A new study reignites the debate over whether children should be spanked. Here’s some thoughts from experts and parents on the issue.
Missouri mother Meredith Liberman remembers well the spankings she got as a child.
“My parents took a hard-line biblical approach to raising kids,” Liberman told Healthline. “I remember hearing, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child,’ quite often. Spanking was a constant form of discipline in our house, the most frequently used. My siblings and I would be lined up for a lecture before receiving our punishments. Bare butt, with a variety of tools. There were wooden spoons that broke over our bottoms and ping-pong paddles. Once we even had to cut our own branch off a tree. To this day, the sound of a belt snapping sends me into a panic.”
For Liberman, spanking her own children was never an option. In fact, she ended relationships with potential partners who weren’t willing to budge on their own pro-spanking stances.
Today, she and her husband are on the same page.
“Spanking and physical force are not in our parenting vocabulary, specifically because of how those things shaped us in ways we think are negative,” Liberman says.
To spank or not to spank?
Over the years, spanking has been the topic of quite a few research studies.
The latest research, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, concludes that children who have been spanked have an increased risk of becoming perpetrators of domestic violence in adulthood. This increase was found even when controlling for other factors, such as socioeconomic status and other types of abuse in the home.
It’s because of this wealth of data that most major health organizations recommend against spanking. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) takes this stance: “The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. Spanking is never recommended.”
In January 2017, France became the 52nd country to ban spanking.
Last April, NPR reported that in the United States, 15 states still expressly permit corporal punishment in schools, while seven additional states had no rules against corporal punishment.
And an ABC poll released last November found that U.S. parents approved of spanking by a 2-to-1 margin. Half of the parents polled said they spank their children.
A hot topic for parents
If you want to get a group of parents into a heated discussion, there are a handful of topics sure to produce the desired effect.
But it’s possible none are quite as contentious as the topic of spanking.
Those who are against it point to the research showing the negative consequences of spanking.
Those who are for it often point to their own childhoods, saying, “See, I turned out just fine.”
Such is the case with Stephanie Thompson of New Jersey.
She told Healthline she was spanked as a child, and her children are spanked today. But the spanking she describes is quite different from what Liberman experienced.
“Spanking was normally a last resort in my household growing up, but I can remember being spanked a handful of times. It was always after other things had failed to put an end to whatever behavior it was I shouldn’t have been engaging in. I was spanked with both an open hand and a switch,” Thompson recalled.
Today, she says, “Each of my three children have been spanked probably two to five times over their lifetimes. Spanking has always been a very last resort for us, and only for the most serious of offenses. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, they don’t repeat the offense.”
Some arguments against
So is there a difference between the type of spanking these two mothers described?
And could it be there are potentially times when spanking is, in fact, an appropriate disciplinary tactic without long-term consequences?
It’s not that simple, according to Monica Jackman, an occupational therapist in Florida specializing in pediatrics and mental health.
“We still have a generation of parents who have been spanked,” she told Healthline. “So for them, it’s familiar. But even if you look at our culture in general, we don’t discipline people who have broken the law with physical…
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