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To Spank Or Not To Spank?

sevp By sevp on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 8 | Children & Parenting Expertise:

Spanking children is a hot topic in the news today. A recent study, as reported by the media, suggest that if mothers spank their three year-olds at least once a month, they'll become more aggressive five year-olds. Statistically speaking, that may be true when you examine the methodology of the study.

The problem is that media reports don't dig far into the methodology. In fact, much of the media reported it as " Study: Spanking leads to aggressive behavior".

When you look into the study, a few things pop out. For one, they only studied moms. That's fine, because every study has limitations. They also only studied 2500 moms. And what is also not reported is the mental state of the home, such as if the kids live in a violent home, a home full of depression, a home in a poor, dangerous neighborhood, etc. And they only looked at five year-olds. I've met a lot of unspanked five year-olds that turned out to be aggressive anyways.

Another thing to keep in mind when you read reports like this is to differentiate correlation from causation. Just because two things coexist, such as spanking and more aggressive five year-olds, doesn't mean one is the direct cause of the other. The study wasn't completely controlled where the parents were in two groups, raised their children the same way from three to five, and had the same money with the same stressors with the only difference is one spanked and the other didn't. Just like many parents can attest that two children growing up in the same home can be very different at the same age.

So if you aren't a grad student or not into psychology (I'm both) or statistics and you were spanked as a child or spank your children, you might be asking yourself: is this true? Will my child grow up to be aggressive? Should I spank or not spank?

Some things you might want to consider if you are on the "spank" side is WHY you spank your child. Do you do it when you are angry? Did the child misbehave or disobey? If so, what was the harm done? Was my intent to inflict pain for discipline? Or is it the only discipline I use?

You also should consider what your child's development level is and the attention you give him. Three year-olds are pretty smart, but they also lack a lot of impulse control. They know how to push buttons: good ones and bad ones. When they get "tracked" onto doing something, they just do it with no afterthought. Some child-rearing experts think that time-outs (one minute for each child) and loss of privileges should be enough. But if you consider how far ahead a three year-old thinks, you'll be doing a lot of these non-corporal disciplinary techniques.

I published another article about spanking on another website and had quite an array of responses. Many people, to include myself, felt that spanking was o.k. if children were harming themselves or others. People also commented that spanking was a bully tactic. Others said they were spanked as children and couldn't think of any times they didn't deserve it, given the actions and warnings leading to a spanking. They were told why they were getting spanked before they got it.

There were also questions about what a "spank" actually is. Is it a continuous, hand-driven spank or with a foreign object like a wooden spoon? Is it one hard swap on the butt or several hard swats? Some could have cared less and thought all spanking was bad, while others embraced the differences.

Personally I don't think spanking should be the ONLY form of discipline or the first form; and it should generally be stopped and rare by age 7. At that point kids know right from wrong and have had enough personal negative experiences from poor impulse control, like falling off the couch and hitting the head after being told what could happen. A three year-old might not know what it's like to be run over by a car, but he knows a pop on the butt every time he bolts for the street has a little sting. And a parent knows which of the two is worse.

Yet you may raise your children in communities where those dangers aren't as present. Your kids may even be generally peaceful three year-olds that don't have much impulse other than to get a cookie off the kitchen counter. A little warning and redirecting may be all that's needed, so you don't have to assume that all three year-olds are going to need corporal punishment.

So to spank or not to spank? That's the question. Your thoughts...