75% of Americans spank their children. But does it work?
Before I answer this question, let me pose another. Suppose you’re going to buy a new TV. What do you do first? You google it. You research different TVs. It’s a big purchase, and you’re not going to spend your money without doing a little groundwork.
Whether or not you believe in spanking, have you researched it? Have you read a single article about spanking? In this area, most people tend to do whatever their parents did. Think about that. You wouldn’t automatically buy the same TV as your parents, unless your parents happen to be TV experts. So why automatically adopt their parenting practices?
Google “does spanking work,” and you’ll see study after study telling you that it simply doesn’t. Spanking may modify your child’s behavior in the short term, but the long-term consequences of spanking are known to be negative. It increases aggression in children, can lead to social issues in adulthood, and strains the parent-child bond. Spanking creates fear, but it doesn’t facilitate learning. When a client tells me they were spanked as a child, I always ask them for what offense. Rarely do they remember why they got spanked–they just remember the spanking.
If spanking is so clearly ineffective, why do so many parents still do it?
Parents are extremely busy and stressed, and spanking is easier than more effective methods.
Suppose your child struggles with grades. The most effective tool is positive reinforcement. Praise and reward your child when she brings home an A. Negative reinforcement also works, if not as well. Give your child some version of “time out” or “grounding” when he brings home an unacceptable grade. These methods work, but they take time, consistency and patience.
Parents spank for “philosophical” reasons.
It’s the idea that not spanking leads to “spoiling,” although this has been disproven again and again in decades of study. You want your child to learn critical thinking skills. You want her, as an adult, to analyze the best available data before drawing a conclusion. But in spanking your children, you are unintentionally sending this message: It’s important to carry forward certain family patterns, even when they’ve been shown to be harmful.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.