A Father's

Is spanking effective?

A recent survey by Child magazine found that 37 percent of parents discipline their toddlers several times a day, and 27% discipline their child in public several times a week. It's not all that surprising, then, that 39% of mothers spank their kids "often or sometimes" and twenty percent slap their kids' hands often or sometimes.

The big question, of course, is "Does spanking do any good?" If you want to attract the child's attention in a hurry, the answer is yes. But if you're interested in any long-term positive effect, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, there's plenty of evidence that the long-term effect of spanking children is actually quite negative. (It's worth noting here that of the people polled in the Child survey, only 4 percent felt that spanking was an effective way to get kids to be good.)

Basically, researchers confirm just what you might expect: that spanking children does little more than teach them to resort to violence and aggression to solve their problems--not exactly the message most parents want to get across to their kids.

I still remember very clearly a scene that took place a few years ago at a bus stop not far from my house. A rather agitated woman was trying to keep her two kids—about 5 and 7 years old—from fighting: "How many times," she said, smacking the older child, "do I have to (smack) tell you (smack) not to hit (smack) your brother (smack)?" Any guesses about where that little boy learned to hit his brother?

Author Doug Spangler suggests that fathers who spank their children are sending some very specific messages:

  • It's okay to hit another person.
  • It's okay to hit another person who is smaller than you.
  • It's okay to hit someone you love.
  • It's okay to hit someone when you feel angry and frustrated.
  • Physical aggression is normal and acceptable under any circumstances.
  • Daddy can't control himself or his temper.
  • Fathers are to be feared.
  • Children must always be quiet around their fathers.

Research also shows that children who get spanked are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem and depression, and have a greater chance of accepting lower-paying jobs as adults. While this may not be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, there is clearly some correlation between being spanked and poor self-esteem.

Ultimately, the best discipline is consistency and treating your child with respect. The more your children know what’s expected and the more you treat them with kindness, the better behaved they’ll be.

©2012, Armin Brott

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It's clear that most American children suffer too much mother and too little father. - Gloria Steinem

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Blueprint for Men's Health: A guide to a health lifestyle, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner and Father for Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts “Positive Parenting”, a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com

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