What do we know about spanking?

We know it can work to increase compliance in the moment.

Parents who use physical punishment often experience that result. Their child misbehaves, then they spank, then the child stops misbehaving. It’s very effective in the short term, so the parents continue to use it. And some parents discover that a tiny swat on the butt is not always effective, but hitting hard enough to inflict pain is really good at eradicating behavior over the long run.

But, physical discipline can have other unintended effects in the long-run.

Of course many individuals who were spanked as children turn out just fine. However, research shows that on average, people who were spanked are more likely to be aggressive, less verbal, more likely to abuse substances, more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, more likely to be obese and have cardiovascular disease, and more likely to abuse their spouse and children (they’ve learned big people can hurt smaller people). They have less gray matter development in their brains.

Read this excellent infographic / article on the Psychology of Spanking to learn more.


Spanking and Brain Science

From studying brain development, we know: When children are happy and feel safe, they learn, grow, explore and their brains develop. When they are stressed or frightened, their brain goes into survival mode. They can definitely earn what not to do.  (i.e. when I do this behavior, my parent hurts me, so I shouldn’t do that behavior again.) But they’re not learning much else. Like what TO DO. (Or how to read, how to throw a ball, how to eat neatly… whatever it is the parent hopes they will learn soon. The survival mode brain doesn’t care about any of those things) Daniel Siegel has written about this neurological effect in The Whole Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. Watch a video about it here.

Alternatives to Physical Punishment

85% of parents say they would rather not spank if they had a discipline alternative they believe would work. You can read my take on positive discipline here, or advice from the CDC here, or follow the recommendations in the Psychology of Spanking article [excerpts below…]

1) Develop a positive, supportive, loving relationship between parent and child:

  • Maintain a positive emotional tone in the home.
  • Pay attention to the child to increase positive behavior…
  • Be consistent in daily activities to reduce resistance and make negative experiences less stressful…
  • Be flexible by listening, negotiation, and involving the child in decision-making. This has been associated with long- term enhancement in moral judgment.

2) Use positive reinforcement strategies to increase desired behaviors…

  • Listen carefully and help them learn to use words to express their feelings.
  • Provide children with opportunities to make choices and to understand the consequences of their choice.
  • Reinforce desirable behaviors with frequent praise and ignore trivial misdeeds…

3) Remove reinforcements or apply punishment to reduce or eliminate undesired behaviors.

  • Be consistent with… removal of privileges (increases compliance from 25% to 80%)
  • Be clear about what the bad behavior is and what the consequences will be.
  • Deliver instruction and correction calmly and with empathy.
  • Provide a strong and immediate consequence when the bad behavior first occurs…
  • Give a reason for the consequence. This helps children learn appropriate behavior

Learn lots more options for discipline tools that help you to teach your child how to be a good person – which should be the final goal of disciplining a child – in the Discipline Toolbox.

2 thoughts on “What do we know about spanking?

  1. Pingback: Discipline is grounded in Relationship | More Good Days - Parenting Blog

  2. Pingback: Your Discipline Toolbox – More Good Days – Parenting Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s