Before You Spank

I once saw a poll in a parenting magazine about spanking that I found interesting. The choices were A–parents who used spanking as a form of discipline and were fine with it B–parents who made a conscious decision to not spank and C–parents who used spanking but wished they didn’t.

What struck me most about the poll was not that there are parents who happily use spanking, but the large amount of voters who fell into the C category, or reluctant spankers. Parents who wanted to do differently, but didn’t have the tools to change their behavior or technique.

My husband and I don’t spank, for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is continuity. The rule at preschool is ‘hands on your own body’ and we feel that spanking would override that message and provide conflicting messages about that rule. However, if your kids have done something or you’ve reached the end of your rope, it can be really hard to reign in your anger or frustration.

If you truly want to change your discipline technique, before you spank, consider:

  • What did my child do?
  • How am *I* feeling? How are my own emotions affecting my ability to make decisions? Am I tired, feeling unwell, frustrated or stressed out? Could I benefit from stepping away to calm down, or allowing my partner to take over?
  • Is the infraction really worth a heavy punishment? If so, will spanking my child provide a short term solution, a long term solution, or cause more problems?
  • What do I expect to happen from this punishment?
  • Is it MY fault that my child is misbehaving? (For example, if you’ve taken a tired child to a nice restaurant and expect them to sit quietly while the adults talk, is it fair to administer a punishment for expectations that are unrealistic?)
  • Is it NO ONE’s fault that my child is misbehaving? (developmental appropriateness, etc)
  • Am I being influenced by the presence of family or strangers? If we were at home, or alone, would my reaction to my child’s behavior be different? Am I afraid of looking like an ineffective or overly permissive parent in front of another adult?

Considering all these questions will mean you will need to delay your reaction. It doesn’t mean you let your child continue in an unsafe manner, or behave in an unacceptable way. It means you need to calmly remove or redirect your child until you’ve decided how to handle it, and it also means that flash of anger or frustration will have died down a little too, allowing you to make a decision in a reasonable manner. It means you, as a parent, need to teach yourself to hold back your impulse to spank. After all that, are you still interested in using it as a discipline technique?

Can you add any to the list?

16 thoughts on “Before You Spank”

  1. I was spanked as a child, as were my 2 brothers. BUT, the way my parents did it was different. They NEVER spanked for general misbehaviour or accidents. It always had to be the result of DIRECT disobedience – something we’d already been told not to do, warned about, and we did it anyway. And my parents always tried to make sure we knew WHY we were being spanked, it was never done out of anger, frustration, or spur-of-the-moment discipline. This is the way they taught me that spanking should be done. NEVER out of anger, and ONLY in relation to direct disobedience.
    All this info was taken from, and learned from, the books, “Dare to Discipline” and “The Strong-Willed Child”.
    There IS a right way and a wrong way to spank, or discipline in any form, for that matter. It all has to be done in love, and of course you have to use what works best for you and your child. Every child and situation is different, and you have to work with what you have.

    1. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that there is a right way to spank, ever. I don’t see how spanking a child that is disobedient is accepted yet slapping a wife for a perceived disobedience to a husband is considered abuse (I agree it is abuse, please don’t misunderstand). Both are hitting…even if the hitting is done patiently and purposefully…they are both hitting. Spanking is just a more acceptable word for hitting in my opinion. “I love you so I hit you to help you learn.” Take spanking out of all of this and substitute hitting – it really changes the effect, doesn’t it?

    2. This is an attachment parenting website, where spanking is not a recommended form of discipline. I was also spanked as a child, as was my husband, and we both turned out fine; however, we both agree it’s not a tool we want to use in our household, nor do we think it is a neccesary way to discipline. Yes, all children are different and you have to tailor your approach to your child. But this article was intended for parents who do not wish to spank under any circumstances–with love or otherwise.

    3. There is no right way to spank. Actually, I’m quite familiar having grown up a product of Dr. Dobson’s parenting strategy and let me tell you that in my experience–all of the kids at our church whose parents followed that book went off the deep end. I am one of the few who came out normal (i.e. not dead, drunk, doing drugs, or in jail).

      If you would research things a little more carefully before you comment, you will notice that the scripture verses used by Dr. Dobson are taken entirely out of context. The Hebrew uses the word “ta’ar” in all of those “spare the rod spoil the child verses” and the word “ta’ar” means adolescent. How many parents do you know spanking teenagers?

      This isn’t even getting into the subject of a figurative rod used in psalms as “thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

      The idea that Dobson misses is the idea that guidance/love should not be spared on teenagers who are desperately in need of assistance to grow into mature adults.

      Additionally, Dobson gives several examples about how he beats his dog into the corner when the dog cowers in fear–is this really someone you want to listen to for parenting advice? If I find out that somebody beats their dog–I report them to animal control so that the dog gets a new owner and isn’t beaten. I would never listen to Dobson for any reason!!!

      Perhaps some research into your parenting ideas is in order.

  2. Will come back and read the rest of it after kids bedtime … but what just struck me was “The rule at preschool is ‘hands on your own body’ ” Does this only apply to hitting and bitting or does it stop children from hugging and kissing other children in the group? Becuase if it is the later then that’s sad.

  3. I couldn’t have said it better than Rachel, so I will refrain, except to agree with her. Well presented.

    1. Cool thanks for clearing that up 🙂 Got me worried for sec that it was political correctness gone mad. The only times I have felt the urge to smack my daughter are when I have run out of patience. When she’s pushed me to the limit and seems to be just doing whatever it is she is doing to wind me up. And it works!!! But we have never smacked her.Because I know me wanting to to is my problem and not the way I should deal with it. My parents smacked me the same way as Rachel .. and it worked every time with me. My Mums says she only did it 2 or 3 times. BUT .. it didn’t work with my sister. How can I ever tell my daughter not to hit if I smack her?? She’s a smart girl and I know she would ask me how that could be fair. I just can’t ever see it as an ok thing. Time out we do and removing a toy we do. They always work if we have the patience. When the patience is gone we just have to take a step back, take a deep breath and do what works.

  4. this post is very interesting. you liste is very good. i woudl add also “look at your child”. sometimes it works form my, i look ad here and i sayd to me “ho come on, want u really spank her? just calm down, she don’t deserve it” 🙂

  5. No kid deserves to be hit. Period. Spanking your child is a direct and easy approach to dicipline. The key word being, easy. There’s no room for misinterpretation here; you were bad. You deserved to get hit. This is a message that could potentially transfer into adulthood. My wife was bad. She deserves to get hit. I was bad. I derserved to be hit. My dog was bad. It derserved to hit. You can’t tell me that ANY type of physical punishment comes from love. Isn’t that the same excuse wifebeaters have been using for years? I did it because I love her. Hitting somebody is the easiest way to assert your dominance. It works… the short term, but may have lasting effects in the long term. Hitting somebody is also the easiest and direct way to make your point. A time out or restricting privledges takes patience, thought and followthrough. The effects are not as immediate, but have lasting, postive lessons to teach. Being hit only teaches you one thing. I deserve to be hit. Hitting is a biological response to anger, rage, stress and frustration. I think it takes a much more evolved person to restrain oneself and dicipline positively.

  6. I think I would add : what methods of discipline could we try instead?
    I think realizing there are other options would cause most parents to not spank, especially the “reluctant spankers”

  7. I recon parents spank their children cause it works to stop misbehavior (short term) but also because they are too angry to control themselves at times. The best recommendation I found so far is to physically step away from your child when you’re angry. Say “stop” to yourself. You’ll be surprised how quickly your anger goes and you’d want to hug your little one instead.

    I was also raised in an environment where spanking was common, and I used to belong to category “C” described above. The “stepping away” technique really helped me to stop. The ideas described in this article sound good too.

  8. I dont spank ! I hate the idea of inflicting any emotional of physicall pain on my daughter. There are many other ways to gently guide …

    Compassion means that if you cant help somebody, at least dont hurt them. Compassion is the most important lesson and I dont think you can teach that with harsh dicipline !

  9. I agree here as well. I admit I do sometimes spank my child and feel utterly guilty later and yes most times its not what he did but what I had wanted or expected which got me angry and didnt reign in in time. I am trying to be much more aware of this so it doesnt happen again-fingers crossed!

  10. In a similar vein, I was recently on an airplane that was boarded and then delayed before leaving the terminal so we’re all stuck just sitting. Across from me is a mother and her son – possibly around 7 years old. He is fidgety as we all are just sitting and waiting, yet the mother continues to reprimand him becuse “there are a lot of people on this plane”. I tried to read my book and not pay too much attention to the pair for fear that would bring more trouble down on the boy. His behavior was both age-appropriate and understandable considering the situation. At one point, I heard the sharp *smack* of skin on skin when the mother slapped the boy’s leg. Admittedly, this behavior was much more offensive to me than anything the boy had done (or would do); however, I did nothing. I didn’t have the tools or knowledge to address the mother in a way that would not produce more trouble for the boy (either at that time or later). Does anyone have suggestions on what I *could* have said?
    (Note: my husband and I do not spank our child)

  11. I was spanked as a child, along with my 4 siblings. I consider all of our relationships to our parents as exceptionally loving and cooperative. In short, I have no bad feelings toward my parents for spanking. The few I remember were definitely my direct disobedience and I knew what was coming. The reality: there are painful consequences to disobedience that are best learned as a child so that they do not kill you as an adult. There are many tools available to the discerning and loving parent. I would not exclude spanking.

    p.s.: All of us kids, along with my parents have been married to the same wife/husband for a total of over 200 years. Our children (16 of ’em) are all great kids of whom the adults are productive, law abiding citizens who are gainfully employed and/or full time moms. My point: spanking is not some kind of dire scourge that relegates the participants to anathema. A good smack on the fatty portion of the behind can be some of the better medicine administered and less toxic than the lack thereof when properly applied.

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