5 Reasons Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

Mighty Mommy definitely believes in disciplining kids to course-correct bad behavior, but spanking is not one of those methods. Here are five reasons why she believes sparing the rod is not spoiling the child.

Cheryl Butler,
September 26, 2016
Episode #397

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One of the most frequently asked questions I receive each month is how to effectively discipline a child. With that, many parents ask my opinion on spanking and whether or not I believe it’s an appropriate way to change a child’s bad behavior.

Spanking—the act of striking a child’s buttocks with an open hand— is a form of corporal punishment, a catch-all term that includes hitting with a belt, paddling with an object (such as a stick or a large wooden spoon), and slapping with an open hand. Most child-development experts include acts such as tapping a toddler’s diaper-cushioned bottom when he misbehaves and smacking the hand of a kid protectively as he reaches for a hot stove in the same category.

Since all these punishments entail hitting, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents not to resort to them under any circumstances. “There’s no reason to get physical with a child when other discipline tactics are more effective,” says Benjamin Siegel, MD, Chair of the AAP’s committee on Psychosocial Aspects of child and Family Health. The committee’s position is that spanking often evolves into abuse, which endangers a child’s safety and cause psychological damage, leading to aggressive behavior, substance problems, and acts of delinquency during adolescence. 

According to a study published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics, there are serious consequences to applying physical punishment to kids.

Reason #1: Spanking Equates Violence as a Problem Solver

Physical punishment such as spanking distracts a child from learning how to resolve conflict in an effective and humane way. Spanking also shows children that violence is an appropriate way to solve life's problems. And in this day and age, with so much focus on bullying, physically harming your child can be perceived as a form of bullying, sending the message to your child that this is an effective way to get others to do things your way. Even a hard tap on a child’s hand or a swift swat on the behind can send the message that you believe physical consequences are the best ways to get their attention and redirect an inappropriate behavior. Because children learn through parental modeling, physical punishment gives the message that hitting is an appropriate way to express feelings and to solve problems.

Reason #2:  Hitting Triggers a Fear Response

The work of Dr. Bruce Lipton has shown us that it is biologically impossible to learn and implement higher-order thinking when we are fearful. Spanking actually makes kids perform worse in school. The fear response triggers the fight or flight instinct and adrenaline and cortisol flood our bloodstream and brains. Showing love, however he says, actually love becomes physiological. The sensation of love releases all the chemicals that provide for the growth and maintenance and health of the body. So the matter of being in love keeps us in a chemical environment that supports our vitality and our growth. Love becomes biochemistry. And the biochemistry of love is the most health-promoting, growth-promoting chemistry that you can have and share with your child.  


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