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Reasons Not to Spank Kids

Why Spanking Is Wrong

Do you think spanking helps kids or hurts them?

About a week ago, I was standing in line at one of the tween/teen clothing shops at the mall with my daughter. The mom behind me and her young son started squabbling as the little guy became increasingly worked up over the long line and started squirming and whining that he wanted to leave. His mom kept demanding, "Stop it." Suddenly, the palm of her hand exploded against his backside — not once, but in rapid-fire motion, eliciting a burst of tears that turned into all-out wails.

My daughter and I were horrified, as it appeared almost everyone in line appeared to be too. The sadness on the little boy's face and his humiliation were palpable, and as his tears kept flowing, she resumed meting out her punishment.

My daughter and I talked about our disturbing feelings the entire way home. I told her how when I was growing up, these kinds of corporal punishment were standard in many homes. Spanking was just how parents disciplined.


To her, the very idea of spanking a child is appalling. "The little kid just got worse; what good was she doing?!" my daughter exclaimed.

I agreed. Having been spanked as a kid, I could almost taste the humiliation and despair of the little boy in line at the mall. And I was grateful that I have turned to more healthy ways to discipline my children, or at least that I try. 

It seems a growing body of evidence points to the fact that spanking does more harm than good. "It is associated with more aggressive and antisocial behaviors in children," says University of Texas at Austin professor Elizabeth Gershoff in a University release. "The more frequently or severely children are spanked or hit, the more likely they are to have symptoms of depression or anxiety, both at the time they're punished and later. There is evidence to suggest that it erodes the connection between children and their parents, making children less likely to trust their parents."

Many readers agree that spanking is a cruel form of punishment. "Spanking and abuse could almost go hand in hand, considering that a parent who uses spanking as a form of discipline will more than likely (not always) continue to use [it] and may eventually not be able to control themselves. That's when it turns into abuse," says Amanda P. "Personally I don't spank and never have. I can remember being spanked maybe three times as a child when I was younger, and I've never spanked any one of my children for misbehaving."

Spanking sends a strong negative message to kids, says Stephanie M. "I don't think it's a good idea to teach kids that we should hit when angry or frustrated," she says. "In my opinion spanking is exactly that. Communicating takes a little more work but it models important skills that the child will have their entire life."

Though I don't normally turn to Dr. Phil for my parenting advice, I must admit what he believes about spanking rings true for me, and I wish that the woman in the mall would flip on the TV to learn about the damage her actions may wreak.

"I believe spanking genuinely confuses children," Dr. Phil writes on his blog. "I believe they think to themselves something, like, 'OK, let me get this right. You are supposed to love me, nurture me, and protect me from harm, and now you are standing there, five times my size, and hitting me and inflicting physical pain? Hm . . . I don't get it."

Ditto, Phil. I don't either.

(For another perspective, see Why I Spanked.)

Image Source: Corbis Images
Join The Conversation
ReneeCarlson ReneeCarlson 3 years
As someone whom has a daughter in college and son age 16, I have spanked my kids maybe twice each. For safety reasons. There is a fine line when it comes to spanking. First off, NO, you can't reason safety issues with a child too young to understand. For those of you parents who believe a toddler not even two will get it if you speak with them about it, you live on another planet and could be risking your child's life. One swat on the behind and firm tone of voice will stay with a child forever. Our daughter is 18 now, however, if someone tells her to be careful, there are cars, she will become much more aware and even stand aside. She was only 2 years old at the time, ran into a traffic filled parking lot, raining, dark, Christmas eve at the mall. She thought it was funny to break free and run away. Slipped out of my grasp and ran. I caught her mid air before she was hit by a car. Much worse than a swat on her diapered butt, don't you think? She only knows the story, not the reason she becomes so alert around cars in parking lots. But she remembered. My attitude was fear, not anger. Nobody should spank while angry. If the child is old enough to understand a talk, then the spanking in our home seemed to be a non-productive manner of gaining our children's attention so we stopped. Spanking too much makes kids immune to it and they don't understand. Yelling at them, same reaction, they block you out. So, I agree with spanking in certain situations involving safety at a young age. It's a grey area. Renee.
NinaStanger NinaStanger 3 years
I'm sorry, but people who can't take the time to explain to their children why they shouldn't do something and get their child to actually understand, are going to have a lot more problems with their children than just the "need" for spanking. It's lazy and spanking isn't necessary as proven by the fact that it's outlawed in 32 countries. As a child, I respected those that showed me respect. I did NOT respect those that hit me! It made me afraid, which made me angry and I grew more defiant. I felt disrespected and betrayed. I was outraged! I no longer trusted my mother or her ability to make decisions for me. In fact, I would merely become defiant to the point of taunting my mother to hit me harder. "Hit me again! Doesn't it make you feel good!!??" I wanted her to stop and think or leave marks so I could turn her in for what I deemed to be abuse and so she could see how out of control she was. As the spankings were a result of her lack of control and not my behavior, that's exactly what it was. I did not get in trouble, I got good grades and typically only talked back when I was being ignored, treated with disrespect or someone around me was being mistreated. In fact, I wouldn't have left the store without giving that woman a piece of my mind! She'd of course say something like, "Don't tell me how to raise my child," to which my response would be, "Then don't rub our noses in the fact that you have no self control, yet you expect your child to have some!"
paula15084309 paula15084309 3 years
CoMMember..your questions are valid and to the an educator I firmly believe that if all parents in all honesty can answer those questions with a clear conscience than we have a Utopian society which we don't. Parents have to be parents and not their child's friend when they are young. I also feel if my children hate me for putting rules and expecting them to follow them so be it!!!
CoMMember13636452001594 CoMMember13636452001594 3 years
I spoke to a couple from England last week and we talked about the hot topic of spanking as one of many forms of discipline. They said that spanking has been banned in England and many of the European countries. They said that children their are out of control because parents have no say in how they raise their kids. Whenever parents try any kind correction or discipline, the kids tell their parents they will call the police. Therefore the parent's hands are tied, and their children do not respect them. That, to me, is a huge problem. At least here in the U.S. the law is on the side of parents. In all 50 states of the U.S., the law says that parents have the right to use reasonable and appropriate physical force in the discipline of their children. It also states what would be considered abusive behavior by parents and unlawful. I wrote a book entitled "Parenting: The Bottom Line," and I wrote that corporal punishment was lawful in schools across the country in the U.S. until 2007. In that year there were roughly 234,000 public school students in the U.S. who were paddled in schools because of errant behavior. That same year corporal punishment was abolished. But that did not last long. Immediately after the Columbine School Murders 22 states restored paddling in the public schools across the country. And most people don't know that there are approximately 2,500 children between 13 and 17-years-old serving sentences of life without parole across this country. A 16-year-old male here in Las Vegas stabbed his mother and 9-year-old brother to death a day after his birthday party. Why? Another 16-year-old male beat his mother to death with a skillet, and attempted to kill his father because they took away his cell phone. Why? if you Google it, you will find that kids today have no qualms about killing their parents, or anybody that tries to direct, guide, or correct their behavior as parents have the God-given right to do. Here is a 17-question survey that I would like for parents to answer concerning your relationship between you and your children. 1. Do you love your children? 2. Do you tell your children that you love them every day? 3. Do you know where your children are at all times? 4. Do you know the names of your children's teachers and principal at school? 5. How much quality time do you spend with your children each day? 6. Do you know the types of clothes your children wear to school? 7. Do you know your children's friends by name? 8. Do you allow your children to make their own decisions? 9. Is mutual respect between you and your children practiced in your household? 10. Do you assign your children chores to do around the house? 11. Do your children ever tell you that they hate you? 12. Do you set ground rules for your children to follow, and do you follow up when rules are broken? 13. Do you help your children with their homework? 14. How often do you eat at the dining room table with your children? 15. Does your family take time to go to a place of worship at least once a week? 16. Do you set curfew times for your children to be at home at night? 17. Do your children ask can they go out, or do they tell you that they are going out? Please answer these questions and comment on anything that you agree or disagree with. That is the Bottom Line!!!
paula15084309 paula15084309 3 years
Kim, your comment was right on the button . I have to agree with you on principle as you said no two parents are alike and neither are the children. One has to do the best they can and teach their children manners, respect and following rules through whatever means necessary redirection being the best course. I respect parents who make time for their children and earn their respect. Children always follow example as we are the their models.
KimBlackburnHagan KimBlackburnHagan 3 years
Lets just agree to disagree. This is a hot topic. Those who believe in spanking will find valid reasons to support while those who disagree will find valid reasons to support their claims. No 2 parents are the same just like no 2 children are the same. Parents must do what they simply believe is Right for their child. I wax spanked and appreciate having been so. I never bullied anyone but I was bullied as a child. I had a wonderful relationship with my parents. I wasn't a teen mother never been arrested not used drugs. I'm college educated and employed. So in my case spanking didn't destroy me. I spank my children when the misbehavior warrants it. My children aren't bullies and actually they are very peaceful. Do I owe this solely to spanking? No, but spanking is a part of my discipline routine and usually the last resort. Does this make me a bad parent absolutely no. We must simply do what we feel is best. PS there is a MAJOR difference between a spanking and a beating.
paula15084309 paula15084309 3 years
I do not need an English language dictionary thank you :) my opinion is mine and you can have yours. It's not about you or me I am a Montessorian and know all about discipline and redirection. The way you attacked my post was like a defensive mechanism.
LoriBuntzen LoriBuntzen 3 years
Spanking, by definition is slapping, which by definition is hitting, which is Wrong. Period. If you are spanking your child then do not be surprised if they one day become a bully who hits others and/or a child or teen that doesn't trust or respect you. You cannot be loving and nurturing one moment and then hit your child the next and expect them not to be confused. You are their parent, figure out another way to discipline your child and give yourself a time out before you lay another unloving hand on your precious gift! Please.
paula15084309 paula15084309 3 years
This is a hot button topic and I for one believe that very young kids toddlers to six years of age need proper parenting. The right way to do things, manners, obedience and respect has to be taught. Sometimes children are open to suggestion and if we make them often enough and give them choices usually they will do what you want of them. Exceptions prove the rule and there are recalcitrant children who will disobey no matter how patient you are with them and that is the time to give a swat to show you mean business. When they calm down talk to them and love them because no matter how difficult parenting is we just have to know what will work for our children. I can not stand the way some individuals give their point of view as the only way and attack others for thinking differently. Ladies we are all here to help each other and not give lectures. Patience, tolerance and respect is what we should be teaching our children by example by showing how it is done. Please do not attack a mother who is besieged and says that she will spank if necessary.she is only doing what she thinks will work. Being condescending does not help in fact spank calmly because you have warned them of the consequences. As a teacher and a caregiver I have faced disobedience and disrespect in the classrooms you will never believe and that unfortunately is the result of no discipline or consequences for their actions.
HeatherSetzer HeatherSetzer 3 years
To the contrary, it says a lot more about why I do NOT EVER watch / give heed to "Dr. Phil." To use "Aluenvey"'s wording, a person is an "idiot" if they DON'T think spanking is needed. We're not talking about abuse, folks. Spanking is one of many types of punishments that can and should be used to wisely punish wrongdoing. A parent must be able to follow through with punishment that fits the child's misbehavior. While "time out" or prohibitions may work for some children, there are those rebels who need a greater dose of knowledge that disobedience has consequences. Otherwise, you end up with adolescents and older who think they aren't accountable to anyone, that they can get away with *whatever.* It is very unwise to think the wise use in spanking of a belt, paddle, switch, ruler, etc is "abuse." We are seeing more and more problems in society in large part because parents have started believing the garbage out there that all spanking is "abuse."
Aluenvey15082806 Aluenvey15082806 3 years
So Dr. Phil doesn't believe in spanking? If that's true, that says a lot of positive things about him I never knew. Not saying I'd take his other advice. But at least he's not a complete idiot.
Bridget1374636242 Bridget1374636242 4 years
All this I think. . . and well I feel. . . is what is wrong with society now-a-days. People can express their feelings and opinions all day, about spanking. But in the end who is the one to say what is really right and what is really wrong. Lets talk Bible, folks. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. So again if anybody is to tell us what is right and what is wrong, it's the person that has the key to the "right" way, the truth and knows about life itself, which is Jesus, himself. So on that note lets talk about what He says about spanking. Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Like God says, children are foolish, I believe that is something we can all agree on, even when we're children ourselves. Knowing they have such foolishness bound in their hearts, the way to drive it out is to spare them with the rod. And adding to that, not doing it in anger, neither. Because that is where most people get stuff twisted when talking about spanking is wrong. Let me quote, "It is wrong to hit a child out of anger, but it is not wrong to hit your child." Believe it or not, but parents can hit their children, while they are angry or when they are calm, too, it's all up to them. Example: A child runs out into the street, the mother runs after them and catches them in time before they get hit by a car, okay, now you could either make that choice in "talking it out" with a foolish child, leave it at that, and still have that possibility of it happening again or you could spank them, calmly than explain to them afterwards why you hit them, and let them know you did it because you love them. Let me quote, too, "Spanking does hurt." and situations like getting hit by a car is more hurtful and possibly leads to death. It makes the child hurt, when you spank them, you give them pain, but on the other hand you are also saving them from a worse pain and possibly death. So when you handle spanking in the matter I gave and thinking about more worse possibilities that could happen to your child if you don't take physical action, is spanking really that bad? Keep in mind of what I said God said about this topic(Proverbs 22:15). These words are not of my own but of God's. So whomever still tries to quote that spanking, in general is wrong, they are saying God is wrong, which of course He is not, which means those people are liars and the truth is not in them. 2John 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: God says spanking is not wrong, but just HOW you do it is what makes it wrong or right. Let the kids cry it out, now and if you do the spanking the right way, have them thank you, later, for saving them worse trouble in life. Spank them now, receive thanks, later :).
TealRose TealRose 4 years
Yes LoriSoard - I know not all homes have those plug guards - that is why I watched my children. No they weren't on a rein all the time only when we were out shopping and in the street until they were about 2 years old or so. No, I never had a child run into the road. Yes, I had one who forgot how to 'cross' a road as a 10 or so year old - and I saw him just run across this empty street - so - I didn't let him go to his friends on his own for a couple of weeks and walked with him showing him how to cross roads until he realised HE had to take care. WHY did I get cross with you? Because I get cross with anyone who hits anyone else and blames the child for age related behaviour when THEY could have stopped the problem simply themselves !
TealRose TealRose 4 years
Of course a spanking is NEVER necessary. Just as it's never necessary for your husband to hit you either. I believe that if another being ie an adult, or a child is struck even once - that is abuse. Unless it's in self defence or defence of another. OK one 'smack' might not be as bad as being beaten - but it's just along the same line. Just a matter of 'how bad'. As violence is always bad - one is bad .. while many is disgusting. And VickiConant - I am a grandmother and I took my responsibilities upon myself - and yes childproofed the house and surroundings. You can't TEACH a child to not run in the street by hitting it. It's a complete fallacy. What you do is show it how to walk in the street .. how to watch for traffic etc ... and don't let them out alone until you are sure they are capable. If they are toddlers it's YOUR responsibility - so get some reins. No hitting necessary. I would rather teach my children right from wrong - not hit them and stop something in the moment - which means they just get sneakier, hide things from you and then when you aren't around - continue to do the bad behaviour because YOU haven't actually managed to get them to understand why they should or shouldn't do a thing. It's lazy, poor parenting and is downright wrong. threenorns - I do not know what sort of 'out let covers' you have but heck, it takes a screwdriver and some real strong arm stuff to get ours out. And you don't need to take the stove out - you NEED to get a fire guard !! Get rid of the toaster? Really? What about putting it in a cupboard and therefore unplugging it ?? Soldering closed the taps ? erm ... where ARE you in all this ?? Sitting reading a newspaper in another room ? If you have toddlers you look after them yourself !! THAT is what parenting is about. I had a fireguard, I used the socket covers [that I couldn't remove and no way a child can] I used a high chair, a play pen, when my children were toddlers. There are protectors for the stove top too... and door protectors, fridge protectors etc etc. Yes.. others have to live there but the CHILDREN come first. THAT is true parental responsibilit.
Amanda-D Amanda-D 4 years
Ofcourse a spanking is sometimes necessary! Not a beating or bruising or anything like that. As parents, we all have our own preference and wants of how we want to raise our children. And as for me, I'm going to raise them the way "I" think they should be raised. Yes, a spanking is sometimes the right thing to do! No one wants a complete hellion on their hands.
VickiConant VickiConant 4 years
I have to disagree with the comment that most parents that spank were abused as kids! I was spanked as a kid and I am very thankful for the way I was brought up! I also spank my kids when necessary! Kids need to learn what is right and wrong. I don't do it out of anger. Hey get one swat with an ops. Hand and hat is it. They have usually leArned their lessen and don't do it again. I do not consider that abuse of beatin my child. Hey do not have bruises not are they scared emotionally. They respect their elders and behave in public be size they are not allowed to run the household. They do what they are told or they get time out and as a last resort a swat on the bottom. It usually does not result in the latter be quad we just have to mention them getting spanked and they decide to do what they are told. I would much rather them get a spank on he bottom versus running out in he street in front of a car or havin furniture fall on them and end up in the hospital. Also you can only do so much child proofing especially when you have a child that knows how to climb and open things as well as pull out the child proof plug covers. My.daughter at the age of one new how to work my laptop and change the background picture.
threenorns threenorns 4 years
my 2c: it's easy enough to say "childproof your home". but seriously: adults had to live there, too. with my youngest daughter, "childproofing" would have involved: removing the stove; installing blank plates over the outlets (because the little monkey figured out every single safety plug in about 2.3 seconds - and that includes the kind that you have to twist to plug things in); getting rid of the toaster; getting rid of all furniture (how DO you stop a child from climbing to the top of a built-in bookcase?; putting the TV up on a shelf near the ceiling (except i forgot: no hydro to run it); soldering the hot water taps shut; and so on. instead of removing the stove? a sharp smack on the hand - "NO! that HURTS!" did the job. no, she's not traumatized and frightened of cooking and associating the stove with horrible physical abuse. sometimes, you just don't sit there with the blah-blah-blah: "now, little debbie, you know you're not supposed to climb on the balcony railing. you could fall! you could get hurt! you could die!" and little 2yr old debbie smiles and nods, smiles and nods, and hasn't a clue what you're on about. a sharp smack on the butt - "NO! that HURTS!" does the lesson in one. if what she's doing is going to get her hurt or killed, it's better i hurt her!
LoriSoard LoriSoard 4 years
@TealRose. Wow! I didn't realize we were even on Twitter and I am not sure how on earth you got out of my post that I didn't watch my children but beat them all the time. Of course, I child-proofed my home, not that it is any of your business whatsoever whether I did or not. Would you like the brand name of the electric socket plugs I put in place? Did you realize that not every home you visit has those plugs? Some people don't even have small children (gasp). What a shame that you DON'T KNOW ME and have no idea what my day-to-day was even like or how I raised my children. I'm glad that you're such a perfect parent that your child has never slipped away from you and ran toward the road when a toddler. I guess you keep a harness on him/her all day even while you are in your own yard. That makes perfect sense to me. My daughters are now 20 and 17 and are wonderful young ladies who will be the first to defend me and tell you that they each got one swat with an open hand on their bottoms growing up on about one or two occasions. I hardly "hit" my children all the time and I certainly was not abusive. Thanks for the judgement, though. I'm glad we could have an open, intellegent conversation without anyone being personally attacked about their viewpoints. Perhaps something else in my post irritated you, so you decided to lash out at me specifically? Maybe it was the part about parents who let their kids act out in public and how annoying it is to the rest of us? I'm not sure exactly what your problem is, but I really don't appreciate the personal attack or you accusing me of things that aren't true. Do not put words in my mouth and say things about me that are blatantly false.
MarshaMais MarshaMais 4 years
so I received an email update in regards to this article and at the end of it, commenter pretty much said that children are out of control because they aren't raised to know Christ. Get real! Our family is pagan, specifically of the Heathen/Asatru pantheon. My children are not out of control and like any other child of the age of 8 amd 10, they do begin to exert free will without understanding the consequence behind it. But they both ended their school year with on the honor roll and overall they are respectful girls. And it has NOTHING to do with knowing Christ or being Christian. Nor does it have anything to do with our being pagan either. But it does have to do with getting their tails busted when they make poor decisions too often and it usually happens after several attempts at privilege removal and and "talks". So for those of you who want to equate being Christian to we'll behaved children, remember this: Christianity is the youngest religion in the world. The instillation of respect and overall good behavior in children has been around long before Christ walked, long since since my pagan Germanic ancestors roamed the earth, and before them.
TealRose TealRose 4 years
@LoriSoard - 1] Respect is given where it is first received. Hitting is not respectful. 2] In the USA 92% of all children ARE still spanked aka hit. So THAT is working SO well .. *rolls eyes* 3] You should have got your toddler daughter a set of reins - just like our parents used to use and I used when my children were small. ie YOU take responsibility for YOUR tiny child - and then you don't need to hit a defenceless child. 4] Yes, every child is different - but every child is also a human being just like you - and should be protected from violence - not shown it by their parents. NO one deserves to be hit - except in self defence or defence of another. It really is about time parents took their responsibilities upon themselves - instead of blaming a toddler or child for IT'S actions - Childproof your home, your garden, basically your world. It's for such a short time, and yes they still learn how to be safe .. if YOU teach them how to do so instead of hitting them !
Plynn88 Plynn88 4 years
Most people that spank are the ones that grew up in an abusive home or raised with spanking. I don't believe kids are more disrespectful because they do not spank. I think it's because parents are not actually teaching there kids anything and letting them run wild. Also the most important one is that they are not bringing them up to know Christ.
faheemaadams faheemaadams 4 years
Im sorry but sometimes a spanking is needed. Children dont always understand the concept of taking awy a treat or time out. They need to learn that misbehaving and bad behaviour comes with repercussions, and there is a huge difference between spanking and hitting in anger.
MellaWeber MellaWeber 5 years
To each his own as long as you don't do it out of anger. I agree with most of the posters. I think the reason why so many kids are disespectful nowadays is because nobody spanks their children anymore. I try different forms of discipline depending on what they have done. I don't beat them. One to two good swats on the but and an explanation does the trick. Sometimes toys get taken away, etc.. Like I said it just depends on what they've done. I was in an abusive household, but they didn't really spank. Dad would come and literally beat the heck outta you for a little thing. He always acted out of anger and a bottle of vodka. I've never done that. If I get too angry, I leave the situation for a few minutes and calm down. Then I come back and figure out the punishment. I don't believe in spanking in public though. I think there are other ways to handle those situations when in public. If you know your children tend to act out at certain times of the day, like during nap time, but you don't have a choice and you have to go to the store anyway, Then just give them the low down before you go into the store. Tell them the consequences if they act up. Whatever those may be.
LoriSoard LoriSoard 5 years
I'm sorry, but I disagree with some of the premise behind this article. It is my opinion that opinions like this are the reason why we have a generation of out of control children who do not respect their teachers or other adults. First, there is a way to discipline with spanking. Reacting out of frustration or anger isn't it, which is what this mom was doing. This is not a good example, because it is biased in the direction of abuse from the start. On the other hand, should she have just let her child continue to act up and annoy everyone else in line? Let me tell you that parents who let their kids squawk, cry, fuss, yell and act up are not doing anyone a favor. Your kids are as annoying as heck and other people don't appreciate it. You have to know your child. One of my daughters kept squirming away from me and running toward the street as a toddler. Time-outs and talking didn't work. It was a safety issue. I warned her that the next time she did it, I would spank her. I then followed through and swatted her bottom a couple of times the next time she did it. She never tried to run into the street again. Should I have just let her continue to try to get mowed over by a car because it might hurt her feelings or humiliate her? I think not. She survived childhood, so I must have done something right. The problem with basing your parenting on the research done by psychologists is that it rarely works in the real world. While I do think that you should try other methods first, there are occasions for a quick swat. Your daughter may not have required this type of discipline. My oldest didn't. She always responded to being talked to. Every child is different and as long as it isn't abusive, we really should reserve our judgment and believe that the parent knows that child best and has his best interest at heart.
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