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Tuesday
Nov042008

Best anti-spanking resources

I know that I am often preaching the the choir here. Many of my readers have similar values and parenting approaches to me. However, we are all often in situations where we want to be able to share rational arguments in support of non-violent parenting to those that may not be aware of the consequences of spanking. To help me and help you to spread the message that spanking is harmful, I've compiled some of my favourite anti-spanking resources.

Plain Talk About Spanking


This great resource prepared by Project No Spank summarizes a variety of research on the harmful effects of spanking. It starts with a great explanation of why "I was spanked and I turned out okay" isn't a good reason to hit your kids. It then goes on to present a list of facts about spanking, including:

  • The lasting effect of spanking

  • Lost trust

  • Neglect is not the only alternative to spanking (I wrote more about this in my Discipline Spectrum post)

  • Link between spousal abuse and spanking

  • Escalation from small tap for big behavioural problem to routine abuse

  • Link between spanking and sexual molestation and sexual development

  • Physical dangers of hitting the buttocks and the hands

  • Dangers of shaking

  • Link between spanking and poor performance at school

  • Link between spanking and smoking, drinking and drugs

  • Link between spanking and criminal behaviour

  • Link between spanking and prejudice

  • Link between spanking and brain development

  • Spanking at school


It then includes a series of quotes from experts about spanking and has links to a number of articles that they have written on the topic too.  That is followed by these questions and answers:
Q: What do virtually all juvenile delinquents have in common?
A: They have been raised by spankers.

Q: What was a common feature of the childhoods of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Charles Manson?
A: Each one was relentlessly, severely, physically punished.

Q: What do most prisoners on death row have in common?
A: Plenty of spankings during childhood.

Q: What do rapists, arsonists, terrorists, torturers, serial killers, mass murderers, suicide bombers, kidnappers, snipers, assassins, muggers, vandals, spouse batterers and stalkers have in common?
A: Violent upbringing.

Q: Which child is destined never to join the company of felons?
A: One who is raised in a nurturing, attentive, supportive, non-spanking family.

Q: To turn a friendly puppy into a vicious guard dog, what must you do to it?
A: Restrict its movement and beat it often.

Finally, the document ends with information on what you can do to help (spread the word!) and some additional resources for further study.

Dr. Sears on Spanking


The AskDrSears Web site has a great article on spanking that includes reasons not to hit your child,  admonitions of parents who spank, and signs you need professional help about discipline. The reasons not to hit your child (explained in more detail in the article) are:

  1. Hitting Models Hitting

  2. Hitting Devalues the Child

  3. Hitting Devalues the Parent

  4. Hitting May Lead to Abuse (my personal opinion is that it is abuse)

  5. Hitting Does Not Improve Behaviour

  6. Hitting is Actually Not Biblical

  7. Hitting Promotes Anger in Parents and Children

  8. Hitting Brings Back Bed Memories

  9. Abusive Hitting Has Bad Long-Term Effects

  10. Abusive Hitting has Bad Long

  11. Spanking Does Not Work


Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child: Negative Effects of Spanking and Some Healthy Alternatives


This Mothering Magazine article exclaims shock at the fact that in 2000, 61 percent of parents claimed to spank their children. It links the need to spank children with wildly inaccurate understanding of what age appropriate behaviour is. The parents that spanked often felt that a 6 month old child could be "spoiled" and had other inappropriate expectations of their children. It then explains some of the problems with spanking (similar to those raised in the other articles) and then goes on to explain healthier alternatives to spanking.

Spare the Rod, Why You Shouldn't Hit Your Kids


This article by Alan Kazdin uses a great analogy. I'll let it speak for itself:
The science also shows that corporal punishment is like smoking: It's a rare human being who can refrain from stepping up from a mild, relatively harmless dose to an excessive and harmful one. Three cigarettes a month won't hurt you much, and a little smack on the behind once a month won't harm your child. But who smokes three cigarettes a month? To call corporal punishment addictive would be imprecise, but there's a strong natural tendency to escalate the frequency and severity of punishment. More than one-third of all parents who start out with relatively mild punishments end up crossing the line drawn by the state to define child abuse: hitting with an object, harsh and cruel hitting, and so on. Children, endowed with wonderful flexibility and ability to learn, typically adapt to punishment faster than parents can escalate it, which helps encourage a little hitting to lead to a lot of hitting. And, like frequent smoking, frequent corporal punishment has serious, well-proven bad effects.

The article also talks about the ill-effects of spanking and raises the point that scientists that have done this research have not been as vocal about it as proponents of spanking have been. Also parents often see the temporary compliance that results from spanking as a sign of "success", not realizing that this short-term gain has lots of long-term negative consequences (again, the reason we need to focus on long-term parenting versus short-term parenting).

The article also talks about the fact that 91 countries have banned corporal punishment in schools and 23 have banned spanking everywhere, including in the home and another 20, including Canada, are considering bans.  It talks about the fact that the United Nations has set 2009 as a goal date for eliminating violence against children (that's next year!).

I hope you enjoy the articles and find a gently convincing way to share them with people that might be persuaded that spanking is not the best option for disciplining their children. Please pass the word along!

« Why Time-Outs Don't Work (Wordless Wednesday) | Main | Raising a Feminist »

Reader Comments (31)

I know this is a little late in coming, but I've found this blog http://alisaterry.blogspot.com to have a lot of great anti-spanking posts and links to studies. Just search for "spanking." I love her blog. :)

Thanks for this post, though!

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat

This is an awesome resource. Thank you for providing this!

My husband and I have debated about this - he feels that a swat on the bottom is most effective ONLY in situations where a child has put itself into harm's way (i.e. disobeyed and ran out into busy street, tried to touch stove, etc.) My thought on that is immediate removal from whatever situation it is, i.e. time out/alone time.

What are your thoughts? As we grow into this parenting gig it seems that there are no black and white answers as I originally thought...

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbessie.viola

I wish those arguements worked more often. Maybe they do for those sitting on the fence, but every pro-spanker I've ever talked to has a response for every one of those points - most notably, "I was spanked and I turned out fine."

Thanks for compiling a list of these resources!

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

@bessie.viola

I don't think a swat on the bottom is appropriate ever.

In cases where a child puts himself in harm's way, I think the appropriate response depends on the child's age.

I don't expect my 19 month old to fully understand the concept of what is dangerous or not. So it is my responsibility to keep her away from danger. If she gets near enough to a hot stove to touch it or has the opportunity to run out into the street, then I have failed in my responsibility to my child.

My 4 year old son is in a better position to understand danger. In his case, I give him a bit more freedom (e.g. not having to hold my hand, being able to get himself a snack from the kitchen even though the stove is on), but also expect him to act appropriately. If he doesn't, then he has that freedom revoked until he can demonstrate that he understands. Of course I explain the dangers to him and explain safe behaviour and I often hear him repeating a version of them to other children (e.g. "look both ways before you cross the bike path Hamish or there will be no more Hamish").

The older the child gets, the more I think they will calculate in their mind whether doing something is worth the punishment. I have a friend that used to come home past curfew every night and get slapped for it, but staying out late was worth being slapped to her. That is why I think teaching responsibility, explaining things, etc. right from a young age is important. You want your child to understand why not to do something and to believe in that. That is the best way to get them to behave.

I almost never do alone time/time-outs. I do remove my children from dangerous situations, but I use that as an opportunity to connect with them and talk through the situation. The only time I will leave them alone is if I can't take the time right then and there (e.g. if he takes a glass that I told him not to touch and drops it on the ceramic floor, I need to remove him while I clean up the pieces of glass).

Check out some of my other post on discipline as there are some other ideas there. In particular I would suggest:
http://phdinparenting.com/2008/10/20/my-discipline-spectrum/" rel="nofollow">The Discipline Spectrum
http://phdinparenting.com/2008/06/20/new-reason-why-punishment-doesnt-work-the-law/" rel="nofollow">New Reason Why Punishment Doesn't Work: The Law
http://phdinparenting.com/2008/05/27/when-all-else-fails/" rel="nofollow">When All Else Fails

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

These are all good thoughts. Don't misunderstand me - on no level has my husband EVER talked about a swat on the bottom to the baby. Not acceptable. We came upon the conversation after witnessing some blatant disobedience by a then-8 yr old. It turned into a really great talk about what we both found acceptable in parenting.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on time outs as well - are you opposed? And if so, why?

Hope that questions aren't tiresome to you, but I've been reading through your blog and find I respect a lot of your opinions. We're in alignment in most places. I believe it was here that I read that "discipline" means to "teach" - and I agree wholeheartedly!

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbessie.viola

@bessie.viola

I am opposed to time outs. I don't think they are as harmful as spanking obviously, but I just don't think they are effective either, for a few reasons:

1) I remember being sent to my room as a child. I spent my time in there stewing about how much I hated my parents and how pissed off I was to be in my room. I wasn't thinking about how I should behave differently or why. I was just thinking about how mad I was and how I could get away with it next time without getting caught.

2) I think that acting out often results from a disconnect between the parent and the child. A time out only makes that rift deeper. Instead, I prefer a "time in" where I sit with my child, help him to calm down, and talk about what the problem is and why the behaviour is unacceptable.

That said, my son's school uses time outs and I'm fine with that. I don't think they are inherently damaging to the child (but might be to a parent-child relationship) and I can see how in a classroom environment if one child is disrupting everything, you may need to remove them from the situation and the teacher can't drop everything else to sit with that child. However, I don't think time outs are that effective in changing behaviour long term.

Here is some more info on the difference between time-in (which I prefer) and time-out (which I avoid)

http://peaceful-parenting.suite101.com/article.cfm/timein_versus_timeout

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

The time-in information is good - I guess in my mind that's how I've always seen time-outs, actually. I've never seen a young child take time out willingly, so it makes sense to me to have a parent with them. It's a good time to talk about what works/doesn't work about their behavior, I'm sure.

Could be a good reminder to me as a mom too, I'm sure - often when I see kids acting out it's because they want attention, be it positive or negative. This could be a discipline source that would call me to be as well.

Great post!

November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbessie.viola

Never spanked and never will. violence breeds violence.

time outs, well, we use it as a time to cool down and breathe deeply, then we can talk.

when they're really really out of control, i hug them, tickle them or send them outside to throw beanbags as hard as they can!

November 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterunderthebigbluesky

Give me a break.

Is there a causal relationship between spanking and (insert negative long-term consequence with the intent to reinforce already like-minded readers here)? Or is it merely a correlation? The effect of generalized neglect/lack of love/caring is the culprit, not the spanking specifically.

I was spanked and I turned out fine.
I don't spank.
I'm not pro-spanker.
I'm pro-choice.

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercrammer

@crammer

One or two spankings here and there are not going to ruin someone (but it isn't particularly great either). The thing with spanking though is that it is a slippery slope and because it isn't a magic bullet that makes children behave better (perhaps for a moment, but not long term), the parents end up having to spank more and more often, and harder and harder, and so on and so on. What started out as a mere spanking can escalate into abuse. Neglect is awful. So is abuse. In my mind they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but neither is appropriate.

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] they need to “discipline” their child. But often when they say discipline, they mean spanking or punishing. However, the word discipline means to teach. That is what parents need to do. They [...]

I had been reading around on spanking, and you added a few more resources to my bin! Thanks! I also realize that my time-outs really are time-ins and I never thought to call them that. Or maybe it's more of a mutual time-out. I will post about it next week and you can weigh in. :)

February 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

[...] they need to “discipline” their child. But often when they say discipline, they mean spanking or punishing. However, the word discipline means to teach. That is what parents need to do. They [...]

[...] Best anti-spanking resources:  A summary of and link to some of the best anti-spanking arguments and research on the Web. [...]

Child buttock-beating 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 hitting kids isn't a good idea. Here are a few good reads:

Plain Talk About Spanking
by Jordan Riak

The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
by Tom Johnson

NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
by Lesli Taylor, M. D. and Adah Maurer, Ph. D.

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPDeverit

[...] a lot of information for parents who want to find other methods of disciplining their child in her Best Anti-Spanking Resources [...]

[...] to hit another adult the same way. Physical violence enacted on children’s bodies to “discipline” them is a mark of their status as not-persons, as things, in culture’s [...]

[...] PhD in Parenting shared her best anti-spanking resources [...]

[...] has written about spanking and gentle discipline on more than one occasion. One of her posts is the Best Anti-Spanking Resources. In it she links to Plain Talk About Spanking which contains a lot of information about [...]

I feel .. that your husband is wrong. Tried to touch a stove? What stove is going to burn in this day and age? And .. if he means the hob, what is that toddler doing UP there? Isn't that the parent's responsibility? Toddlers don't 'push boundaries' they are exploring their world, THAT is how their brains are wired. Adults are the ones who should be keeping toddlers safe - not hitting them for something that is age related behaviour. And I guess again, I could be wrong, that he is talking about toddlers running out into the street? Again ... THE ADULT is in control or should be, as they have a brain that can understand danger - not the child. If you hit that child, all he learns is fear of you.

I agree with you, timeout, time in, whatever it takes but NOT hitting a child. I can't hit say your husband, or the lady at the checkout, or an animal and I sure as heck shouldn't be able to hit a child. Period.

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTealRose

No ... you are pro choice for the PARENT. Not the child. He/she deserves to be as safe as you or an animal is from being hit ! Why would anyone think that hitting a child is fine [one you mention the magic word 'discipline' [which means to teach!] when adults, animals and even criminals are safe from being hit !

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTealRose

SPANKING IS SEXULL ABUES FOR THE LOVE OF CRIST LEAV CHILDRENS ASSES ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranyamous

PLEASE DONT MOLEST YOUR KIDS

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranyamous

[...] resources for promoting vegetarianism Invalidation fight emotional abuse Best anti-spanking resources anti-spanking resources Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread [...]

[...] “Best anti-spanking resources“, by Annie at PhDinParenting.com [...]

[...] I know what it feels like to be that frustrated. Thankfully, I’ve learned that there is an alternative to spanking (and even an alternative to yelling, but that’s a different discussion). Instead of hitting [...]

WhaT parents need is clear alternatives to spanking. Example after example. I think a lot of people would be happy to not spank but are ignorant of what alternatives they have, that will work. We need to have a well stocked "tool box" to draw from in the heat of the moment.
Please blog about articles of alternatives.

May 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Teal Rose: Maybe you should try to be more understanding. Some parent's will hit children on the buttocks. I for one thanked my parents after they would hit me on the buttocks since I realized I had been unruly and could have harmed myseld and brought harm to those around me with my actions.

TealRose is dead on. I wouldn't get out of my car and hit someone who jaywalked, even though that's dangerous behavior. I don't have the right to do that to another person. What gives someone the right to hit a child? Children aren't property, and they deserve the same right as an adult to freedom from violence.

Communication is the way to teach children self control, even though it takes more effort. Spanking is lazy parenting, but not only that--it's harmful parenting. See the article above for some of the many negative effects!

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuli

Louis [Rockybalcoa211] - If you knew me .. you would understand I am one of the most 'understanding' people on earth. However ... I will NEVER ever understand anyone who hits a child - and thinks it's right to do so. I don't care if they hit you on the buttocks or anywhere else - it was hitting and as such .. wrong. Period .. No ifs, buts or whens, No excuses.

As an adult with a presumable superior brain - we can teach our children right from wrong without violence And hitting IS violent. It's not respectful. It's not kind. It doesn't actually TEACH anything good. It isn't right. It may not damage every single child - but it sure does damage a lot of them. I beg to ask - anyone who was spanked and grows up thinking spanking aka hitting a child is ok, fine, necessary etc - IS damaged themselves.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTealRose

I think it's so hard for anyone who was raised by loving, caring parents who spanked them because they thought it was the right thing to do to make that cognitive and social leap even long enough to question whether it was a good or bad thing. If it hadn't been for that research that came out a few years ago saying "Yes, we've tested it, yes, we accounted for all the variables like cultural attitudes toward spanking, age of child, in anger/not in anger, how 'bad' the kid was to begin with...and all the facts say spanking empirically is associated with all the same negative effects as child abuse, just in a lesser degree," I'm not sure anything we could say in a spirit of "That's Just Wrong!" would change anyone's mind. They know they love their kid and would never abuse them; they just don't realize the facts are our there and not at all controversial. I hope they figure it out.

April 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDC

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