When I was a child, I received probably a hand-full of spankings. I don’t remember them being particularly disturbing. I do know that my brother once cursed in front of my mother he got slapped upside the head. I remember that time pretty vividly because first of all, it was really surprising. Second of all, my brother was a teenager and just laughed at my mom’s weak slap. He got in way more trouble for laughing than for cursing. So yes, light and rare physical discipline were used in my household growing up. And my brother, sister and I all seemed to have turned out okay.
According to many, this is enough of a reason for parents to continue the tradition of corporal punishment. It didn’t hurt me, so it can’t be that dangerous.
Unfortunately for those who keep holding on to that tired excuse, the data has become pretty overwhelming. Spanking increases the chances of mental health issues. Not just extreme corporal punishment, a simple whack on the butt.
Doctors have agreed about the ineffectiveness and possible harm caused by physical discipline for years. In 2010, WebMD said bluntly, “Corporal punishment is not an effective method of managing behavior. It does not teach a child how to act properly. At best, corporal punishment has only a temporary effect on behavior. And it may even make it worse. Not only does it reinforce some bad behavior, but also it teaches a child that physical force is the way to resolve conflict.”
A study done by the American Humane Association found, “Children in the 1997 study whose parents used corporal punishment to reduce anti-social behavior actually experienced the opposite from their children in the long run an increased probability of aggression and other antisocial behavior.”
And just last year, a study demonstrated that corporal punishment in schools could have long-term effects on children’s intelligence. “Children in a school that uses corporal punishment performed significantly worse in tasks involving “executive functioning” — psychological processes such as planning, abstract thinking, and delaying gratification — than those in a school relying on milder disciplinary measures such as time-outs.”
But really, none of that has been enough to dissuade parents from spanking. Just last year, CNN was reporting that 94% of children aged 3 – 4 had been spanked. 74% of mothers believed that spanking was an acceptable form of punishment.
So I wonder if the latest study will have the ability to change parents minds. Yet another group of researchers has proven, “People who were hit or spanked as children face higher odds of mental ailments as adults, including mood and anxiety disorders and problems with alcohol and drug abuse.” The increases weren’t huge. It didn’t say that every child who was spanked would face problems. But it clearly outlines that physical discipline heightens the risk.
It’s amazing to me that a society where we’re so determined to protect our kids from any evil is completely permissive of the damage when can do when we don’t discipline effectively. We worry constantly about what the media or the marketers are doing to our children, and yet we ignore the inconvenient truth that some widely-accepted parenting techniques are harmful.
This newest study is just another to prove what doctors have known for a while now: corporal punishment is bad for children. And yet, parents aren’t willing to spare the rod. I really wonder what it would take before parents will agree that spanking isn’t an effective form of discipline. How much research do we need? Because I’m positive that I could gather enough to prove the point a hundred times over.
And if lack of education isn’t the issue, what is the reason that spanking still occurs, no matter how many researchers or pediatricians tell us that it’s at best, ineffective; at worst, harmful?