Why Parents should not Spank – No

Short answer: There are more effective and respectful ways to parent that don’t involve striking a child.

Long answer:

I used to be in the pro-spanking camp myself, but the more I researched, the more I realized that spanking is a practice that can’t really be defended.

First, there is no other context in our society in which we hit another person to teach or even to warn them of danger. This is a common argument used to defend the practice of spanking. Let’s take an elderly person with Alzheimer’s, for example. A person with Alzheimer’s needs someone to take care of them and protect them because they are unable to do those things for themselves, much like children. Yet we don’t slap the hand of an Alzheimer’s patient when they reach for a hot stove or when they do something unsafe. Why? That would be disrespectful. What do we do? We keep them away from dangerous situations and steer them back to where they should be if they do veer off. What makes it less disrespectful to slap a child’s hand for doing something dangerous?

Another popular reason spanking is touted is that many people believe it’s mandated in the Bible, that in order to be good Christian parents, we must spank our children. This is a huge stumbling block for many people, myself included. But when you look closely, you see that there are really just a few verses in the book of Proverbs that seem to condone the practice. And on these few verses, we’ve based an entire method of discipline? The Bible speaks of the rod of discipline in Proverbs. However, the shepherds didn’t hit their sheep with their rod; they used it to guide them. Isn’t it just possible that we’ve taken the five or six verses in Proverbs too literally?

We need to look at the overall context of the Bible and at what we know of Christ. New Testament verses command fathers to not provoke their children to anger, to not embitter them. If you look at Jesus Himself and how He treated children, you will see that He gave them respect when others did not. When the disciples were trying to shoo the children away, Jesus scolded them and told them to allow the children to come to Him. He loved them. I really do not believe that He would advocate treating children like second-class citizens or disrespecting them.

A third defense that crumbles upon examination is that spanking is effective. Sometimes in the short run, it certainly can be. But there are other methods that are just as effective or even more so, and they don’t involve hitting. Often it is assumed that if a parent doesn’t spank that the alternative is permissiveness. Not true. There are more proactive, compassionate methods of parenting that are a win-win scenario for child and parent. Parents can be firm yet kind. Children can be treated with respect while still having limits and boundaries enforced. There are tons of resources available for the parent who wants to learn a kindler, gentler, and yes, more effective way to parent.

Another reason that corporal punishment shouldn’t be used is because it’s so easily abused. Almost everyone in favor of it will have some sort of caveat and stress that children shouldn’t be abused. My own parents had rules about the practice of spanking. They didn’t spank when angry, we always understood why we were being spanked, etc. And many conservative parenting experts will set up similar rules don’t spank past the age of five or six, only spank occasionally or for major infractions, don’t use an instrument, don’t leave a mark, etc. If we have to be so careful and set up so many rules in using this method of discipline in order not to hurt children, maybe that’s a clue that we shouldn’t be using it at all.

This brings me to another reason many give in favor of spanking. I’ve frequently heard the argument that goes something like this: I was spanked and I turned out fine. And many people do turn out fine. Some people don’t. Some feel disrespected and are wounded deeply. The point is not to blame our parents or previous generations. I believe that my parents did the best they could with the information they had. But now we know that there are other options. We have a wealth of information available to us that our parents did not. Our parents also didn’t put bicycle helmets on us or always use car seats. When you know better, you do better. Why wouldn’t we want to make use of our resources to make a better life for ourselves and our children without having to resort to yelling or hitting?

We have the opportunity to be more proactive, compassionate, thoughtful and effective in our parenting. Why in the world wouldn’t we want to be?