Discipline Methods: Spanking

Posted by Papa Sez | Thursday, March 18, 2010

Note: This is the fifth and final article in the series on Discipline Methods posted every Friday and introduced in Discipline and Parenting Style.  If you missed the previous articles, please read them first- Discipline Methods: Communication and Role Modeling, Discipline Methods: Merits and Demerits,Discipline Methods: Time-Out and Reverse Time-Out, and Discipline Methods: Prevention and Tolerance

Spanking used to be the norm in child discipline but these days, to spank or not to spank the child for misbehavior, has become debatable. It is a sensitive issue because an increasing number of parents and child psychologists do not approve of spanking as an acceptable discipline method, while others still argue that removing the fear of physical punishment results to uncontrollable youths.

It is true that there are lots of other non-violent discipline methods that parents can use but there are parents and child psychologists that still believe that spanking when given with fairness, love and care is an effective discipline technique.

It is dreadfully unfortunate that many children are abused under the guise of spanking to discipline them.

Recognizing this fact and acknowledging that spanking, when used in a non abusive manner, is still an effective method, this article discusses ways to effectively implement and prevent abuse when parents had to resort to spanking as method of child discipline.

Save in Your Child’s Love Bank. Imagine saving love and positive emotions in your child's virtual love bank. The more you show you care, give positive emotions or make the child feel loved and important, the more love savings you deposit and accumulate in that virtual bank. But every time you spank him or her, no matter how well-meaning, love is withdrawn.

Be sure to always show your love and affection so you have enough reserves or savings when you have to withdraw such as when you need to discipline the child. When you spank a child, always follow up with explanations and make it clear that the spanking was done for his benefits and for the love of him such that the hurt will be lessened and may even be transformed to love to refill the love bank.

Decide which behaviors deserve a spanking. Parents should set reasonable behavioral standards for their children.  They should know age-appropriate behaviors such that true misbehaviors can be identified and gross misbehavior that deserve spanking can be singled out. Most parents would agree that lying, disrespect and open defiance are grave misconducts that should be dealt with seriously.

Be fair to your child and do not accuse him or her of misbehaving when what he or she did is a normal childhood behavior and do not spank for minor offenses. Bed-wetting, messy-eating, toy-breaking, wall-writing are examples of child behavior that require action but not spanking. Don’t let them stray too far from the behavioral standard you have set for them, but allow them to act their age as well...be it as toddlers, preschool, school-age, tweens or teens.

Be in control. Never ever spank a child when you are angry. Deal with the situation by letting yourself cool off first, think about the situation then decide what to do next. This is like implementing the reverse time-out such that if you still think that spanking is necessary, your emotions are already in control.

If you spank with heated anger, chances are you will hurt your child more than you intended to. Spank the child in his clothed bottom using your bare hands and not with other implements or objects. This will ensure you don’t hurt the child more than the pain your open palm can tolerate.

Give One Warning. Giving your child one warning for an offense that deserves spanking gives him a chance to realize that he has done or is doing something wrong.  If it was not clear at the beginning, this is an opportunity to correct the grave mistake and redeem himself from the shaky situation.

The child must believe that you only give one warning and not three or four, such that he only has one chance and will therefore take it seriously. This strategy will lessen the frequency of spanking. Remember that when spanking is done too often, it becomes less effective and is just plain mean. By being consistent with one warning policy, you give your child a fair chance, gain his respect and set clear boundaries that your child will seek not to cross.

Keep the Child Focused. When spanking has to be done, bring the child to a neutral place where nobody can see him. You must not embarrass the child in front of his siblings and other people. Aside from giving him respect, you avoid distractions that will hinder your child’s complete understanding of the situation. His or her full attention is necessary when you discuss what happened and explain again why the punishment has to be done.  Otherwise, he might focus on the embarrassment, feel bitter and angry at your careless intrusion rather than focus on his offense that needs to be corrected. 

Remember that in all discipline methods and especially in the case of spanking, communication with your child and being a good role model (credibility) are very important for these methods to be effective and are also necessary to preserve the love and respect in the relationship.

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photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/ / CC BY 2.0

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  1. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

    People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can use the resources I've posted if they want to learn more. All materials listed may be accessed at the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at www.nospank.net.

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  2. Mama Sez March 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM  

    I appreciate your comment PDeverit. It is good to discuss this in the open to enlighten parents about the issues. I would like to hear more about the opinions of people with different cultural backgrounds. Hope the discussion continues.

  3. Cakeblast July 23, 2010 at 1:00 AM  

    Do you have children, PDeverit? When we bathe our children we generally wipe a sponge or washrag over what would be "sexual nerve centers" on an adult. Like many people, I received my share of spankings/whippings as a child. I don't recall ever feeling any "sexual stimulus" at the time.

    I'm not saying that children cannot be physically stimulated (although writing that makes me feel icky). However, a disciplinary spanking is not going to cause this.

    There may be a sexual danger to spanking teenagers since they are often already thinking about sex. Of course there would be a sexual danger to helping a teenager wash his/her hair in the bath too. In fact, a lot of the things we do for our children become sexual dangers once a person is sexually mature. This article doesn't address spanking teenagers, but I am against it.

    Prisoners and military personnel used to get their backs whipped/flogged. Sometimes this caused injury, even though full grown men usually have fully developed muscles to protect them from injury.

    The only safe place to spank children is the buttocks and back of the upper-thighs. The tissue is fatty with no bones close to the surface of the skin. This means there is very little chance of bruising (unlike the legs, arms, face, etc.). The buttocks also does not protect any vital organs (unlike the back, stomach and head).

    Spanking is proven to work. It has been a primary form of discipline longer than any other method. Time-Outs are relatively new and we are just now beginning to see the results of this sea change in primary discipline methods.

    Are children more respectful than they were two generations ago? Do today's young adults, raised on time-outs and little else, have better character than they did in the past?

    You are right that people don't want to spank their kids. It makes parents feel bad to have to discipline their children. It makes the parents less popular with their children. It is devastating to see our children in pain.

    Most parents would rather do almost anything besides correcting their precious gifts from God. However, a true sign that you love somebody is when you are willing to do what is best for them, even when you would rather do almost anything else in the world.

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