Disciplinary reaction: Is spanking kids still considered acceptable discipline?

05/17/14 by Rennie Detore



To spank or not to spank, that is a question posed to parents, one that seems relatively simple in theory but raises more than just a few concerns depending on how you answer.
Spanking children often is viewed as a way of discipline that is antiquated, outdated, harsh and unnecessary. Spanking may have been something your grandparents or even parents talked about having done to them as kids, with varying levels of intensity depending on the generation. If your mom and dad were kids in the 1950s, spanking may have been more than just a quick, light tap to your backside, for example, compared to the form spanking has taken today.
And that sentiment brings up a stirring, poignant question as to whether today's parents actually even implement spanking as a way to correct kids from doing wrong. You'd like to think that moms and dads in the year 2014 see spanking as something that is widely panned and disregarded as a realistic way to teach the difference between right from wrong.

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Of the parents who still believe in spanking, most would argue that the "time out" or other verbal reprimands are weak and lack the kind of vigor and impact that resonate with kids. That mentality walks a fine line, however, between a simple spank to what could be considered child abuse, which is why spanking is a topic of conversation that is entered into lightly and isn't universally lauded as satisfactory but nor is it totally panned as out of the question.
That brings you back to the original question: Is spanking still part of the at home correctional process?
Notoya Green is a parenting and family law expert, who worked at the Administration For Children's Service (ACS). Green left ACS when she became a mom of triplets and now shares her trials and tribulations of parenting on her own blog: www.tripletsintribeca.com. She believes that parents spank their kids, but that the act is in the minority.
"Some parents refer to it as a 'pow wow.' Most parents believe hitting hard or aggressively is wrong, and most don't do that," Green says. "There are some parents out there that still spank on the butt."
Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co founder of ImpactADHD, and is a respected and renowned certified parenting coach, writer and educator and, most importantly, a mother herself. ImpactADHD helps to endow moms and dads who are having a tough time with parenting. ImpactADHD works as a coach that supports parents in their journey to empower their children.
Taylor-Klaus concurs with the sentiment that spanking hardly is the first form of punishment sought after by parents, but that doesn't mean it is non existent or parents don't do it at all.
"Yes, they do," she said, regarding parents and spanking, suggesting that it still is used as a form of punishment. "They still believe in the value of blind obedience; there are still parents who believe that the way to motivate and inspire their kids to behave is through threats and punishment. The motivation is the threat of getting caught and punished, instead of motivating them for intrinsic value of behaving well."
Taylor-Klaus hits on an intriguing and pertinent topic within her answer, particularly the part when she mentions motivation as a means to get kids to behave correctly and replacing that with outright fear. Motivation directly correlates to communication and how well parents do it. Moms and dads who utilize fear over their words often lean on spanking as an easier, less effective way to coerce kids into behaving.
In short, spanking is the diet pill of parenting, an easy out or crutch for parents who can't communicate well with kids or clearly and concisely get kids to adhere to certain rules.
"I completely agree," said Taylor-Klaus regarding spanking being easier than communicating. "Parenting is difficult and especially in the modern age. Parenting requires strong communication skills with kids, including the school environment and other kids (everything is intertwined with everything else). If you don't have well developed communication skills, the easy way out is to demand and to step into a situation and demand authority as a parent."
What Taylor-Klaus is saying is kids are exposed to a lot more, and communication between adults and kids is different than it was 30 years ago. Kids have more distractions and temptations than, for example, in the 1950s so ruling with fear and spanking doesn't translate the same way it would in 2014.
Green also isn't a proponent of spanking, nor does she believe it is a viable means of parenting. She cites her experience personally along with the long term effects on kids and how they respond to the form of parental violence.
"I think it is wrong. I was spanked as a child, and I know personally what it does. It makes kids fearful of their parents, and that's not healthy," Green says. "I've chosen not to spank my children. Studies show that spanking is linked to depression and hurts development or makes them aggressive. It is definitely a negative. Parents ultimately struggle on what to do with discipline."
Green's point is valid as far as parents struggling. Earlier, communication was cited as part of that tug of war as far as parenting, but you also have to factor in the notion that some parents simply don't now how to parent as a whole. They may want their kids to trust them wholeheartedly and instead of fostering a parent child relationship built on respect and realistic disclosure, some parents may try to befriend their child.
This practice is common but doesn't work well at all.
"To be a good parent, you have to be willing to set clear expectations and to hold kids accountable," Taylor-Klaus says. "Ultimately, parents don't trust their own security or ability. They show a discomfort for the natural give and take of parenting and negotiation skills."
Those shortcomings exuded by mom and dads then turns to panic, thus prompting violence or spanking as an alternative that comes more naturally, even if it isn't correct.
"The idea that we are going to teach by threatening violence doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I have parents (I work with) who were spanked and beaten as kids and as parents they want to handle it differently. Blind obedience or asking for permission from your kids; somewhere in the middle is good parenting and setting expectations that are clear."
"That requires work and having a spine," Taylor-Klaus.
Green is on the same page when it comes to parents as friends first as not being a smart option. Then again, she says, neither is violence or spanking in its place.
"There is a silent epidemic; that parents aren't disciplining their kids, and parents are afraid of discipline, and kids are then acting out at home and school and parents are losing control," Green said.
That loss of control Green speaks up gives way to spanking.
"Some parents may think fear is good and keeps a child in line, but it destroys the relationship between parent and child. A child doesn't feel home or being around a parent is safe. It's about being an authority figure and creating discipline in the home without spanking."
Eliminating the spanking or fear isn't easy for all parents. Unfortunately, some parents rely on that in place of explanations, heart to heart talks or simply outlining rules that must be followed. Call it a lack of organizational skills or simply too difficult for some to follow, but that gap is directly related to whether spanking exists within the home as a form of teaching right and wrong. What parents often do is choose complete opposite ends of the parenting spectrum: they either use spanking or the fear of it versus being a total pushover. The question is why can't the simple art of talking to your kids be pushed to the parenting forefront?
"Spanking is not the long term answer but a short term fix. I believe that spanking today, you get immediate results but it can become a default response," Green argues. "I try to reward good behavior; it's effective. These are things like listening and following instructions."
Those tools Green discusses are forms of communication and teaching tools that should supplant spanking or violence ten times out of 10.
"It (parenting) requires complex communication and negotiation skills on every front," Taylor-Klaus urges. "Our goal is to raise independent thinkers, and people who can become independent as a result of parenting. In order to do that, you have to teach them how to make decisions and how to take action and have accountability and responsibility for their actions."

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