Spare the Rod: What Spanking Teaches Children

I heard a comedian the other day, who really made a good point.  He said essentially this:  “My friends are always questioning my choice not to spank my kids.  They’ll often say, “Never?  You’ll never spank you kids?  There’s no situation where you think you might need to spank your kids?”  When I say I’ll never hit my wife, nobody says, “Never?  You’ll never hit your wife?  There’s no situation where you think you might need to hit your wife?”  This logic got a good laugh from the crowd, and I think it was spot-on.

I was teaching a group of care-givers recently and was surprised as I realized that while they were each aware that spanking was not acceptable in their professional setting, there was definite support for spanking at home.  And so our training took a sidebar.  We talked about what spanking teaches children, and I thought I’d share the same with you.

“Hitting is Acceptable Communication.”

I heard one proponent of spanking say, “Sometimes you just need that spankin’ to get their attention.”  Do you want your child to get people’s attention by hitting, or by using words, eye-contact, and soft touches?  Whichever you choose, be sure your behavior is likewise.

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do.”

We’ve all seen it.  The Grand Pooh-bah of all inconsistencies.  “Stop hitting your brother!” ….followed by a smack.  How can a child make sense of being hit for hitting?  How can an adult say hitting is not allowed, when they themselves will hit?  Spanking, particularly for physical aggression, is hypocrisy and will send confusing messages at the very least.  Very likely, it will also degrade your position as a trusted adult and mentor.

“Might Makes Right.”

For some children, spanking sends the message that it’s not OK to hit…..unless you’re bigger/in charge/ a grown up.  Consequently, many children will feel justified “spanking” other children when they are the older one, the bigger one, or simply want to be in charge.

A Question…

When you spank, are you truly trying to guide the child’s behavior, or are you reacting to your own urges and overpowering anger and frustration?  Responsibly guiding a child can never be done out of anger.  That doesn’t mean we don’t feel angry, but anger can’t be the source of our action.  Guidance has to come from love and respect and a desire to shape positive behavior.  Not a desire to punish with pain.  Some may argue that spanking is not the same as hitting, but a child won’t likely know the difference.

Abuse and Bad Practice

There are two over-arching premises in opposition to spanking.  One is that it can be abusive, and the other is that it is simply bad practice in terms of its effectiveness in teaching children correct behavior.

I was spanked on occasion as a child, and I certainly don’t think I was abused.  But I do know that some people believe they are “disciplining” their children when they resort to abusive tactics in the name of “spanking”.  That line can often be so small it’s nearly invisible.  It’s best not to start something that could easily get out of control.  Something you will inevitably regret.

But even if you are quite certain you would never spank out of anger, never cross that line into abuse, spanking is simply not good practice.  If you’re trying to teach good behavior, can that ever be accomplished by using broken tools? 

Spanking a child does nothing to teach a child good behavior.  It doesn’t build problem-solving skills, or communication skills, or magically instill them with the ability to share.  It teaches them only that they are “bad”, that they need to be “punished” and that your protection and love is conditional.

Better Tools

As the comedian above pointed out, many people are skeptic when they hear a parent will not spank.  They envision a passive, laissez faire parent with an unruly child as a result.  But it isn’t a lack of spanking that causes poor behavior.  It is the lack of tools.  Spanking is a broken tool.  But it’s a tool many people cling to because it’s the only one they have.  Once parents become aware of a full assortment of tools they can use to effectively guide child behavior in a positive way, they can be more confident as they lay their broken tools aside.

Positive guidance posts start here!

Positive Guidance Toolbox can be found here!

Top photo by DAVIDKNOX.
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Filed under Article, social skills, Uncategorized

18 responses to “Spare the Rod: What Spanking Teaches Children

  1. Oh, Amanda, thank you for this important post. Children learn by modeling our behavior. If they see and experience adults hitting children, how confused must they be when they hit another child and are told, “We don’t hit!”

    I love that you don’t just counsel against spanking, but that you have also provided helpful links to provide parents with other positive tools.


  2. Excellent post!
    So true about what it teaches…all of the wrong things… you don’t want a child to use brawn over brain to work through a problem…you don’t want a child to pummel another, so why would anyone choose to spank if they want their children to be peaceful, kind, and loving?
    I grew up in an era when spanking was the way that most parents disciplined their children.
    My mom did not like to spank at all, so she would make a laundry list of our naughty deeds and would give them to my poor dad, who would get home late from work and see what we had done…
    he hated to spank, so he would give us a choice of what we wanted as a punishment, namely:
    a spanking, sent to our rooms for the evening, or miss t.v. for a week.
    I always went without t.v. (could have cared less about t.v.) but it did not teach me a thing…
    My sister always selected going to her room (her dolls were in her room) but it did not teach my sis a thing…
    My brothers always chose the spanking. All it taught them was that they could duke out a problem, and many times, that is what the four of them did with each other.
    My dad would practically implore them to not choose the spanking, as he hated to give them so many hours after they had done whatever it was that got them into trouble.
    My parents were so happy when the whole time out thing came along, but that wasn’t until my much younger brothers came along.
    Time out always seemed like a much more effective way to handle things, as my mom felt comfortable with it and all would be handled before my dad even came home from work…
    know that some people now speak out against time outs, but those to me seem far more effective, as if done correctly, it gives both the child and the parent a chance to cool off and gather their thoughts before having a debriefing of what happened and how things would be better the next time if different, more appropriate choices are made.
    They do not have to be punitive, or a way of shaming a child…to me, they should just be a time for people to be more rational.
    If we want improved behavior, we need to have the child learn to be introspective and for the child to learn to self monitor and choose more appropriate ways to express their frustrations rather than to do something that they should not do.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. Like you, I was occasionally spanked as a child, but don’t see it as abuse. Knowing the research and the fact that it does send the wrong message, I have chosen not to spank my own children. I love that your post set the points up so clearly, and distinguished between abuse and the ineffective nature of spanking. Thank you!

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  5. amandaisamomma

    Umm have you written a book yet? Can I pre-order the one I hope you do write?! Bravo- I just love what you have to say.

    • notjustcute

      Funny you should mention that! I actually do have an ebook in the works and hope to have it out in the next month or so. As for pre-ordering, I’ll be sure to offer subscribed readers advanced notice and an exclusive “early launch” price. Stay tuned! And thanks for your encouragement. It’s great to read back on these kinds of comments when I find myself wondering if anyone will want to read what I’m working on!

  6. Wanted to let you know that I gave Not Just Cute an award…love, love, love your blog…

    Colleen 🙂

    • notjustcute

      Thank you so much, Colleen! “Substance” is one of the most flattering descriptors I could hope for! Thank you so much for being a part of my community of readers! Now, as far as the five words go, I struggle with brevity! Ummm, “Loving, supporting the whole child”. I feel like I’m trying to write a Haiku! At any rate, thank you so much for your words of encouragement!

  7. Shelby

    I LOVE THIS… I told parents this when I worked in social services, before having children, violence only teaches violence. Now that I have my own toddler, I find myself in situations constantly that another parent might find spanking (or other forms of abuse) appropriate. I find empathy works for us…saying, “I know you’re having a hard day, lets hug and calm down. Mommy has hard days too.” After just a few times of using this, my child has stopped hitting me…as we all know, toddlers have difficulty communicating emotions, so hitting is the logical answer for them. I have to say, when I see her with other children and they are frustrated, she babbles then hugs. Shows I’m doing something right. Again, a good supportive note for us parents who are not interested in spanking or other forms of abuse. And yes, I consider spanking abuse.

  8. Pingback: Positive Ways To Discipline Children Without Punishment

  9. Amy

    Sorry, I don’t see this at all. As someone that was spanked as a child I don’t have any abusive tendencies as an adult. I see this with A LOT of my friends and family (and my own children) that were raised the same way. Spanking is never done in anger and it’s WRONG if it is. No, I would never hit my child but that is completely different. It’s very easy to stay on that thin line between spanking and abuse when it is done out love not anger.
    Yes, it is entirely possible to raise a child without spanking but spanking is one way and I believe the Biblical way which is what I’m striving for.
    No offense to anyone who chooses not to. I wouldn’t force my convictions on anyone else. I just needed to put it out there that spanking does not always and as I see it, rarely ever leads to violence.

  10. Thank you so much for this entry! I’ve forwarded it to everyone I know, including a family who believes strongly that spanking is an appropriate behavior. Although it sounds “funny,” I think your reference to the comic in the first paragraph sums it all up in a very logical way…..

  11. Pingback: No Spanking in Sweden « Not Just Cute

  12. Jojo Bizarro

    Finally, someone besides me spoke the truth that spanking is hypocritical!

    Kids learn behavior the same way they learn their first language: namely by watching the adults around them and seeing how they do things. Discipline means making sure that the example you set for your kids is a good one, and you certainly don’t do that with spanking or any other form of violence. That’s why many countries now outlaw spanking even by parents, countries such as Sweden, Italy, Germany and Israel among a growing number. It’s all so simple really: If you don’t want your kids to hit, you don’t hit!

  13. Pingback: No Spanking in Sweden | Not Just Cute

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