Should Parents Discipline Their Children by Spanking Them?
The issue of disciplining children has depended on multiple economic and social factors for centuries. The disciplining methods of the past used to rely on strictness, obedience, and punishment for the breach of social norms. At present, our society is becoming more liberal. Thus, disciplining methods are being modified and changed. What is more, the strict methods that parents could use to discipline their children are likely to have become illegal. On the international level, physical discipline is progressively considered to be a violation of children’s human rights. Health organizations and several international organizations have even issued a call for criminalizing corporal punishments. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes using physical force against a child for any purpose. Therefore, recent years have seen a growing interest in the discussion of applying spanking for disciplining children by their parents. However, the society has raised requirements concerning the personality of a child and their psychological health. In these conditions, parental guidance meets challenges. Parents are responsible for raising an adaptable, industrious, respectful, tactful, and multifaceted personality. In order to fulfill all the aforementioned requirements, the parents should apply various methods of disciplining, such as warnings, taking away privileges, and explanations. If all of these methods fail and the children still don’t listen to words, threats, groundings, or taking away the privileges, such as the time dedicated to watching TV or playing computer games, spanking is the method most likely to correct the undesired behavior.
There are several reasons why parents should discipline their children by spanking. Most importantly, this corrective action is likely to prevent children from doing something dangerous. For example, there are cases when children show curiosity in the things,, such as electrical sockets. in their homes, which can pose imminent danger. When a child wants to check the inside of this device and tries to put his fingers into the holes, the parents’ warnings or saying that it is dangerous and can hurt the child usually does not stop the little explorers. In order to avoid an injury, the children need a kind of shock therapy, which is a slight spanking. This returns them back to the reality when all other methods fail. In this way, the ancient proverb, which advises not to hesitate to discipline children, since it is likely to save them from death, rings true.
The second reason to apply this disciplining method is that it warns a child against being aggressive for fun. It can happen that a child starts beating or biting the parents without any discernible reason. It means that they do not understand that this can be painful to somebody else. In this case, a slight spank can teach the child to understand other person’s pain. If the child knows that they will receive the same pain as they inflict, they will stop doing that.
Another reason spankings are effective is that they teach children not to demand something from the parents by acting up. Everyone has encountered the situation in a supermarket, when a child cries for a toy and does not want to listen to their mother’s or father’s explanations. The child manipulates the parents by acting up until they get the desired toy. However, the parents’ resources are not endless and it is not possible to satisfy all the wishes of a capricious child. What is more, if parents do only what their child wants them to, they will probably spoil them and raise a very egoistical person. Thus, when the child goes too far in showing how much they want something to be done and do not listen to any persuasion, then spanking can calm down the naughty youth.
On the whole, spanking is effective because it poses an immediate reaction to a wrong action. Some methods of disciplining work very slowly or are not considered to be punishments at all. For example, when sending a child to their room to think about what they have done, the child can just sit in the room and do what they want there. instead of evaluating or regretting their bad behavior. Spanking not only stops children from making a wrong decision at a definite moment, but also eliminates a wish to repeat it in future. The mechanism of this method works in the following way: when children know about the consequences of their deeds, they show more self-control and do not break the discipline.
In addition to the reasons mentioned above which explain the advantages of the spanking method, parents find support among many respected scientists. There are experts, for example Den A. Trumbull and Robert Larzelere, who support the idea of applying spanking for the disciplining purposes. They explain the advantages of spanking in certain situations, when parents need to do a swift corrective action to calm an unruly child. Besides, these experts have a skeptical attitude towards the results and data of the research devoted to spanking’s adverse effects. They doubt the validity of the investigations concerning physical punishments. Leah Campbell in his article “The Pros and Cons of Spanking” has several things to say about Robert Larzelere, an Oklahoma State University professor who researches parental discipline. He was a member of the APA task force who issued his own report in which he disagreed with the scientific framework of the task force recommendations. While the expert agrees that parents should not practice physical punishment often, he asserts that most of the quoted studies do not prove there is a connection between physical punishment and long-term adverse effects for children. Larzelere claims that these studies do not distinguish between the gentle and harsh types of physical punishment. As to the consequences of corporal punishment, he holds the opinion that it has a negative impact only when it is applied more severely that other disciplinary methods or practiced as the primary one.
Another representative who has the same attitude is Den A. Trumbull, the president of the American College of Pediatricians. He believes that spanking is a proven way to strengthen the gentle disciplinary tactics. He thinks that the issue of intent is also relevant and explains this point, “A parent who spanks as a form of discipline is quite different from one who strikes with the goal of injuring a child” (Trumbull). Den Trumbull thinks that the long-term consequences can be significantly different in the aforementioned cases. Based on this, the scientist does not accept the studies that connect spanking and abusive disciplining methods, such as face-slapping, kicking or paddling with heavy objects. He considers such research misleading.
According to skeptics, there are several misconceptions in the research about the effects of physical punishment. They provide the example of a large analysis of physical punishment studies that revealed that children who encountered it were more likely to be aggressive, show deviant behavior, and have a poorer mental health. In that analysis, violent actions, including kicking and beating, were excluded from the investigation. However, these harsh examples of abuse make it difficult to evaluate and explain the effects of spanking. Another study carried out by researchers in Pediatrics was conducted in 2013. It showed that children who were spanked by their mothers but not their fathers at the age of 5 were more likely to lie at the age of 9. However, that study just asked parents about the frequency they spanked their child during a certain month. This dull approach lacks differentiation of whether the disciplinary action was done in the state of anger and whether the parent gave a warning to the child. Overall, the studies that have been conducted do not have enough specificity, and they do not provide the opportunity to identify the cause and effect clearly.
Along with the effective disciplining results, parents must always keep in mind certain limits and precautions when applying this method. It is important that children should always receive a transparent warning before spanking and understand the reason they are subjected to such a disciplinary action. It is impossible to disagree with a clinical psychologist and the director of “Focus on the Family’s Counseling” department, Dr. Jared Pingleton, who says that corporal discipline should only be practiced in cases of purposeful naughtiness, provoking behavior, aggressiveness, and defiance of authority, and never for the childish lack of knowledge or responsibility. It should never be applied in a violent way, thus, causing physical harm. The expert concludes, “There is never an excuse or an occasion to abuse a child” (Pingleton). Besides, parents can apply spanking as a method only to children of the preschool age. This is because reasoning and taking away privileges or time-outs often don’t work with children in that age range. As children grow up, spanking should become less regular, since it can lead to negative influences on a child’s personality. Spanking should be phased out completely before adolescence, because development of the personality takes place during this period, and any negative experience encountered in the family can affect the future life of the spanked child. Fostering discipline through spanking should never turn into abuse. It should be mentioned that the term discipline derives from the Latin root “disciple” which means “to teach.” Parents must teach their children important lessons, so they grow up into adequately developed persons, instead of ones with a baggage of psychological complexes, offenses, and hate.
The main disadvantage of spanking children logically emerges from ignoring the guidelines mentioned above. When parents are not reasonable and consistent in the way they discipline their children, discipline can turn into abuse. For its part, the latter can harm a child physically and emotionally and, thus, be the cause of mental problems. Among those who support this opinion are Taylor et al. They are a group of experts who claim that spanking is destructive and im proper method of disciplining children
The opinions about negative effects of applying spanking for improving the discipline seem to be reasonable, and the possible results of unreasonable use of power are shocking. However, most of the works that oppose spanking provide partial studies in which all forms of corporal punishment are analyzed together, and the final results do not make any differentiation between slight spanks and beating with belts, kicks, and other actions, which are more like violence than discipline. The studies do not take into account such conditions as the socioeconomic status and the level of discipline strictness required by a particular social group. They present all the punishments together to reach the statistic data without separating the specific layers of the investigated issue.
In conclusion, parents should be free to choose the methods to maintain discipline. Nonetheless, when making a decision about disciplining, they must understand that all children are different and they respond differently to various forms of punishment. No matter which method the parents choose, they should keep in mind that a disciplinary action of any kind (physical, oral, or emotional) done with a certain level of abuse is likely to harm a child. For example, a constant practice of scolding a child and the conditions, in which this action is carried out, cause emotional harm. Excessive use of the time-out method for prolonged periods humiliates the child and reduces the effectiveness of this method. Hence, even the methods that are supposed to be less violent than spanking can do harm when applied with abuse. When the parents are consistent and reasonable in the way they foster discipline, slight spanks are not likely to cause any physical and emotional harm.