What do we know about spanking?

We know it works. We know spanking can increase compliance in the moment.

Parents who use physical punishment often discover that. 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 they discover that a small 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, it also has a lot of other unintended effects in the long-run.

People who were spanked are more likely to be aggressive (they’ve learned that big people can hurt smaller people), more likely to be delinquent, 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 have lower I.Q. and less gray matter development in their brains.

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

spankFrom 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 learn what not to do to create this situation again (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.) Daniel Siegel has written about this neurological effect in The Whole Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. Watch a video about it here.

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
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