1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Is Spanking Children a Good Way to Discipline?

Learn More About the Debate Over Spanking Children


Is Spanking Children a Good Way to Discipline?

Look for alternatives to spanking when you're angry.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The topic of spanking has been a frequent debate. Although most experts advise against it, many parents still report that they use spanking to discipline their children. It’s important to examine some of the potential consequences of spanking when establishing discipline strategies.

Reasons Parents Spank

Sometimes parents spank their children out of desperation. When kids frequently misbehave parents may feel they are at the end of their rope and aren’t sure what else to do. Often they will say, “Nothing else seems to work.” If this is the case, it can be helpful to establish a behavior management plan so you can be prepared with how to respond to behavioral issues. It can also be helpful to learn how to make other discipline strategies more effective.

The other reason parents spank is often out of exasperation. Sometimes spanking seems to be the first line of defense when a parent thinks, “I can’t believe you just did that.” Then they react out of anger or fear with a spanking. Unfortunately, this does not model healthy ways to deal with difficult feelings to children. It can make parents inconsistent with their parenting which promotes anxiety in children.

Short-Term Problems with Spanking

One of the main problems with spanking is that it doesn’t teach kids how to behave appropriately. For example, if a child steps out of the car and runs into the parking without looking for cars and receives a spanking, he doesn’t learn the appropriate way to get out of the car and maintain safety in the parking lot. Effective discipline should teach new skills.

Also, spanking models aggression. Children respond much more to what parents do rather than what they say. So if you spank your child for hitting his brother, it is quite confusing to kids about why it is okay for you to hit but not for him to hit.

Another problem with spanking is that kids often feel shame and learn “I’m bad.” They may spend their time focusing on how they are angry at their parent rather than focusing on what they could do better next time. Kids then begin to make decisions based on thinking “What can I do that won’t get me a spanking” versus “What’s the best choice I can make right now.”

Spanking tends to lose effectiveness over time as well. Sometimes kids decide the misbehavior is “worth it.” A more effective discipline strategy, such as taking away electronics for 24 hours, can be much more effective in motivating kids to behave.

Another issue with spanking is that parents may run out of discipline options for teenagers. If you have always used spanking to discipline your child, what will you do when he is 16? There are plenty of age appropriate discipline strategies that you can use as an alternative to spanking throughout your child’s life.

Alternatives to Spanking

It’s important to distinguish the difference between punishment and discipline. The goal of discipline should be to teach your child new skills. Spanking does not provide your child with any new skills or ideas about how to manage their emotions or behaviors.

For example, if a young child hits his brother because his brother took his toy, and he receives a spanking as a result, he won’t know what to do the next time his brother takes his toy. Discipline would teach him to use his words, problem-solve, and seek help from an adult if necessary.

Read More: 6 Skills Your Discipline Strategies Should Be Teaching Your Kids

There are many discipline strategies that are more effective than spanking. Consider alternative negative consequences that will teach your child. For example, if your child colors on the walls, a logical consequence would be to have him wash the walls. This teaches him to have more respect for property.

Restitution helps restore relationships and helps children learn new skills as well. It can be very effective for aggressive behavior and works well for children and teens of all ages.

Read More: 8 Alternatives to Spanking

The goal of discipline should be to teach your child new skills so your child can grow up with the tools necessary to be a responsible adult. So when determining which discipline strategies to use, think about what you hope your child will gain from your intervention.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.