Is Spanking an Effective Discipline Method?

is spanking good discipline

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When I was a child, I received several spankings. I was never sent to the naughty chair nor was I given time-outs. If I misbehaved, my mother (or any other relative) made me get a belt or a switch. She firmly believed in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” school of thought. Since then, parents have discovered other ways to discipline their children and don’t use spanking as their sole method.

As I was researching discipline techniques for an episode of my wife’s web show, Mommy to the Max, I came across an article that had been sitting in my inbox for several months. The writer, Esther Joseph is staunchly opposed to spanking. Here’s what she had to say:

Esther Joseph, an advocate against corporal punishment in the home, spent her childhood alternately suffering physical abuse from her mother and emotional abuse from her father. But she doesn’t consider herself a victim.

“I’m a survivor of child abuse,” said Joseph, author of Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven—A Story of Survival Transformation and Hope. “In overcoming the damage of an upbringing riddled with violence, I was adamant that I would not grow up to be an abuser, as well. I know the dangers of striking a child to discipline them and then explaining that you’re doing it for their own good and because you love them. All that does is teach the child that violence is an acceptable part of love, and as they grow up, they accept violence in their adult relationships because they’ve been taught that it’s completely normal.”

Joseph believes that discipline is important, but that it can be delivered without making violence an acceptable part of life.

“No matter how out of control a child may be considered, a beating is never an effective way to get their attention, obedience or respect,” she added. “Parents must understand that there are other disciplinary measures, less violent and degrading methods that will garner the results they seek, while raising children to become emotional health and fulfilled adults.”

Joseph offered a few simple tips for alternative means of helping children behave. They include:

  • Be a Good Example – Parents must live by example, allowing their actions and not just their words to exemplify the kind of person they would like their child to become.
  • Be One Step Ahead – Don’t wait until your child has done something “wrong” to have a talk with them. Parents can circumvent many foreseeable challenges by addressing them before they become an issue.
  • Be Creative – One type of punishment does not work for every child. Parents must figure out and utilize a form of reprimand that would work best for their child’s particular temperament.

“Every spanking, no matter how mild, has an impact,” Joseph said. “Parents should be aware that a spanked child becomes a emotionally crippled adult who goes out into the world and plays this handicap onto others, perpetuating the idea that abusive relationships are just a normal part of life. Now, I understand that people justify it by thinking, ‘I was spanked as a child and I turned out okay,’ but that equation doesn’t work for everyone. When we begin to justify violence as a part of our children’s lives, it becomes a slippery slope when we try to determine how much is too much.

The topic of spanking is quite controversial and has divided the parenting community for decades. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’d also like to know what methods of discipline you think are most effective.

Stay Strong,

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Question: What is the most effective discipline method?

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About the author
Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at fjgoodall@mochadad.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mochadad
  1. It’s a tough call. I’ve never spanked either of my kids, because my wife and I both agree that it’s not going to be effective given their dispositions. However, around age 3, I have swatted my kids hands when they’ve reached for things that they were expressly told to leave alone. My son learned to leave it alone. My daughter learned to move faster. ;-)

    I can envision situations where a spanking seems warranted and I’ve met kids who I’ve thought, to borrow the Southern vernacular, “could really use getting their britches dusted.”

    One of the most popular discipline methods in our home and our friends’ homes is not to put the child in time out, but a cherished possession/best friend like a stuffed animal. I’ll confiscate a toy and display it prominently on top of the fridge or mantle and tell the offending child, “here’s why you lost it and here’s what you need to do to get it back.” That’s pretty effective for us.

    • I don’t have kids yet, but my husband and I both have taken Effective Christian Parenting classes. The idea of teaching kids by both making AND keeping promises — such as what you do with the stuffed animal — were emphasized in those classes. We learned that if we scold a child but they don’t understand why on THEIR level, then it’s not effective. I don’t think spankings translate well into teaching a child the lesson we’re trying to get across. 

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