Growing up in a small town in the '80s, it seemed like everyone spanked their kids. I was spanked, my siblings were spanked, and so were all of my friends. My grandma frequently told "lighthearted" stories about making my dad cut his own switch on the farm when he misbehaved, and those stories honestly scared the hell out of me. But as ubiquitous as spanking is in our culture, and in my own family, I will never spank my kids. Ever.
Study after study has shown that spanking won't change your kids' behavior for the better. In fact, corporal punishment could actually negatively impact your children later in life. And even though science has given me a solid reason to never lay a violent hand on my children, I also know that spanking them is not who I am or how I want to parent. My partner and I try to parent in a way that shows respect for our kids and models good behavior. I wouldn't ever use physical violence to resolve other conflicts in my life, so I don't want to use physical discipline to teach my kids right from wrong. To me, telling my children not to hit one another by hitting them in the name of "discipline" makes, well, zero sense.
I want my kids to trust me, not to fear me, and no matter what you call it — spanking, popping, slapping behinds, or corporal punishment — spanking is violence designed to cause pain, and in my opinion parents shouldn't want to cause their child pain. While others may disagree with my approach, and trust me when I say that my partner and I are far from perfect parents, I can say definitely that peaceful parenting works for us and allows us to model our values while we teach our kids to navigate the world.
So no, I will never spank my children, and here are just a few reasons why:
Because Spanking Doesn't Work
According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Family Psychology, years of research show that spanking doesn't work to change kids' behavior. It just doesn't. When you consider why most parents say they spank — to teach their kids right from wrong, to punish hem, or to teach them to show "respect" — it's clear why.
In their book, To Train Up a Child, Michael and Debi Pearl advocate for using physical abuse to condition young children. If you hit a baby every time they crawl off of a blanket, pretty soon they will learn not to leave the blanket. However, if you spank a kid every time they make a mistake, they probably won't stop making mistakes. Because everybody makes mistakes. They might learn to fear you or fear the pain, but this doesn't teach them anything about right and wrong, making good choices, and understanding real-life consequences, which is pretty much my job as a parent.
Because It Can Have Lasting Harm
According to a huge meta-analysis published in the Journal of Family Psychology, representing 160,927 children, spanking is associated with several negative outcomes for children — which are actually the exact same outcomes as those caused by physical abuse. These include aggression, antisocial behavior, externalizing and internalizing problems, mental health problems, negative parent-child relationships, lower moral internalization (or acceptance of values), lower cognitive ability, and lower self-esteem.
Perhaps not surprisingly, being spanked also increases a child's chance of being physically abused. However, all of these effects were seen in children who were spanked, but not abused by their parents or caregivers, which means that spanking is harmful all on its own.
Because It's Counterintuitive
Honestly, spanking is really counter-intuitive to what I believe my job is as a parent. It feels so wrong to use violence to teach your kids a lesson or "show them who is boss." I can't stomach the idea of my kids feeling pain, I don't want to cause them harm, and I don't want to teach them to use violence to solve problems.
Because I Was Spanked As A Kid
I was spanked, and I am not OK. One of my first memories is of my biological father hitting my twin sister with a wooden spoon. We had to have been 2 or younger, since he died soon after that. I will never forget her fear or his anger. Later on in my young life I was spanked for being sassy, for not listening, for making mistakes, for swearing, and even for not cleaning my plate.
So many people use the rationale that they were spanked as a kid and they turned out fine, but if you think that it's OK to physically hurt another human being, are you really "fine"?
Because I Don't Want My Kids To Fear Me
Honestly, I don't want my kids to fear me. I love and respect them, and want their love and respect, too. And I know that the only way to get either is the "hard way" — modeling good behavior, praising them, giving them natural and logical consequences for mistakes or misbehavior, and giving them second, third, and fourth chances. It's hard, but it's worth it.
Because I Respect My Kids' Bodily Autonomy
My partner and I believe that my kids deserve to have complete control over their bodies, with few exceptions regarding their health and hygiene. So, I don't spank my kids. Haters think that means we have no rules, or our kids control the house, but that's not the case. It just means we respect our children as human beings.
Because I Would Never Hit An Adult
I consider my job as a parent to be raising my kids to adulthood (and then continuing to offer them love and support until the end of time). However, if you take any situation where a parent might hit their child, and replace the word "child" with boss, spouse, partner, co-worker, store clerk, mom, or any other adult, it just seems wrong. Like, intrinsically wrong on a basic level. Try it:
"My husband wouldn't listen to me, so I hit him."
"My employee made a mistake, so I hit him."
"My boss did something I didn't like, so I hit him."
You wouldn't hit another adult to "teach them a lesson" or resolve a conflict, so why on earth would you hit a child?
Because I Want To Be A Positive Role-Model
I try really hard to hold myself to the same rules and standards I set for my kids. When I make mistakes — and I do, all the damn time — I apologize, own up to mistakes, and accept the consequences. What would I be teaching them if I hit them when they made mistakes? That violence is a good solution, conflict resolution strategy, or response to things going wrong? That's not a lesson I want my children to learn.
Because I Choose To Give Consequences, Not Punishments
I think all of us, as parents, want to teach our kids to be good people. My partner and I certainly do, so we reward our children for their good behavior, but we also set rules and boundaries and establish clear consequences for when and if our children break them.
Examples: If you don't wear a coat, you'll get cold or can't play at recess. If you yell or throw a fit, you need to find a way to calm down, and you won't be able to continue your activity until you do. If you do something risky on the internet, you lose internet privileges until we can figure out how to keep you safe. If you hurt some one, you make amends. It's not as hard as you might think, because it's actually the way the world works.
Because I Am A Survivor
As a survivor of sexual and domestic violence, I know first-hand what it's like to be violated by people I trusted and loved. Sometimes I feel like I will never really be OK. I left my ex, because I knew my kids deserved better. I refuse to violate their trust, no matter how angry and frustrated I get. I want them to grow and thrive, and never experience violence, least of all from the one person they are supposed to be able to trust.
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