This week's Time magazine features an article that bears mention. It's called The Long-Term Effects of Spanking.
Spanking is one of those topics that we get asked about quite often, but we do our best to skirt the issue. Why? It's not because we are unsure of our position or anything of that sort. Rather, it's because the discussion is so rarely productive. Strong proponents of spanking are not usually open to even hearing what science is now saying about the practice. Instead, they shake their heads at what they deem as "permissive parenting" - i.e. anything besides spanking.
So, if you are a hard core spanker and you feel good about doing it. This post isn't for you. I recognize that whatever I say or whatever evidence I present, you will not agree with me. That's your right. But, if you are on the fence about spanking, or if you've done it begrudgingly and thought to yourself - "there has to be something better" - then you might want to keep reading.
The Time article by Alice Park describes the findings from a new study conducted by researchers at Tulane University. The study followed two groups of 5 year olds. One group was spanked twice a month and the other not at all. The findings were remarkable. "The children who had been spanked were more likely than the nonspanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals." Just how much "more likely"?
I get the urge to spank. Trust me. The appeal is evident. It will generally stop the behavior you are bothered by. Quickly. But at what cost? Look again at the findings of that study. When we spank, we are creating the very outcomes that we are hoping to avoid.
We want our kids to be respectful. Spanking produces defiance.
We want our kids to have self control. Spanking creates a demand for immediate gratification.
We want our kids to be compassionate. Spanking causes frustration and temper tantrums.
Here's the truth. When we give up what we want most (see above) for what we want right now (our kids to behave, feel remorse, shut up) we fail. We have to work hard to remember what it is that we're doing. We are raising the next generation. We owe it to them to teach them right from wrong without resorting to the quick fix of spanking. Discipline is valuable - it is even necessary. But it doesn't have to be done with force. Face it, eventually you'll have to give up spanking anyway. Why not now?
I'd love to hear from you. What methods of discipline work for you? Let's start talking specifics and help each other out.