Does Spanking Undermine a Child’s Development?

Boy behind bars

My son Will sent me an article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Its title clearly says, “Spanking Undermines a Child’s Long-Term Development.”

I knew I shouldn’t have spanked him for standing up in his high-chair at age two. It made him more aggressive and violent. The last time we were at his house, we sat down to eat and Will stood up in his chair. His 6’3″ frame towered over the table and guests, frowning down upon us, and looking like his undermined development was about to act out in chaotic violence. We all cowered in fear.

Just kidding!

I read the article. How do we respond to stuff like this? The first thing I look for is the definition.

How do they define spanking? Here is their definition: “Physical punishment refers to any type, regardless of motive, be it out of frustration, desperation or love.” Any type of physical punishment can mean anything from slapping in the face to burning them to hitting them with a 2×4. In other words, the definition is very broad. It can include hitting across the head, the torso, using the fist, whatever. In other words, violent parents will produce violent, aggressive kids. Or maybe anxious, depressed kids. Or maybe drug and alcohol addicts. I don’t disagree with that.

But there are a lot of parents who spank their kids who are not violent parents. They are reasonable, self-controlled parents who spank their children in order to correct them and keep them out of trouble. They discuss and explain, spank on the rear end, talk some more, hug, and get back to life knowing they did the best thing for their child. I do think that how you spank matters.

I also think the motive matters. Frustration and desperation are very different from love as motivations. Here’s what happens too often. We read articles like this and think that maybe we shouldn’t spank our kids, so we try to avoid it. Then we get frustrated or desperate; and when we finally do spank, we are out of control ourselves. We become “violent parents.” Then we feel really bad and say, “That article was right.”

What if we spanked our kids before we got frustrated or desperate, while we were still reasonably sane?

What if we spanked them simply because they did wrong?

What if we knew what deserved a spanking and what needed a different kind of punishment?

What if we spanked them because we loved them enough to correct their destructive actions?

What if we spanked them for their benefit and not for our frustrations?

These things might make a difference.

Thanks for letting me express some of my frustrations to you. I trust you don’t feel punished.

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