Spanking your kids and corporal punishment

Something recently stopped me in my tracks.

A study published in Pediatrics recently found that 65% of parents to 3 year-olds said they had spanked their child within the last month. Sixty five percent? The number surprised me. If you’d asked me to guess, I would have said 20-25%. Talk about way off. Another reminder of how much I have to learn.

The study evaluated risk factors, including domestic violence and intimate partner aggression & violence, on spanking and corporal punishment. The researchers are trying to understand/describe that while most child advocacy groups condemn spanking, in the US, the reality remains that nearly 2/3 of families continue to use spanking as a form of discipline. They found that parents who experienced aggression and violence between each other were twice as likely to be in the group that spanked their children. Having been spanked as a child increased the odds, too. Not surprising.

But the 65%; that was surprising.

I don’t talk about spanking in clinic (I can’t think of a time I did); no one asks my opinion about it. I talk about setting limits, behavior, tantrums, obedience, discipline, but no one asks me about spanking. I wonder, do parents feel it’s taboo? Do they feel I would judge them?

My position on spanking may be irrelevant, really. What I say as one mother or pediatrician doesn’t change the reality that more than half of the parents in this study are spanking children. I’ve always thought of spanking as illogical. If I’m trying to model behavior against aggression, why would I hit my child modeling just the opposite? But I’ll tell you this: I was spanked as a child and I certainly remember it. Clarity in fear. Further, there have been moments of desperation (think: major-tantrum-melt-down-disaster-ness) where I thought about it, too. So, I think the instinct to spank (particularly when you’ve seen it, or experienced it) in a moment of utter overwhelm may be the norm when raising kids. But 1/3 of us choose not to spank,and about 2/3 of us choose to spank our children. Why?

What pediatricians ultimately need to figure out for families is how to help parents improve their lives with their children. We need to support families in times of frustrations. Groups like the AAP discourage using spanking or corporal punishment of any kind. But their statement may not make much of a difference.

So I wonder, does 65% surprise you? Do you spank your children? Do you think it works? Do you feel spanking is corporal punishment? If you don’t spank your child, why not? So curious. Please share, even anonymously if need be.

Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician who blogs at Seattle Mama Doc.

Submit a guest post and be heard.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • Katharine

    Unfortunately, it does not surprise me that so many Americans spank their children. The United States is a violent nation–many parents see nothing wrong with giving their children toy weapons–so of course many think that hitting their children is the way to teach them “good” behavior. My siblings and I were spanked as children; the two of us who have children do not spank them, because we know that there are other ways to teach children how you want them to act.

    • BobBapaso

      Spanking doesn’t teach “good” behavior. I teaches fear of “bad”, which should be taught along with the appreciation of good. It should be used when other methods don’t work quickly enough, but never while the spanker is angry.

  • Siobhan Palmer

    That number surprises me as much as it surprises you. I heard someone at work mention that he told his kid he would spank him and I remember being utterly shocked. I have a friend who spanked her 5 year old after she ran out on the road in front of a car and I can completely understand that reaction. Bet that 5 year old will grow up remembering that spank.
    I feel like I could never hit my child but I’m sure there may be times when I feel driven to it (he’s 4- hasn’t happened yet) and maybe I will act on it. I don’t really see the benefit of regular spanking as a form of discipline.

  • Greg

    I’m not surprised in the least. Given the quickness to which we in America resort to violence as an answer to virtually any question, it is not surprising that spanking is commonly used on 3-year olds. If 2/3 of 3-yr olds are taught by their parents that hitting people makes them do what you want, is anybody surprised that when these individuals grow up, they utilize the same paradigm in dealing with others? The violence endemic to our society has to come from somewhere, right?

    • Melinda

      I totally agree. Spanking (hitting) a child is a parent that is in a rage (out of control). It teaches kids how to handle stress like their parents do, by violence.

  • Nathan

    I haven’t found a study against spanking I find convincing. Researchers try to adjust for confounding demographic factors. What they don’t account for is that just because kids who misbehave more get spanked more, doesn’t say which caused which. It’s certainly reasonable to think that increased bad behavior leads to more spanking rather then the other way around.

  • DCCW

    Not surprised.

    I think spanking is a good and effective method of discipline. Most parent tend to be to permissive with there kids and actually think grounding them or giving them what ever they want works.

    • J.T. Wenting

      correct. Even the knowledge that a kid can be spanked if it goes too far is often enough to prevent it going too far.

      The culture of allowing kids to do anything they want without any consequences whatsoever has resulted in an entire generation (maybe 2 by now) of violent youth gangs, children terrorising neighbourhoods, schools, even their own parents.

      My parents never had to spank me, but the knowledge that it would happen if I did one tenth of what many current day kids think quite normal was enough to ensure I knew such things are not normal or tollerated (if I had the inclination towards such behaviour in the first place).

  • DCCW

    “not surprise me that so many Americans spank their children”

    Spanking is much more prevalent outside the US, so saying that spanking is only a thing Americans do is kind of ill-informed.

  • Nuclear Fire

    I was spanked growing up (clearly not enough) and I spank my son as one of many forms of corrective action. I would never bring up the fact that I spank with a doctor because 1) it’s none of their business and 2) I know of the paternalistic judgmental nature of the AAP from my own rotations on pediatrics as a medical student. I don’t need to hear their opinion about the issue when I’m just in the clinic for our once a year school forms and vaccination visit.

    The mere fact that the commentators above equate spanking with violence shows how little they understand spanking and punishment in general. It appears they have a political ax to grind with comments like “the quickness to which we in America resort to violence as an answer to virtually any question”. Funny, after all these years I’ve never once seen violence be an answer to any question in medicine or the rest of my life. Where the hell do you live?

    Any kind of punishment should not be done out of anger or while mad and frustrated. Yelling at a child to go to time out while angry is not benign. Any type of “punishment” given while the parent is angry and clearly out of control can be damaging to a child’s psyche.

    To specifically answer your questions:
    So I wonder, does 65% surprise you?
    Not at all. Seems about right for the people I know.

    Do you spank your children?

    Do you think it works?

    Do you feel spanking is corporal punishment?
    By definition, it is. “the infliction of physical pain upon a person’s body as punishment for a crime or infraction.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

  • http://Yahoo Joan Greer

    I don’t beleive in spanking just for the sake of I can as I am bigger and in control, just as I don’t beleive in time out!
    Time out does not work in my opinion!Neither does threatening children with I’m going to ground you!What does that mean?Whatever the punishment it needs to be decisive!Don’t wait and don’t threaten and scream and carry on!Doesn’t work.Kid doesn’t hear it!A quick light spank works just as well and it is done!You might feel bad afterward,but the child gets the message and he remembers it!So the next time he is told not to do something he will remember the consequences and if you were serious about your punishment he will remember and won’t repeat the same activity!

  • Martin Young

    Spanking is illegal in many countries – I believe in the UK and New Zealand among others. Are kids there better or worse behaved than in countries where parents are allowed to spank? It would be interesting to know……I have an opinion, but that may just be terribly biased, untrue, and unfair to state here.

    In my opinion there are other issues of parenting that are more important – I think good parents could use spanking as a parenting tool among others – the better the parent, the lower the need to use spanking is likely to be.

    And are there bad parents who never spank and have terrible kids irrespective?

    Of course there are……

    • J.T. Wenting

      I live in a country where it’s been illegal for years. Since becoming illegal youth crime and street terrorism by youngsters has soared to never seen proportions.
      Schools, parents, and even police are incapable of handling the situation as they have no means to assert authority over the kids.

  • Katharine

    I’m curious. To those of you who believe that spanking is an acceptable form of discipline: What do you think of U.S. laws that make physical assault of spouses and of other adults illegal? Why is it okay to hit beings who are smaller than we are–to hit children–but not okay to hit people who are our size?

    • Nuclear Fire

      All physical contact is not the same. I think many people would think it wrong for me to slap my wife, at the same time, if she slaps me, some, and I agree, would not think it bad or as bad. Certainly her ability to cause me pain, the difference in size and strength etc. means there is a difference between the two acts.

      The same is true of spanking. The pain is temporary, non-damaging and done out of love. Trying to compare that with hateful violence is wrong.

      Also, I don’t think it was wrong when my parents spanked me. It made me a better person and I’m thankful that they took the time and energy to raise me right rather than let me run wild and turn out to be a delinquent.

      • N

        I agree with you there.

    • Stephanie

      First off, you are equating spanking with beating. Even if you are anti-spanking, it doesn’t help your argument to collate the two. There is a difference (whether you think they are both wrong or not).

      Second, we aren’t allowed to give our spouses (or adults) time outs either. Neither are we allowed to take away their cars (toys) nor assign them extra chores. Even a good talking to would be socially unaceptable. To equate kids with adults is a false comparison. Again, even if you are anti-spanking, it does nothing for yoru argument to make false analogies your source of critique.

      My personal opinion (for what its worth) is that spanking is way overused in this country, and used in a negative way by a slight majority of people who use it. People spank too soon, too often, too wildly, and too much in anger. They do it because its how they were raised, and they don’t know any different. And the only voice of reason against them is one that sounds elitist and judgemental.

      I, personally, was spanked, and do spank, as a LAST resort, on extremely rare occasions. I do so calmly, after clearly explaining to the child why it is about to happen, reminding them of the warnings, and giving them a chance to argue their side. That said, I can see why one could be against it. But overreductive arguments against it, and studies that don’t take into account other social factors, and don’t take into account the different ways people spank (studies that count all spanking as the same) do nothing to make a case against it.

  • DCCW

    “I’m curious. To those of you who believe that spanking is an acceptable form of discipline: What do you think of U.S. laws that make physical assault of spouses and of other adults illegal? Why is it okay to hit beings who are smaller than we are–to hit children–but not okay to hit people who are our size?”

    You are assuming that spanking is beating down a child until they are battered and bruised. Its not and that’s why those who do are charged with child abuse.

  • Kathy Barker

    I was hit as a child- I won’t use the word “spanked”, as it implies something lighter, less offensive, than hitting. It isn’t any different. I would never hit my kids, or another human being, except in self defense. I’m shocked at the figures you quoted, but have to agree with Greg and Katharine that ours is a violent society, where war is just background and hitting someone who stands 2 feet tall is considered by some to be a parental right. I think hitting a child is absolutely repugnant.

  • David Allen, MD


    It has nothing to do with the smallness of the child and everything to do with their immaturity. You are simply trying to get their attention and make them behave – for their own good (such as the child that ran out into the street). Having said that (which I really shouldn’t have had to explain) I only strike my own child if they deliberately strike me. Otherwise I use time outs, which are sort of effective. I can’t bring myself to use corporal punishment more generally, as I feel other methods (both positive and negative reinforcement) will work without having to hit them.

    • Anonymous

      So .. hitting a child .. to teach them NOT to hit makes sense in your world ???   Attention?  Use your words .. not your hands…    And children running in the street .. is NO excuse for you hitting it !  EVER .. period.

  • Bladedoc

    And you guys wonder why people don’t bring it up in clinic. You wouldn’t be judgemental, Ha. Sure it’d probably be in the “more in sorrow than in anger” mode but seriously look at the comments.

  • N

    I am Asian and I was caned as a young child and locked in a dark room and broom cupboard for hours. I haven’t turned out queer or anything like that and I’ve done pretty well for myself too(I’m 20). When I was caned even my skin came off in circumstances and I wasn’t gently put into a dark broom cupboard for hours(3 hours usually)–usually unceremoniously thrown. But I was naughty and looking back, I know that.
    In this blog, you frown upon “spanking” which at most, produces a redness. I assume you don’t mean using a cane or belt or piece of wood.
    I agree with DCCW regarding spanking. I think whatever the punishment, it should happen when the adult has controlled his/her anger or is no longer angry. In this state, the punishment is usually non-violent and more controlled to teaching a lesson.
    Plus, to the author, don’t be so judgemental regarding spanking. It’s not as terrifying as it sounds compared to what most Asians have to go through. Spanking sounds like a light tap in comparison.

    • Anonymous

      N- that WAS abuse.  And whether ‘spanking’ sounds like a light tap to you or not [which it most certainly isn't in the States - they use hands, belts, razor strops, tree branches, paddles of wood or a substance called lexan that hurts beyond belief, wooden spoons, spatulas, yard sticks, pain sticks, rulers, canes, slippers, ..... oh and don't forget the good old coat hanger!  ]  does say .. one blow to your wife sound ok …. or should it only be called abuse when someone hits her say a dozen times?  Or perhaps [again as is used in the States] 2 0r 3 times her age ie if she is 30 then 90 blows ???  Spanking IS abuse … once to you or the bank manager .. or the dog, is enough to have you arrested ..  why not if you hit the most vulnerable, defenceless child?? 

  • Muddy Waters

    EVERYONE I know was spanked at some point in time during their childhood. I bet the same can be said for most adults and anyone born prior to 1980. It was a very common and accepted form of parenting. Is everyone so damaged psychologically? Are you all not, for the most part, well-adjusted professionals? Do you have recurrring nightmares and attend thrice weekly psychotherapy? NO!!!!! So, why on earth are all of you tree-huggers complaining and trying to over-analyze and change things??? Last time I checked, the discipline in this country has been deteriorating at a rapid pace. Just count how many schools and workplaces have been assaulted by young people with guns in the last 2 decades.

    • Anonymous

      Er .. actually .. YES .. I am damaged.  I am 57 and was spanked and my parents lost my love, respect and trust from the very first time.  I don’t respect and trust people who hit me !  Why on earth would I? Why would I believe someone who told me ‘WE don’t hit’ and then went and hit me?  I didn’t.  Strangely .. I always knew hitting another person was wrong .. from as far back as I can remember.  I learned fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment and that my parents didn’t love me !  Not bad eh?  Quite a list of ‘things’ !  And no .. telling me ‘oh we love you’ in the post spanking pep talk meant nothing to me … my relationship with my parents was damaged forever.  Am I for the most part ‘Well adjusted etc’ ??  Yes.  Did I NEED to be hit ??? No.. no one on earth does. 

      You said it yourself .. seeing as SO many spank still in your country … and you have SUCH a violent way of life … don’t you think that the hitting goes with that violence ??  Whereas in Europe where it was banned years ago ….. doesn’t have such high crime and violence rates ??  

      Do you think that if a teacher was hitting you repeatedly …. that you might want to ‘get even’ to hit back ??  Or .. perhaps when you were at school you were hit .. and ‘took it like a man’ or more like … accepted violence because you didn’t have enough self respect for yourself to STOP it ???

      Did I hit my children ? No.  Are they great, gentle, wonderful adults?  Yes.  Do my grandchildren get hit ??  No.  Do they run riot?? No.  Are the wonderful, delightful children ?? OH yes … and none of them feared their parents .. but learned the lesson !!! 

  • NH

    There is a saying that I have always heard among my elders. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Yes, I was spanked and learned my lesson the first time. We have children now with ODD and ADHD and ADD. They don’t sit still, they don’t listen, they bully, and handed meds to control them. There is no consistant behavior modification or follow thru by parents. If they said “No!” That is what it meant and you couldn’t beg to get your way. Throw a temper tantrum in a crowded store to get your way either. I can see 65% resorting to spanking as the parenting skills have changed in the past 40 years. I am curious being outlawed in other countries what form of correction that you do use? How much emotional damage does that cause?

    • Anonymous

      Well … I haven’t seen a child ‘throw a tantrum’ in a store .. in YEARS.  Maybe because .. as parents can’t just HIT … they use their heads.  Make sure their child isn’t overtired, in  pain, sore, sitting/lying uncomfortably, isn’t sick etc … when going shopping.  They make sure that they don’t spend HOURS in a shopping mall which is almost guaranteed to upset a small child.  

      I lived in the UK where spanking is unfortunately STILL allowed … appalling.  However, I knew of no children being spanked the same age as my children, and my own were never hit either. [How does anyone balance not hitting an adult with it being ok to hit a child .... I shall never know]  My children are now adults in their 30′s and are great, kind and gentle and I have two grandchildren who also are not spanked and are a delight.  I grounded for SHORT periods, took away toys etc .. I didn’t ‘lock them up in their rooms’ as some people think we non spankers do.  And when they were toddlers .. I recognised age related behaviour for what it was … and I made my house safe .. and redirected and used playpens and high chairs while I cooked.  No hitting necessary ….

      Spanking aka hitting IS bullyiing… by an adult bigger and heavier and who should have more sense.  No spanking does NOT equate to no discipline !  

  • Phil Baumann

    Wow – 65%??

    I’ve always thought that child abuse and other domestic violence was larger than we realized, but that statistic is still stunning.

    I think we need to appreciate just how powerful the cycle of violence can be – that is, how child victims of violence (and physically hitting someone or emotionally abusing them *is* violence) who repeat the pattern as adults, can have almost a blind spot to the truly pernicious nature of the problem.

    In some cases, if we challenge the thinking of those who defend spanking we can be met with a certain degree of anger – which is telling in itself.

    I know this is a sensitive issue – after all, violence in all its forms has been inherent in our history for a very very long time.

    Given the extensive nature of the problem, we will need public health initiatives that provide positive guidance for parents – and hopefully in forms that don’t generate shame in those parents who may have been spanked themselves, which only shuts down conversation and perhaps even begets more anger begetting more spanking.

    This is a global problem – the stats may be different from country to country, but the development of a child’s mind is the best hope for a better future.

    I honestly hope we have a passionate and reasoned public discussion of this sad and painful part of our condition. It affects us all – perhaps in ways we can’t even fully grasp.

  • Alice

    Oh my goodness!  I am trying to sit on my hands!  I am surmising I may have some of the oldest kids here among the posters, and probably raised more than the “experts” whose feet I am supposed to sit at. :). I have six kids, amd number four just turned 18 years old.  They were all spanked, and are marvelous adults (I have home schooled them all).  We laugh at my creative ways of discipline.  There is no anymosity, and they feel like Nuclear….they probably deserved more than their overwhelmed, merciful mom gave them.  Of course, they are teens now and I would not spank them.  The time for that was long ago.  Now I just threaten to call and turn off their cell phone…that works.  

    What is it that is so hard to understand?  Spanking is not corporal punishment, and considering research shows this is the most narcissistic generation ever maybe you should rethink your lofty, UN backed stances and concentrate on real abuse, not caring parents who swat a child’s behind to teach that certain behavior is unacceptable?  A swat doesn’t leave a mark, but it hurts.  

    Bullying is out of control because some women won’t let men handle things with any type of authority incase your child’s self esteem gets hurt.  I’m not talking about abuse here….just some limits…..boundaries.  I think some school teachers are sissifying young boys, and some of our children are so drugged I am not sure if some of them have the  energy to act up, far less know what gender they are.

    I am convinced some moms who are against spanking have no problem using drugs to tame the beast within and conform?    

    • Anonymous

      Sitting on your hands… is what you should have done years ago.  After all .. didn’t you teach your children ‘Use your words and not your hands’ ???

      Spanking is hitting and yes.. it IS in the dictionary.  And YES if you spank your husband or the bank manager you will be arrested.    Since when .. does hurting someone that you are supposed to love … become a great thing to do ??  

      Spanking with love ?  What an oxymoron !!  You can no more spank a child with love … than you can your wife or husband !!!
      My parents lost my love, respect and trust from the first time they hit me.  I learned only fear, anger, pain, hate and resentment and that my parents didn’t love me. And no the post spanking nonsense of a pep talk ‘oh we love you’ meant NOTHING to me .. after all they had just hit me !! I never hit anyone !!  I learned they lied – ‘we don’t hit’ … I learned that if you don’t like something or don’t agree with something someone does, especially if they are smaller and more vulnerable than you then the way to go was to hit them.  Oddly enough, I never EVER believed that.  Spanking ruined my childhood and my relationship with my parents forever.  
      I am almost 57 and a grandmother – I never hit my children and they are great, gentle, kind adults who wouldn’t dream of hitting a child.  And my grandchildren who are not being hit either are a delight.  Was it hard ?? Yes .. you bet it was.  But THAT is what parenting is about.  It is not about hitting another being that is at least three times smaller than you because you can’t think of anything better to help that child grow up.  Hitting isn’t respectful for anyone …  

  • Alice

    Egads! They changed the meaning of corporal punishment to include spanking by parents. Hmmmm…it used to be a school, military, or police setting….now it means if you use force and hurt a child’s emotional or physical being. Sounds like the perfect setting to create a nation of victims? Wait a minute….we did!

    • Anonymous

      Yes.. they ARE victims .. of being hit.  Just because they are smaller, younger and more vulnerable than you .. and aren’t able to leave or defend themselves …just means it is FAR worse !

  • Kelly

    Would never spank my kids. It’s lazy parenting and teaches nothing but the wrong messages– as in “If someone does something you don’t like, you can hit them as long as you are bigger and stronger.”

    I find it absolutely incredible that while we have progressed as a society that we look down on beating a spouse or a pet, we still are okay with beating a child.

    • Anonymous

      THANK you .. I agree 100%!!!  If we can’t hit adults or animals or even criminals why on EARTH should be hitting defenceless children who are learning to become adults ??  

      It only taught me … ah yes such good things !! Fear, anger, pain, hate and resentment and that my parents didn’t love me. And for those who wonder.. no the post spanking nonsense of a pep talk ‘oh we love you’ meant NOTHING to me .. after all they had just hit me !! I never hit anyone !!  I learned they lied – ‘we don’t hit’ … 

      Spanking with love ?  What an oxymoron !!  You can no more spank a child with love … than you can your wife or husband !!!  

  • Heather Johnson/ Nurtured Moms

    Does 65% surprise you? It does surprise me, actually. Few of my friends will admit to spanking their children, and several are adamantly against it. Maybe I just have weird friends.

    Do you spank your children? I never have, but I am not opposed to it if I felt the situation warranted it — a serious, serious infraction that endangered my child’s life. Or maybe, like my mother-in-law, if my child let Jehovah’s Witnesses into the house while I was in the shower.

    Do you think it works? Only if used sparingly

    Do you feel spanking is corporal punishment? yes

    If you don’t spank your child, why not? Like I said, in the five years that I have had children, I’ve never come across a discipline situation that didn’t have a better remedy.

  • fuzzy

    I was spanked. I spank. There is a difference between a spanking and a beating, and corporal punishment works for kids incapable of understanding verbal reasoning.

    • Anonymous

      So ….. now I live in a foreign country [Portugal] and can’t understand or make myself understood yet 100% , should the locals hit me ????  I mean … what is good for the goose … is good for the gander .. no??  Ah right … I am an ADULT … and it would be illegal !!!!  

      Actually .. it would be illegal too if I were a CHILD here as they banned hitting children a few years back – and all the one’s I have met so far are not running riot or driving us all mad…. 

  • Nathan

    Oh, and psychotrophic medication is so much more effective? Evidence is ADHD meds may temporarily improve behavior but have potential long term harm but no longterm benefit. So we are often treating the parents and the teachers. I think a few well timed read bottoms may be a preferable alternative.

    • Anonymous

      No children learn in pain and fear.. no adults do either… I have NEVER heard such unkind, insensitive rubbish in my life !

  • Mike

    An authoritative, corrective, sharp finger flick to the fingers of the hand of the child that is ‘expressing’ the darker side of their ‘sweet little human nature’ has done wonders in our family. All the “you cant spank your kids” people just have to admit that a flick is nothing, you cant even call it ‘hitting’ ;p

    But it does introduce a sharp measure of pain into the equation in sweet little johnny’s mind that he _understands_. Nature all around us and within us uses pain in various ways and levels to warn us when we’re doing something ‘wrong’, or when something is ‘wrong’. Only a confused mind would exclude pain as a valuable tool in blunting the excesses of ‘expression’ I am pained to see over-indulgent, confused parents tolerate and then pass on the sour fruit of that ‘toleration’ to the rest of us…

    • Anonymous

      Oh how interesting ??  A grown adult .. FLICKING a child?  Hitting a child? How .. grown up !   Actually .. strange though it may seem to you .. NOT hitting a child doesn’t mean no discipline.  It just means that the adult has to actually use their brain …..

  • NVM

    I met the wooden spoon and the cane on a number of occasions both at home and school. While physically, it did not cause any injury, the resentment I feel today towards the people who did that to me is very high. For that reason alone, I prefer not to hit my child. There are better ways. Supernanny knows! She helped me be a much better parent. Everyone should watch and see how unwanted behavior is ended by refusing to acknowledge it & not giving bad behavior any attention at all. It’s opposite to what we do constantly!

  • DrB

    Excellent point. It makes much more sense to put your old man in timeout or take away his x-box. Heck, I propose you begin counting when he won’t obey you right away, because he needs to learn that you don’t really mean what you say until you say it, repeat it a few times louder, count to 10 reallllyyy slowly, and then you really mean it. That sounds much more effective…

  • NH

    @greg Wow! That brings in a whole new perspective. I realize Alzheimers has regression to childhood but, I have never heard of spanking. My mother in law has it and the emotional drain to understand her congnitive state from one hour or minute to the next but, we have never spanked her. Compassion to a fault and when reasoning and love does not work we have to be authority figures for her safety. Are we authority figures for our 1 to 3 year old for their saftey also? For now verbal communication of “No we don’t act or say those things”, usually works. I don’t think spanking would work for us on mother in law. It did work on our children. I am sure it depends on your situation and setting. Children getting a red bottom on a limited ” 1 to 3 swats on the hiney” I do not feel is corporal punishment. It hurts thier ego a little. I just can’t imagine hitting my mother in law. Not even 3 swats. When she throws stuff I do duck! In her mind well it’s not formidable anymore. .. hmm? I wish you good days with your father and commend you for the job you are taking on. It is very hard to be a caregiver for alzheimers.

  • Alice

    My father has Alzheimers and two of my daughters work with Alzheimers patients. What a terrible analogy. Alzheimers patients have damaged brains….they cannot be retaught to even remotely understand what a consequence is. A two year old has a sinful nature that is open to a parent teaching them the perils of life. An Alzheimers patient has no recalls, no logic…..while a two year old experiences beauty in life, they are delightful if the parent has taught them boundaries. Nursery workers often share they can tell the kids who are undisciplined and dumped upon these poor workers, while the children who understand the consequences are seen as an anticipated visitor.

    • Anonymous

      Not being HIT which is what spanking is .. is NOT the same as being NO discipline.  And all the nursery school teachers I knew said they knew who was NOT being looked after properly, not loved enough, not disciplined gently – by the way they acted too.  And even more … by the careless way these  parents were when arriving at the school !

  • Spank

    In this politically correct world where everyone and everything has to be tolerated to our own detriment is INSANE!

    Many contend that you absolutely should spank your kid if he / she deserves it.

    • Anonymous

      ah … but NO ONE deserves to be hit .. not even you or the bank manager !

  • ninguem

    My mother had a piece of split cowhide with the heft of a banana peel. It was scrap leather from a local cobbler. As a little kid, it might as well have been a cat-o’-nine-tails and Captain Bligh on the HMS Bounty. Of course, it was quite harmless, even to a toddler, apart from demonstrating parental disapproval of certain behavior that went too far. Amazes me, seeing it as a grownup now, how insubstantial it was. Of course, that’s what my mother had in mind.

    A neighbor did something with her own kids, my age, we’d play together. They used a flyswatter. They were from Puerto Rico. If he didn’t behave, he’d get ¿Quieres matamoscas? from his mama.

    Much like medicines, the dose makes the poison.

  • guest

    N November 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I was just waiting for a fellow Asian to tell everybody how we have it pretty darn tough as kids. Its funny, sometimes I’ll be talking to Asians that I barely know (in the context of the conversation) about “Asian parents” and they knowingly nod. Our non-asian friend said, “Oh, I would just stand up to my Dad and tell him off.” We were like, “NO WAY!”

    • Mike

      “Oh, I would just stand up to my Dad and tell him off.”

      I did that once. Did not work out so well.

  • Valerie RNP

    So I wonder, does 65% surprise you?
    Not at all.

    Do you spank your children?
    Not any more. They are adults.
    When they were small? Not very often.
    But, sometimes, kids require an immediate redirection when their behavior must be stopped immediately.
    I used to take the tinniest bit of loose skin at the back of their upper arm, and pinch it, when they were kicking each other in church. They stopped kicking, I stopped pinching.

    Do you think it works?
    Actually, the church-arm-pinch pinch worked very well.

    Do you feel spanking is corporal punishment?
    It’s parenting.
    I looked up corporal punishment in the dictionary.
    “physical punishment such as caning or flogging”.

    For me as a parent, punishment was equal to consequences.
    Kids make choices.
    Do this (bad) behavior, you made a decision to have this not-so-good thing happen to you. Usually the consequences were not of the physical nature. Time out, loss of fun activity, the usual bag-of-tricks.
    On the rare occasion, there was some physical pain. That is hardly corporal punishment.

    I did slap our son across the mouth once. He was a tween. I asked him a question, and in front of his friend (who used to swear at his parents without consequences) he turned to me and said, “F**k you!”
    Before I knew it, my hand went out and he got slapped.
    He never dared to speak to me that way again.
    Recently I asked him about that incident, because it still haunts me a little.
    He said, “What are you talking about? I don’t even remember that.”


    • Anonymous

      And … you are proud of yourself .. for PINCHING a small child?  Just for upsetting YOU and others? Have you never heard the phrase ‘Use your words not your hands’ ??   When actually Jesus already warned us not to hurt children?  And slapping a child in the mouth is appalling.  Just because your child doesn’t remember it doesn’t let you off the hook.   A child’s face, neck, brain etc is a very delicate thing.  Children have been KILLED this way.  Did you slap the lady in the check out when she swore ??   Did you hit ANYONE bar a child?  No .. because it’s illegal .. because it’s wrong!  Hitting a defenceless child is more heinous than hitting an adult!  At least the adult can leave, or defend themselves!  

      My parents lost my love, respect and trust the first time they hit me ever.  They never got it back.  I don’t trust or respect people that hit me .. and never will.  Who would ??  If a parent who is supposed to love, and keep their child safe, disrespects it by hitting it then that parent does not deserve respect. No one just deserves it for being an adult, respect goes both ways .. you have to earn it. 

  • Clare Wilson

    I am from the UK (where spanking is not outlawed, contrary to what someone said) but I do not believe in spanking. It is no dilemma for me, because I have a very effective punishment that both my children hate – being sent to the naughty corner, like Supernanny does.

    I have a question: How am I supposed to teach my 5-year-old that hitting her 3-year-old sister to get her own way is completely forbidden, if she sees that when I need to get my own way, I hit her?

  • Alice

    I think the spanking thread ties in with the parental rights movement. Please don”t immediately assume these parents want the right to hit anyone, or that they have anger issues. Raising children is hard, but so rewarding (I have six mostly raised children, and although, at one time the thought of having three was terrifying to me….I now wish we had more. The outcome of the sacrifice is truly glorious…it’s been a wonderful romp that I would do again in a heartbeat).

    If your children are younger you may want to study what the UN thinks and what they are trying ot legislate by way of treaty. I think one of the URL’s is: I haven’t visited in awhile because
    I care for a parent with Alzheimers, and my daughter’s cancer spread and she had a big operation. My kids are getting older, so I am not as informed. I think their motto is about protecting children, while empowering parents. They are a Watchdog organization on bills that, ultimately, take away your rights as a parent.

    • Anonymous

      I am ALL for taking away the rights of ANYONE to hit ANYONE else … How DARE an adult, who should know better, who is so much bigger and supposedly more sensible hit a defenceless child?  Beyond me … totally.  I never hit mine and they are now great, gentle adults… and my grandchildren a delight!   

  • Sarah Sherwood

    Thank you for your article. I read some of the responses and think: Take a good look at your child’s face next time you spank them. What is their experience? I have thought twice about spanking since I grew up with a friend who was spanked repeatedly. She has disowned her parents. It helped me to see that my children will grow up and judge me based not only on how I loved them, but how I diciplined them as well.

    • Anonymous

      Sarah … deep breath .. yes.  Exactly.   My parents lost me .. I lost my love, respect and trust of them … and they never regained it.  I don’t trust or respect anyone who hits me !!  Who would ??   After all, the only thing they taught me was … fear, pain, anger, hatred and resentment.  And that they didn’t love me.  Telling me afterwards ‘oh we love you ‘ meant nothing to me.  Except they lied.  Because .. well .. people who love each other don’t HIT and HURT them do they ??  I didn’t hit anyone .. I always knew it was wrong!  

  • Jen B.

    I am shocked by the numbers. I was never spanked as a child- my father was severely abused as a child and swore never to lay a hand on us. Anecdotes can tell you everything from “spanking made my son a Nobel Prize Winner” to “spanking made my son a serial killer”. I trust studies with statistical significance much more than any anecdote! People are very defensive about spanking, and while I do believe it has deletorious effects, I also don’t believe it’s child abuse, within reason. I just think that it’s sad to think of a child looking at their parent and, in the jumble of images and memories running through their mind, is the remembrance of that parent causing them physical pain. Not to mention the helplessness, nakedness, and humiliation of the whole ordeal. I don’t believe in hitting (and spanking is light hitting) children, animals, or people. A good friend used to be soundly beaten with a piece of wood and locked in closet when he disobeyed- and yes, this was in the U.S. He laughs about it now. Does that mean it didn’t affect him? Who knows? If it did affect him, how, and where is the line drawn when physically punishing a child as far as that affect goes? Etc.

    • Anonymous

      With respect .. although you do throw up a few ideas… you weren’t spanked .. so you can’t know whether you would feel that being spanked was abuse or not.  And some now adults don’t feel abused either .. which I find hard to understand….. You are right though… I am 57 … and what do I remember most clearly … yeah .. not the fun days… the games we played… I remember the fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment… I remember that they didn’t love me.  Telling me they did afterwards meant nothing.  They lost my respect, trust and love and never regained it.  I don’t trust or respect anyone who hits me!  I know .. being spanked doesn’t affect us all in the same way .. but I don’t believe ANYONE has the right to spank or HIT anyone else… adults, animals and especiallly not children!

  • Alice

    Sarah if you take your logic to the extreme you have shared about people who hit instead of spank……by your own reasoning you would not like to be compared to the extreme on the spectrum you advocate. We could compare you to the parent’s who do nothing and think all is well in love and war. That is not good parenting to use no discipline, just as it is bad parenting to abuse by over discipling. I think it adds confusion, and assumptions to the conversation by inferring people who spank are abusive. I would appreciate keeping it civil and in the context of caring parents doing the best they can. To infer abuse on one side, and neglect on the other takes us into rare circumstance….it blurs the lines.

    • Anonymous

      As an ex child .. of almost 57 .. who was ‘only’ spanked by pro spankers standards… you BET I feel abused !!!!!! 

  • Alice

    Ummm…….Jen….can you site some studies? I read a study that showed that self esteem is quite high on death row (isn’t that logical? It is usually the selfish, uncontrolled Snickers eaters on death row…ugh!)

    Too many misconceptions and emotions over the spanking. I think you should just ask the moms of the people you think you would like your children to be like. It is not a perfect formula, but let me say I came from a highly abusive family (I have scars from beatings on my legs). I was not abusive to my children…they are a sheer delight to me. But the bottom-line is we are sinners raising sinners. Kids need some form of discipline and a quick smack is not abuse. It is irritating when the self righteous label it that way.

    • Anonymous

      As an ‘ex child’ of almost 57 who was spanked … I find it HIGHLY irritating that you dismiss how others feel – you BET I feel abused !  If I hit you .. you would feel abused.  How do you think a child would feel ??  I think your view is blurred because you feel that if you aren’t beaten black and blue, and aren’t scarred physically by it .. then a spanking is a mere bagatelle and is fine.  It isn’t .  It’s the abuse of the most vulnerable and defenceless and should be banned everywhere as it is in Europe – where we have much lower rates of violence etc than in the States where spanking is so disgustingly prevalent!  If you care to look up figures .. you will also find that the States where paddling is allowed have the highest rates of crime .. and the lowest rates of good school results.  

  • Jen B.

    Here are some studies:
    *Larzelere, R. Child Outcomes of Nonabusive and Customary Physical Punishment by Parents: An Updated Literature Review. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 2000.
    *Straus, M. New Evidence for the Benefits of Never Spanking. Social Science & Public Policy, 2001.
    *Knox, M. On Hitting, a Review of Corporal Punishment in the United States. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 2010. (Note that this article examines the negative effects of spanking alone, as well as talking about more severe corporal punishment)
    *Simons, D. Wurtele, S. Relationships Between Parents’ Use of Corporal Punishment and Their Children’s Endorsement of Spanking and Hitting. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2010. (Note that the “corporal punishment” examined is spanking, and the children’s endorsement of it applies to all conflict situation, not specifically to parent- child punishment.)

    • Alice

      Thanks Jen!

      Hmmm…..if the experts are right…..I guess my kids hate me! I’ll have to tell them so they won’t bother buying an abuser Christmas gifts this year! Oh teasing….but what do the experts know? Really…..I am serious. Most of my kids are grown……does this mean they need therapy? Are they future abusers? Sizzling anger beneath waiting to boil over and hurt someone? Grrr…….if this is true then over half of society is just waiting in the balance to hurt someone and don’t like their parents?

      • Anonymous

        Well … I was a really quiet child.  And yes, I seethed underneath … I learned fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment !  And did my parents know that ?  No… because I asked just before she died a year or so back .. and she said I was ‘ok with it’… and I wasn’t !!  Strangely .. I knew from a toddler if not before that hitting anyone was wrong .. and never did.  And … have you LOOKED at society where spanking is prevalent like the States??  erm… it isn’t working … is it ??  

  • gzuckier

    Well, heck; it’s pretty well established that punishment in general is a pretty lousy way to guide behavior; and physical pain as punishment has all sorts of negative side effects as well.
    That said, i’m on record as believing in spanking, not in the intent of punishment, but just as a jolt to break the stimulus-reaction loop that kids can get in sometimes, analogous to the cliche slapping the hysteric, “thanks i needed that”. It’s not the pain, it’s the surprise/interruption that works; a sudden big noise is an equally falid option. If it were for punishment purposes, obviously the more painful the more aversive it would be, so just beating your child half to death would make perfect sense; since that’s obviously insane, we implicitly acknowledge the basic worthlessness of the spanking for punishment paradigm.
    Of course there’s the other position; most toddlers would probably smack their parents until they get what they want if they could get away with it, so why shouldn’t we just fight fire with fire?

  • Mike

    “But 1/3 of us choose not to spank,and about 2/3 of us choose to spank our children. Why?”

    The answer is simple, it works. It is quick and effective. I am not advocating nor condoning abuse but correctly applied corporal punishment is useful.

    • Anonymous

      There is no ‘correctly’ when talking about HITTING anyone let alone a defenceless child!  It ‘works’ temporarily through fear …not for the right reasons!  I preferred NOT to teach my children violence, but to teach them right from wrong and how to differentiate for themselves.  How can you expect your child to trust and respect you if you hit them?  What you GET .. is not respect [although you might feel it is] it’s just fear … and no adult can command respect just by their age .. they have to earn it too .. it’s a two way street !

  • Finn

    I am always fascinated by the way so many people sort themselves into 2 extremist camps on this issue. On one side is the nonspankers who consider any striking of a child to be an abusive reaction by parents whose anger is out of control; on the other is the spankers who consider any suggestion criticism of spanking to be a suggestion that we eliminate all discipline entirely and merely indulge children’s every whim.

    It’s nice to see some reasoned arguments in the comments here, interspersed between the warring camps.

  • Sarah Sherwood

    Jen B:

    I totally agree with you and thank you for producing the studies. I hope it helps parents out there. I am glad I saw the research as a young adult in college.

    I believe that most parents love their children and want to be good parents. It takes work, especially when we work so hard these days. Parents need all the support they can get–AND all the knowledge from alternative sources.


  • Lawrence Barton

    I paid $22.85 for an iPhone 4-32GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $674 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from,

Most Popular