Spanking and the Golden Rule

By Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

“Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

barbara nicholsonAt one point in our own lives, we have spanked at least one of our children, later learning more positive parenting tools.

People believe in spanking children for many reasons. We often hear the common rebuttal, “I was spanked as a child and I turned out OK,” or someone’s personal beliefs may incorporate the use of spanking to teach lysa parkerobedience and respect. We’ve heard many teachers say that when the use of paddling was taken out of schools, violence and chaos in classrooms increased — though that doesn’t hold true, because violence is a problem even in schools where paddling is still allowed.

For those who spank, it doesn’t mean you are bad parents or that your own parents were bad because they spanked you as a child. You’ve likely heard the adage, “You do the best you can with what you know at the time.” The good news is that there is so much more that we know now about child development and brain development that there are many more options for parents and caregivers that really do work so much more than spanking ever did — and keeps everyone’s dignity intact.

We certainly don’t intend to offend anyone’s beliefs or ideas about how to raise their children. What we want to do is plant the seeds of possibilities with you by looking at this issue in a different light.

We promote positive parenting practices that require that we see the world through the eyes of our children, rather than treating them like little adults. When children feel understood and disciplined with dignity, then they begin to learn their first lessons of empathy and compassion for others. Very simply, the Golden Rule applies to children, too: Treat your children the way you would want to be treated if you were the child.

Of course, as parents, we wish could always handle every situation perfectly, but we are all trained on the job. At times we lose it; tempers flare, we yell and spank. When that happens, it’s important to repair any damage to the parent-child relationship: Take time to reconnect, talk about what happened and apologize after everyone has calmed down. Talk about how the situation happened and what you can do together the next time a similar situation occurs. If it happens too often, then consider other professional resources for help and guidance.

It helps to have a mental plan for redirecting your anger and frustration. Try using these three reflective questions to help guide you in how you determine your course of action:

  1. Am I treating my child the way I would want to be treated?
  2. Will my words or actions strengthen my relationship with my child?
  3. Will my actions give my child an opportunity to learn from this experience?

Author: API Blog

APtly Said, Formerly API Speaks launched in April of 2008 as part of Attachment Parenting International's larger effort to offer interactive content through their newly-redesigned web site: All contributors to APtly Said, as with so many of API's staff, are volunteers who donate their time and energy to promote Attachment Parenting world wide.

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