Should Parents Spank Their Kids?
During my graduate training I frequently was told that I shouldn't take a direct stand on spanking and corporal punishment. It was suggested that taking a direct stand might be judgmental, might not be respectful of different choices about child-rearing, might not tolerant or understanding of religious views, etc.
In a recent statement from an the American Psychological Association task force, it was concluded that "parents and caregivers should reduce and potentially eliminate their use of any physical punishment as a disciplinary measure." Some things never change: the APA isn't taking a direct stand. One wouldn't want to appear to be judgmental or disrespectful.
The release goes on to find strong correlations between physical punishment and an increase in childhood anxiety and depression, and increase in behavioral problems, including aggression, and impaired cognitive development--even when the child's pre-punishment behavior and development were taken into consideration.
Muarry Straus, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, points out that while the evidence is correlational--not proof, the association is "more robust and stronger than the correlations that have served as bases for other public health interventions, such as secondhand smoke's relation to cancer, exposure to lead and IQ scores in children, and exposure to asbestos and laryngeal cancer."
Here are a few interesting facts, a survey from 2000 indicates that corporal punishment of minors within the home is lawful in all 50 states of the US, has been outlawed in 25 countries around the world, is legal in schools in 20 US states, and outlawed in schools in countries including Canada, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, and nearly all of Europe except the Czech Republic and France.
Interestingly, corporal punishment is banned in most juvenile correction facilities in the US yet continues in public schools. Why? In 1977 the Supreme Court found that the Eighth Amendment only protects convicted criminals from cruel and unusual punishment--not children in a classroom. A Time magazine article from 2009 wrote that "Texas paddles the most students in the nation, as well as the most students with disabilities.... Nationwide, students with disabilities are paddled at more than twice the rate of the general student population.
I too wish not to be disrespectful. However despite my training, I'm going to go ahead and be judgmental. I think spanking is wrong and that it isn't a useful from of discipline.
There are many other forms of effective parenting--forms that are much more effective that do not involve hitting children. These aren't easy parenting tools. They take time, they take planning, they take education, and they take the development of a ongoing relationship with a child. They are important. I like teaching them and seeing a child blossom and grow--and I equally enjoy seeing the children's parents blossom and grow.
What do you think?