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Spanking teaches kids all the wrong lessons

Updated: May 29, 2014 4:32PM

A recent study led by the University of Texas at Austin has found the majority of parents still use corporal punishment to discipline their children. According to the research, 89 percent of African-American parents spank, as do 80 percent of Hispanic parents, 79 percent of Caucasian parents, and 73 percent of Asian parents.

These statistics seem surprisingly high considering what we know about the negative effects of spanking. Numerous studies have found that the destructive and far-reaching effects of spanking can follow a child long after the punishment has ended. Kids who are spanked are more likely to suffer from aggression, low self-esteem and low I.Q., and they also are more likely to suffer from substance abuse and domestic violence as adults.

The negative effects don’t end there. A 2008 study found children who were spanked were more likely to suffer from sexual problems later in life, including risky sex, forced sex and masochistic sexual behavior. Some clinicians believe that this is because when a child is spanked by someone who nurtures him and protects him, he begins to associate love with violence and pain with pleasure.

Spanking is dangerous from a sexual abuse standpoint, because it can accidentally teach the child his body is not his own and that adults have the right to touch him even if it makes him uncomfortable or hurts him. If a predator ever does touch him, he won’t necessarily have the tools and the confidence to resist and ask for help.

Despite all the information we now have about the long-term effects of physical punishment, there are many misconceptions about spanking that still make it a popular method of discipline, such as:

Spanking isn’t the same as hitting. Due to the use of popular euphemisms like “spanking” or “swatting,” some people wrongly believe that spanking isn’t the same thing as hitting. Yet that’s exactly what it is. It is a form of physical punishment used to inflict pain and instill fear. It teaches a child that it is OK to hit when you are angry or when you want to gain control of the situation. It teaches a child that the bigger person is in control and that their worth and value is not in their own hands.

Spanking is in the Bible. Pro-spanking factions tend to recite the popular phrase “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” which is often wrongly attributed to the Bible. It’s actually a line from a satirical poem penned hundreds of years ago, and a rod wasn’t something used to punish or spank children in biblical days. It was the staff a shepherd used to guide his flock (not hit them), and while biblical references to parenting are pro-discipline, none of them advocate physical punishment as the necessary or preferred method.

No spanking means no discipline. People often wrongly assume that a lack of spanking in the home equals a lack of respect or discipline. Yet there are several methods of parenting and discipline that do not involve physical punishment, and in fact, these have been shown to be more effective tools over the years. While spanking might stop a child in his tracks for the moment, it doesn’t shape his character or give him the resources he needs to make better decisions in the future.

It is time to usher in an era of parenting built on communication, discipline, mutual respect and even tenderness. Perhaps we finally can have a generation of children who grow up learning that hitting is never OK and violence is never the answer. For alternatives to spanking go to or check out Without Spanking or Spoiling:
A Practical Approach to Toddler and Preschool Guidance
by Elizabeth Crary or 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan.

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