Just the mention of the word often provokes heated controversy. Good people debate this issue and feel strongly about their opposing positions.
Some feel that it is impossible to raise an emotionally healthy, well-adjusted, well-behaved child without spanking.
Others feel just the opposite, believing that the long-term effects of spanking produce children who are not healthy or well-adjusted, even if they are well-behaved.
While acknowledging that many parents and educators have strong feelings about this sensitive issue, I ask you to consider the following nine reasons not to spank.
1. Unnecessary: This, I believe, is the single most important reason. It takes no intelligence or forethought or understanding to spank. Anyone can hit. Parents are in the unique position of being able to hit and get away with it, mostly because they usually are twice as big as their children. Fearing retaliation, few parents would hit others the way some parents hit their children.
2. Power: Spanking teaches the child that the most powerful person gets his own way. Negotiation, compromise, understanding, and relationship all take a back seat to the swift and painful punishment of the bigger and thus more intimidating adult.
3. Arbitrary: Spanking is not logically connected to the transgression. There are always other methods more directly related to the transgression than spanking. For an example, if a child spills his milk, he should be made to clean the mess up (or at least help if he is too young). Or if a child fails to clean his room, he should be denied other privileges until the room is clean.
4. Short-Term: Although the child gets the certain message that fear of being spanked works, this message is short-lived. Fear is a very short term motivator and more often than not fuels more aggressive, more resistant, and less compliant behavior when the authority figure is not watching.
5. Depression: Studies reveal that children who are spanked suffer more academically, have more delinquency patterns as adolescents, and are more likely to have chronic depression as adults.
6. Revenge rather than Review: The feeling, “I did the crime, and now I paid the time,” is reinforced with spanking. Because there are no logical connections between the crime and the punishment, children often feel relieved to just get the punishment over with. This means they fail to review the behavior and understand why it got them into trouble. And because the natural response to be being hit is either fight or flight, children search for ways to get revenge.
7. Confusing: “I told you not to hit your sister.” Does such a statement really make sense when you are in the process of hitting your child for hitting his sister? Or the statement, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Do you really believe a child understands this statement. I doubt it. Even college students who are well into adulthood laugh at the absurdity of this statement.
8. External: Spanking is an external motivator, which means that the child is being controlled from an outside source. Intrinsic motivators, although far more difficult to teach, are really what the child needs.
9. Squelched Spirit: Although the child may become more obedient, this is often at the expense of a squelched spirit. The child goes through the motions of doing the right things partly out of fear. It’s important to ask ourselves as parents, “Do I want my child to do the right things because he fears me or because he wants to do what is right?”