I realize that spanking is a controversial topic. But we all have a stance on why we choose whether or not to spank. What are your reasons for or against spanking?

asked 21 Jan '10, 20:07

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

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"Let me go back in there and face the peril!" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtcSYPjJbgg

(24 Jan '10, 19:13) Meg Stephenson

"No, it's too perilous." LOL! I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

(24 Jan '10, 21:10) mkcoehoorn

I've been operating on this principle:

  1. Spanking is probably better than no discipline (assuming it's not done in anger).
  2. There's probably more productive disciplinary measures than spanking.

The advantage of this point of view is that it helps me reconcile the debate in my mind. If you see a completely undisciplined child, you figure they'd be better off with any discipline, so you might advocate spanking, but if you know of something that works better, you're probably against spanking.

I feel confident that I can get through my child's life without spanking, but I reserve the right to change my mind if the evidence suggests otherwise. (So if you are my child and you're reading this years later, yes, that means you'd better be good.)


answered 21 Jan '10, 20:13

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Scott ♦♦
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edited 21 Jan '10, 20:21

I have spanked my oldest daughters twice each (as toddlers) and my other two kids zero times. I used it as an escalation of last resort during a bedtime brouhaha to underscore my seriousness. At each step, I told them what awaited them at the next one. When I finally had had enough of their testing, I told them that next time they will be spanked. They pushed and I spanked. After that point, they never pushed their luck again and normal discipline worked perfectly. We have had to threaten it a few times after that.

I'm comfortable with spanking in this sort of manner because there comes a time when children need to understand that negotiations are over and they've exhausted their chances. My children don't cower in fear at the sight of me and they haven't turned into little sheep because of it. I have seen plenty of children who just misbehave with abandon because they can tune out mother's exhortations to stop jumping on the furniture.

But I have reservations about spanking in general because I've seen relatives who jump to it too readily. Their application of the spanking is capricious, unforeseeable, erratic. Their children are definitely the worse for it.


answered 21 Jan '10, 21:52

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+1 I was going to say that there is probably harmless spanking and more harmful spanking, but felt that I was under qualified to make such a comment. Your answers says what had passed through my mind.

(21 Jan '10, 22:05) Emi

This is very similar to my approach. With older children other methods do work as well as, if not better than, spanking. However, with my 17 month old, sending him to his room for playing with something inappropriate doesn't work yet, so I smack his hand as a deterrent. True spanking is reserved for when I have repeatedly told them not to do something and they do it anyway.

(21 Jan '10, 22:25) mkcoehoorn

You're right, I can't imagine spanking my 6 year olds. They're fairly reasonable and other disciplinary techniques are far more effective.

(22 Jan '10, 16:37) bbrown

I don't believe that hurting my child's body will teach her anything other than "Mommy isn't my 100% Safe Place" - and I need to be that Safe Place for my kids - 100% of the time, no matter the reason.


answered 22 Jan '10, 04:46

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We personally do not spank for several reasons, one of the main ones being that I don't believe that physical contact should be used to resolve any situation where you don't agree with another. This applies to all of my adult interactions, as well as my interactions with my children.

Another very important reason is that we believe that children model their parents and therefore respond best when everyone in the house lives by the same rules. To tell them that they are not allowed to hit under any circumstance, but that Mommy and Daddy are allowed to hit if they misbehave/we can't get them to behave as we wish doesn't match with that. I think that it would be confusing to them to have it any other way.


answered 22 Jan '10, 00:32

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I like that logic.

(22 Jan '10, 01:05) mkcoehoorn

This is my exact argument.

(24 Jan '10, 19:09) DarwinsMom

When I was a child, I was spanked exactly one time; now as an adult, I believe there are few, if any, circumstances which warrant spanking a child. IMO there is simply far too many other, less violent discipline methods to continue with what I feel is an outdated, unnecessary way to control children.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered 21 Jan '10, 20:18

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Matthew Jones
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edited 21 Jan '10, 20:19

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As a sidenote, this answer is deliberately CW not to avoid criticism, but because I believe there is no single, definitive answer to the original question.

(21 Jan '10, 20:19) Matthew Jones

I'm not sure that the occasional spanking is objectively, verifiably harmful. And I sure have wanted to hit the little devil at times that he's so frustrating that I'm losing my mind.

But I refuse to spank, ever, primarily for two major reasons:

First, I view it as admitting complete failure as a parent. I have money, transportation, food, possessions -- he does not; I control his bedtime, his access to videos, friends, food, toys; I am bigger and stronger than him by a staggeringly large degree; I can literally pick him up and put him where I want him, whereas he has no ability to manipulate me physically; I'm smarter, wiser, more experienced than him (for now); my patience, reasoning, negotiating ability, argumentative skills, and general wiliness surpass his, nearly infinitely. And I have a spouse, who also has all these advantages over him, he has nobody on his side.

All that at our disposal, and we have to HIT him to get what we want? Really? I just don't buy it.

Second, there's really no way around the fact that spanking is ultimately a statement that "you have to do what I want, because I am stronger and am willing to inflict physical punishment on you."

This is, of course, precisely the opposite of any notion of justice, fairness, or moral behavior that I'm trying to teach him. I don't want him to grow up thinking that might makes right, that it's ok for him to control others behavior through strength or intimidation, that he should allow himself to be controlled or intimidated by those stronger. I want him to believe to his bones that it's wrong to hit someone who is incapable of defending themselves. I have to lead by example if I expect him to absorb those values.

We are not super permissive parents. I'm a big believer in discipline and responsibility. But I just don't think that hitting instills either one.


answered 23 Jan '10, 07:35

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In my opinion the "fear of being spanked is probably worse than actually being spanked"

I personally wouldn't dare to spank my child, this goes against my beliefs and principals as a parent, and it goes against what we have been teaching her.


answered 21 Jan '10, 22:02

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Oh yeah. By the time I started school, my parents just had to threaten a spanking to curtail naughty behavior on my part. Also by that point I most often earned a loss of privileges or grounding or other alternative to spanking.

(21 Jan '10, 22:26) mkcoehoorn

I originally was against ever using spanking, but I decided to use it on our son in two cases:

  • If he does something dangerous, such as run out in the street

    Rationale: Much worse physical harm could result if he continues the behavior; he needs to know how serious it is.

  • If he hurts someone else, such as by hitting or kicking or biting

    Rationale: If he's doing it to others, he ought to know what it feels like.

All we do is one swat on the behind with an open palm. We've very very rarely had to do so; I think perhaps he gets a swat like that maybe once every three months or so. And it works better that way, because when he does get one, it's a major shock. I think the shock is probably the worst part for him.

My views on this are probably influenced by how I was raised.

I was spanked often as a child (at least, it felt often to me). I think it was always my dad, not my mom, and he always used a belt, not an open palm. It was very painful, and it was repeated blows, not just one. I hated it, and it still makes me angry to think of it. I wouldn't term it child abuse by any means; but I don't think it contributed to good parent-child relations. And my dad often seemed angry when he did it. Granted, I'm not always perfectly calm and reasonable when I'm doling out punishment, but spanking with a belt while angry seems like a bad combination.

At some point they switched to other punishments, such as grounding. I'm not sure what the trigger was, but I suspect it was something that happened while on a family vacation. My younger brother (who was around eight) was causing some sort of trouble, and my dad pulled off to spank him (with a belt). Someone saw it, took the license plate, and reported that my brother was being beaten with a board. We found out because a few days later a social worker visited our house, and my brother had to go change into shorts so she could check that he didn't have permanent scars. He didn't, so that was the end of her investigation, and I suspect it was also the end of my parents' spanking practices.

My parents were both Bible-belt raised, and I think that "Spare the rod, spoil the child" business had a lot of influence at the time. Funny, though: I've met people who swear by that advice, but I've never met one who was actually beating his child with a rod to discipline him.


answered 20 Apr '10, 05:37

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Asked: 21 Jan '10, 20:07

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Last updated: 20 Apr '10, 05:37