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Why Parents Spank Their Kids

Why I Spanked

Perhaps the simplest answer to that question is that I spanked because my parents spanked. I figured that it worked for them, it should work for me.

My parents aren't violent people. They just wholeheartedly believed in the saying, "spare the rod and spoil the child," as do I.

A swat — not a thug-like whack — on the diapered behind of a toddler often gets their attention like nothing else can. It's swift.


And that is the point: swift. It doesn't last long. Note, I wrote the diapered behind of a toddler and not the jean-clad butt of an elementary-school-aged student.

Spanking, in my humble opinion, is a tool available to parents for quick and necessary corrective action when a child is younger and unable to reason.

For example, young children often innocently put themselves or others in harm's way.

In these events, there isn't time to "talk" about it. Immediate action is required.

Some POPSUGAR Moms readers echo the sentiment that spanking's immediacy makes it a very effective discipline tool in certain situations. "I personally do not like to spank but I have to agree sometimes it may be necessary when other forms of discipline are not working and the behavior of the child poses a danger to himself or others around him/her," said Khadijah L. And Cathy S. says that when a child is putting themselves in danger, "it's the quickest way to get attention and intervene."

Properly used, spanking isn't a beating nor should it ever develop into that. It shouldn't be repetitive. It needs to be a brief, attention-getting signal rather than a permanent mark.

This brings me to the psychological aspect that the existence of the aforementioned rod is supposed to represent.

The exact quotation of "spare the rod and spoil the child" is often mistakenly attributed to the Bible. It was actually contained in the poem Hudibras by Samuel Butler published in 1664. While the Bible mentions discipline many times, the most common reference used to defend spanking is Proverbs 13:34 which is similar. According to the Bible Gateway website, in the New King James Version, it reads, "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

The Biblical "rod" was a tool used by shepherds — not to beat the daylights out of the sheep in their care - but rather to provide firm direction as to which way they should go.

"The rod was used when corralling the sheep to insure they went in the direction they were supposed to go. It wasn't used to prod or poke, but to direct along the length of the shaft," explains Drs. David and Donna Lane, members of the American Association of Christian Counselors, on the Home Church Network Association website.

One doesn't need to be religious to get this concept. For me, it's a bit easier having grown up on a farm, around animals. My hands have gripped many tools for the purpose of directing livestock. Animals need herding. So do our kids. They need our guidance. They need us to take parenting seriously and do the job. It's unfortunate that we as fallible humans see that rod and figure we can smack kids into correct behavior. That application of spanking is wrong.

Any discipline tool a parent uses should have this as its goal: directing a change in behavior that matures the child.

So, yes, I spanked, and I hope only when it was the best option. In all honesty, I cannot say I never misused this tool. All parents make mistakes and with full Dutch blood running through my veins, I do at times have a temper. I do know that I walked a safe distance away from my misbehaving child on more than one occasion.

Does that mean this is the only method of correction I used? Well, duh, no. Time-outs were popular when my now 13-year-old was young. I think my ears are still ringing from his protests. (This method doesn't work anymore, by the way; he just goes to his room and cranks his tunes.)

The forms of discipline we as parents use must adjust as our children age. What worked at age three isn't going to work at 13. Lightly-applied spanking works in the younger years. But only then. And only if it isn't beating.

The bottom line is that any form of discipline must be administered with the goal of teaching and forming character. That's where spanking gets tricky for parents. It's all too easy to allow our own frustration — rather than the goal of correcting — determine the severity of the spanking.

Parenting isn't an easy gig. Neither is determining if spanking works as part of your discipline routine. This is a hot button subject and I know I just struck the match against the side of the box. But perhaps we can all gather around the bonfire and chat about this topic without anyone getting burned.

For another perspective, see Why Spanking Is Wrong.

Image Source: Shutterstock
Join The Conversation
Tonyconrad1415999564 Tonyconrad1415999564 2 years

I think you are right and put it so well. There is a time to stop as you hint at. Each of us will know that time but to use it while you can will bear fruit.

I think the time to stop is before sexual awakening happens as for a few it becomes sexual and punishment should never be mixed up with sex.

The point is for it to hurt in a loving way of course so that behaviour is modified.

NinaStanger NinaStanger 3 years
I wouldn't call a swat to get the child's attention when the child is in immediate danger abusive. However, if you teach your child a signal that they will always obey without question for such instances like a fire drill, that's also not necessary. A little thinking ahead prevents that too. The point is to prevent and correct the behavior long-term. Not just to get them to stop for the moment or be sneakier about it. I was spanked as a child, but it merely caused me to become outraged and defiant. I would literally sneer at my mother, "Hit me again! Doesn't it feel good!!??" I did not get in trouble, got good grades and didn't talk back unless I or someone else was being mistreated. As all I needed was to be spoken to like a person, I would not accept such punishment and considered it to be abuse. She lost control, so she spanked me. Period. I would taunt her to lose control further because either she would stop and think or leave marks which I would have turned her in for. If I'm responsible for my actions and require punishment for nothing, then she sure as hell deserved to face the consequences for hers. I love my mother and we are very close. We both agree that she should never have done that, that it was, in fact, her lack of control and not my behavior that was the problem. She's proud of me for always standing up for what I believe in, even when I had to stand up to her. If she had had the skills to deal with her emotions better, she tells me that it wouldn't have happened and she no longer believes in spanking. I understood that what she was doing was wrong and she didn't. Do not get into this situation with your child or you are no longer the parent. As a parent, you're going to be in the wrong at some point. Admit to it immediately or suffer a child who doesn't trust that you know what's best for them and lose their respect. If you are an adult, you can admit to your mistakes. If not, you have no business being a parent.
KarenCoates KarenCoates 4 years
It makes me so sad to read this, and be reminded how many Americans still believe in spanking. There are very good reasons why spanking is illegal in most of Europe - it is detrimental to the child, and it is never OK. It causes lot of psychological damage to a child, that is spanked. Violence breeds violence! It explains why so many people are in jail in USA for violent crimes compared to Sweden, where spanking has been illegal for the last 30 years. Surely you can use your imagination to find a better way to raise your children? And no, time-out is not the answer either! Would you spank your husband if he broke a plate or reached out to touch the stove while it was hot? And would you like a spanking if you did something you husband doesn't approve of? Maybe spending too much money on clothes, or coming home tipsy after a dinner with the girl friends? Just something to think about! Children are little people who deserves all your respect - to spank them is telling them that you don't respect them and their physical boundaries.
patriciacoffee9500 patriciacoffee9500 5 years
i agree every parent should read this article
KristiBek KristiBek 5 years
I was spanked as a child and I understand why some parents choose that form of discipline. However, as a Mother with a Bachelors in Phychology, I have learned too much to choose it for mu family. It is frustrating that most people assume if you don't spank, you don't discipline. That is definitelt not the case! The spanking is not what gets the result. It's the stopping of the bad behavior. I personally do not see how I could spank my child and then tell him hitting is wrong.
brandie35394 brandie35394 5 years
What age is appropriate for a spanking??
AbbyHarris AbbyHarris 5 years
It truly amazes me the way people react to an article about spanking. I have spanked my daughter very few times in her life, it wasn't because I was tired or frustrated or lazy about her punishment. Like many mothers on here, it was to get her attention because she was about to hurt herself in a more severe way. I have gone to classes on spirited children (my daughter is very much one) and I have tried many different methods of punishment. Currently she spends a lot of time in time-out when she misbehaves but I refuse to treat her like one of my friends. I talk to her about why she is in trouble so that she understands what needs to be corrected but hand-in-hand parenting is just allowing your children to be your friend. Then what happens when they are a teen and decide to go out drinking with friends and get arrested? Or decide that it's cool to smoke weed? How are you going to discipline them then? They will laugh in your face because you are their friend, not their parent. Children need to respect their parents, and sometimes as my parents would say "have the fear of God put into them." Popping your child on the butt is not hitting them by any stretch of the imagination. I am a young mother, as in I am 21, and I cannot stand to see these teens walking around doing whatever they want because they know their parents will just "talk" to them about it and not do anything about it. There are some kids who truly do turn out very well without spanking but their parents also probably had a very firm grasp on who, what, when and where their children were at every moment and didn't pretend to be their friends. What it truly boils down to is, the parents and their personality and the child and their personality. I was spanked not even a handful of times in my childhood and I don't even remember them. But I didn't question anything my parents said because I understood that they were in charge. My older sister on the other hand, could barely go a day without a spanking because she would blatantly ignore the rules. My older brother was never spanked. 3 kids, 1 house and all of us turned out to be responsible and respectful adults. So if you don't want to spank that's fine, but if your "hand-in-hand" parenting doesn't produce responsible and respectful children, I would start asking yourself whether or not it is really working for them or not.
TresitaGonzalez TresitaGonzalez 5 years
I agree Butting them in time out doesnt show them anything spanking them and telling then why they got a spanking it will show them oh i cant do that anymore or i will get a spanking.
CharleneWard48225 CharleneWard48225 5 years
I have to agree with Amy. Spanking a child once one the bottom is not going to hurt them. It will teach them to respect others and know that they can't just do what ever they want to do.
KatrinaBryant80321 KatrinaBryant80321 5 years
I am a firm believer of spanking. Again - spanking, not beating. Yes, I was spanked as a child, but it wasn't in excess and I always respected my parents. I think everyone has the right to have their own opinion on this subject, but us that know the difference of spanking and beating shouldn't be flogged for taking this route. Not every child can be well behaved just with a hug, and protection. My son gives everyone he knows is in charge a run for their money - and the more lenient you are with him, the worse. For those that have laid back kids that drop what their doing at your first say so - good for you. Some of us have more on our hands then that. As with everything in life there is a progression - as our child grows older and understands right and wrong, spanking is going to go away - maybe in leu of other terms of punishment or just all together for whoever is that lucky! I don't even remember being spanked - I was so young when my parents didn't have to any more. My son is very loved and spoiled, hugged and kissed every day - he knows how much he's loved. I am not a bad mother because I spank and I firmly believe my son will be better because we do.
ShaunaGloudon ShaunaGloudon 5 years
If u disgree then dont read the post. Not everyone has to raise children the same way and i find it beyond annoying that everyone thinks that because you dont beleive in a form of discipline, means everyone that does, is wrong! get over urselves. I spank, and i feel no need to defend my position.
KarenMorris46781 KarenMorris46781 5 years
It amazes me that after taking a look at the youth today people can still say that it is wrong to spank a child. Kids today show little or no respect for teachers, parents or anyone for that matter. I was spanked as a child as were my two siblings. Not a one of us have ever had a run in with the law. We all have families and responsibly take care of our kids and spouses. Our parents loved us as children and we continue to have great relationships with them. If we are living according to God's word then there should be no debate on whether it is ok to spank a child.
JenniferDwarte JenniferDwarte 5 years
The reason why kids are a so badly behaved is because they are or are not spanked . . . please! Does nobody else consider that the increase in relationships breaking down, drugs and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, stressed working parents resulting in reduced parental supervision and poverty would be more harmful to children? I do not advocate for spanking, but i have no issue with spanking being used as a tool if it is affective for your child. There is far more in this world that children need to be protected from.
MelisaIcely MelisaIcely 5 years
Mine know that they have stepped out of line when the I have to physically discipline them. But I always get them to explain what and why they are receiving this punishment. Surprisingly, this is only done a few times before they get the point that type of behaviour is unacceptable. But I do try to make sure that my "Yes, means yes and No, means no." I am not afraid to pull my children into line because someone else disagrees with the way that it was handled. Each child has to be dealt with differently, but yes, they are never to old to be spared the "rod." What with the way the children speak this days, I am unsurprised that many parents are moaning about their unruly children. It could have been dealt with at a much younger age. As, I say to mine, "I do not deserve to be talked to disrespectfully." This quick reminder is enough for now.
HeatherDunsford HeatherDunsford 5 years
I completely agree! I only wish more parents would take true punishment seriously. I was spanked as a child--not beaten, spanked. I learned that there were consequences to disobedience, etc.
KristenThompkins KristenThompkins 5 years
I totally agree with this article. When my son was 2 he started with the "test mommy" phase where he would do everything in his power to make me angry and not listen. I would say "no", he would say "yes"... etc. I had tried other forms of discipline and they were all a joke. Time out NEVER worked, talking to him, redirection, sending him to his room.... you name it... i tried it. then i asked my mom if she thought he was too young for me to spank. by this time my son was 3. she said that she felt a swat to his butt might get his attention and show him I was serious. she did it with me, and i turned out fine, so, I did it. and IT WORKED! the bad behavior would stop. I would only have to correct him once, and if I counted "1... 2... if i get to 3... your going to get spanked"... he would stop and listen. there is only once or twice that i can remember actually making it to 3. I was happy, he was happy. the bad behavior had stopped, and there were less tears and much less yelling and stress in my home. Then came this woman, who saw me discipline my son, and proceeded to tell me, along with other people that we knew in common, that she was going to turn me into DSS for spanking my son. I got so upset, that i swore i was not going to spank him again. I was so afraid that there was a chance that I could loose my son, that i stopped everything that had worked for the past year. Now, i have a totally out of control 4 year old, and I dont know which way to turn. he does not listen, he talks back constantly, and no discipline techniques are working. I refuse to spank him out of sheer fear that I may loose him, and in a way I am loosing him anyway. My house is very stressful, he is always in trouble, and i dont know what else to do. this article and the people responding to it have really made me feel better. I NEVER beat my son, but, as a last resort, to show him i was serious, I would swat his butt and get his attention, and he was a different kid. My son is proof that the spanking technique does work, but thanks to someone who doesnt have children of her own and couldn't keep her nose where it belonged, I stopped and let things get out of control. Everyone I know spanks their children, i have seen them do it, but because of the words of one person, I cant bring myself to implement it again.
DeborahDuval DeborahDuval 5 years
I do feel spankings, as reprimand for the most serious offenses, while you are in a controlled frame of mind are most effective. I don't have to use spanking now that my daughter is 3 cause I used them when she was 1 and 2... she now knows that if I say NO it's "NO"... It never degenerated into something more dangerous, and I never did it when I was mad, but my kids are not the kids at birthday parties where other parents give a sigh of relief when they leave.
SarahBleier SarahBleier 5 years
I agree with the comments made stating that it does not make sense to reason that you can spank a child who is diaper-aged. I do not believe in spanking at any age. I don't understand how you can hit a child (and that is what spanking is), and then tell that child that hitting is wrong. Some people have written that they only used spanking until their children were old enough to reason with, but then one woman said that when she tried to stop spanking her 7 year old, nothing else seemed to work and she had to return to spanking. How can you say that it us ok to spank a small child, and you'll stop once they are older? What happens when they grow older and other methods don't work? I send my 3 year old to time out, and when she is too old for that, I'll find something else. Than if that doesn't work, I can still go back to timeouts. If she thinks she's too old for them, then she should act like a big girl so she won't have to have them. Also, as I was reading the article and comments, I was wondering aloud, why can't you just pick the child up and remove them from a dangerous situation instead of snacking them? It seems like smacking a child doesn't get them to move out of the road as effectively as picking them up and moving them would.
ElsabieOrris ElsabieOrris 5 years
I agree with the article and with Kate's comment. Every child is different and what works for one parent and child won't necessasary work for another.
AlexandraAlise AlexandraAlise 5 years
I wholeheartedly disagree! I see spanking as lazy parenting. I always managed to get my child's attention by swiftly dropping to her level, putting my face directly in front of hers and saying very sharply; "NO!" Sometimes also grabbing her hands, if needed. I have never needed to spank my child, let alone my baby still in diapers! ("Diapered bottom of a toddler.") My child only gets spanked if she asks nicely; "Mommy, may I please have a spanking?" As it should be.
SonyaRodriguez75479 SonyaRodriguez75479 5 years
This arguement is so tired and old. I love to read how these "know it all" moms love to tell us how to raise our kids. "Oh spanking is hitting" "outlets for adult anger" "oh they can get out of hand"...I'm sure they have PERFECT children because they NEVER spanked them...ya, uh huh...RIGHT, sure they do. How about you raise your kids and I'll raise mine. If you don't like my form of discipline (and that's what spanking is...a form of discipline that you just don't like) DON'T USE IT...and you don't. I will happily smack my kids behinds everything time I think they need it. YAY! Cause they are my kids. Don't worry, I will never lay a hand on your kids (even though most of them probably need it), because I know the difference between YOUR KIDS and MY KIDS. And you go ahead and "keep in mind" that some people will cross the line...go ahead and worry yourself to a frenzy about other peoples' kids like YOU REALLY CARE (ya right...I never see these "know it all" mom's working at the child abuse centers actually HELPING mom's who REALLY abuse their children.) I guess they are too busy here telling good mothers how terrible we are. Happy "time-outing" glad it's working out for you.
AudraIhrig AudraIhrig 5 years
i am a singe parent my son's father has passed away. we both agreed that spanking was a last resort. i have taken toys off my child no tv and have explained to him what he did wrong and why it was wrong. if he repeats the beghavio after that then yes i will give him a whap on the butt it gets his attention and after he does not repeat the action. i was spanked and i turne out fine. i respect others and love my mother for all shetaught me. everone has their views and we need to agree to rspect others opinoins and not force others to abide by what we feel if right. every situation is different.
BethThompson97454 BethThompson97454 5 years
Sometimes with my 5 year old nothing gets her attention like a simple swat on the butt! I don't mean sitting there and continuously striking her butt. I am a ONE smack hey that is inappropriate behaviour. It makes her stop what she is doing and look at me. I got her attention to redirect her. I use a blend of methods for discipline because not one method is perfect for every occasion. I also use time-outs. It just depends on the severity of the behaviour I am trying to redirect. My sister isn't a spanker but an arm grabber to get attention and it works for her and her kids. Everyone is different and going to handle situations their own way. What works for one doesn't work for the other. I am not an arm grabber because my daughter had nurse maids elbow a couple of years ago so I am not about to grab her arm to get her attention and take a chance at her arm going out of socket. Now don't misinterpret what I am saying either. I am not saying it is ok to beat a child either or sit their and pound their little butts for five minutes. All I am saying is a swift smack on the rump gets the attention of my child to redirect her behaviour.
KellyJamieson KellyJamieson 5 years
I agree with Jennifer Drew. I live in New Zealand. It is now law over here that you cannot smack your children. What right does the government have, to say how to raise your children. How do you teach children right from wrong without some form of discipline. The reason i say this is because i am a single mother of 2 children a boy who will be 9 on Tuesday and a little girl who will be 2 in Sept. My daughter has drawn on the walls several times now and i have basically told her she is naughty for doing that and she must only draw on paper and she has a huge smile on her face and tells me pretty, claps her hands and says good girl. When she caught my wall heater on fire i tapped her hand and told her she was naughty and she must not touch the heater it will burn and hurt she did not cry when i tapped her on her hand but she does not touch the heater any more. I think at times it is necessary to discipline your children and i don't think a tap on the hand really harms them and if people disagree with that i would love to know how i should of handled the situation especially when i know that just telling her NO means absolutely nothing to her.
KatieSammons KatieSammons 5 years
I'm sorry but I have to agree, spanking when done with love and for the right reasons is definately a good form of discipline... I'm 35 years old, I was spanked as a child and I know my parents did it out of love for me. Ok sometimes it may have been out of frustration, but we are all human, and anyone with kids knows how frustrating it can be at times. But my parents are good parents, I love them very much and do not resent them in the slightest for spanking me be it love or frustration that led to it. My two siblings and myself are all still very close to our parents, and are constantly asking them for advice when it comes to raising our own kids. Spanking does not encourage violence... all this new found research that goes against spanking seems to be causing all the problems, like others have said in their comments, kids now a days are out of control, did any of you anti spankers stop to wonder why this is?? The things we do in the early years help to shape the rest of our childs life. There is nothing wrong with spanking, when done for the correct reasons.
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