dr. Paul Frick of the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. Dr. Frick and his research team were not able to find any positive effects that come from spanking.
In fact, they found that children who are spanked can learn that when they are angry and upset at another person, hitting is appropriate behavior. Put another way, getting spanked does not help children identify inappropriate behavior, nor does it teach them what they can do differently in similar circumstances in the future.
Alternatives To Spanking
Dr. Frick and his team suggest that taking away privileges, assigning extra chores, and applying "time outs" are more effective and useful forms of discipline than spanking.
They also suggest that the key is to be consistent with whatever form of non-hitting discipline that parents choose to apply, and to vary the forms of discipline used according to the age of the child. In general, Dr. Frick has found that assigning a time out is effective for younger children, while taking away privileges like television and toys tends to be effective for older children.
Once children are old enough to understand and communicate with their parents, the key is to provide clear choices when they are behaving inappropriately, and then to make it clear that any discipline that arises is due to them making the wrong choice.
For example, if Johnny hits his mother on her leg with his tennis racket, his mother can say "Johnny, when you hit mommy or anyone else it hurts, so you can either play nicely with your tennis racket, or mommy will have to take it away."
If, after having understood this, Johnny hits his mother or anyone else again, his mother can say "I see from your behavior that you don't want to play with your tennis racket right now," and take the racket away for an appropriate amount of time.
Parents who are interested in learning more about this style of parenting can read:
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk - Good for all ages
How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk - Good for teens
To answer the title of this article, I firmly believe that parents should not spank their children. I wish that every country would follow the examples of Austria, Finland, Germany and Sweden in making it illegal to use corporal punishment at home or in schools.
If parents are not going to spank their children when their children are big and strong enough to physically overpower their parents, it seems to me that choosing to spank them when they are small is somewhat thoughtless, and perhaps even cowardly. I believe that every human being can be thoughtless and cowardly at times, so I am not condemning people who spank their children; I am condemning the act of hitting another human being.
If parents choose to spank their children, I can only hope that they do so with broken hearts rather than out of anger. To discipline out of anger makes the discipline more about the parent's lack of emotional control rather than about teaching their children how to mature into well functioning adults.
If you would like some ideas on how to effectively raise emotionally healthy children without violence or physical intimidation, please view the related article below:
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