The Discipline Question No One Can Answer

Of all the tough issues parents face, discipline is tops. I had noted this working with parents over the years, but since I started blogging, it’s become really obvious.

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame” was my first post about discipline, and it’s been read nearly five hundred thousand more times than anything else I’ve written. It’s the post that typically gets the most visits each month, even though it’s been years since I wrote it.

The “No Bad Kids…” post was recently shared (on Facebook and Pinterest) with a new wave of readers, which means a new round of comments. This time they’re mostly about spanking, a practice I strongly advise against. The tone of the comments range from indignant to angry, and although I’ve tried to be patient and measured with my responses, the deep chasm between our perspectives makes a calm discussion nearly impossible. And we can certainly forget about either of us changing each other’s mind — there’s no way that’s going to happen.

But if there’s one valuable thing I’ve learned from blogging, it is that hearing a radically divergent view is the way to a better understanding of theirs and yours, which can then lead to empathy. After avoiding disagreements for most of my life, I’m finally seeing the value in them.

I always end up with the same question for spankers: If you knew with all certainty that spanking was totally unnecessary for raising well-mannered, kind and successful children, would you still do it? If so, why?

I’ve posed this countless times to commenters on my blog and in discussions elsewhere on the web. I’ve been told my question is ridiculous and that I’m ignorant. Still, no one answers. So it has finally occurred to me that I should put the shoe on the other foot and answer the question myself.

If I became convinced that spanking was totally necessary for my children to become well-mannered, kind, successful people, and if there were many studies that seemed to prove that by not spanking I am harming my children, it would still be extremely hard, if not impossible, for me to spank. This might be because my parents didn’t spank, so it’s not in my realm of experience.  Intentionally causing my children pain is abhorrent and completely unimaginable to me.

Believing in the need for spankings would also mean accepting to my core that my parents failed me. They didn’t care enough to do what was right. How could my parents have neglected the tiny, vulnerable me? How could they not do the best thing for me when I know they loved me?

I’d eventually realize that they couldn’t help it. They inherited their parenting practices from their parents (and so on), and none of them could overcome their visceral response not to spank. It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, right? Did I deserve their neglect?

But anyway, I turned out fine, didn’t I?

I would probably continue to rationalize my inability to spank. I’d be comforted reading anti-spanking articles and surround myself with like-minded parents.

But suppose the more I educated myself, the more compelling and convincing the necessity for spankings became. By avoiding them, I was putting my child and our relationship at risk. I might then go to counseling in hopes of breaking the destructive cycle that had been passed down to me. I’d do all within my power to overcome my fear of physically punishing my child. It would still be really tough. But if I committed myself and worked hard enough, I might one day be as courageous as this dad (mentioned in a pro-spanking comment on “No Bad Kids…”):

My dad would sometimes include that “this hurts me more than it hurts you,” and often had tears in his eyes after placing a few firm pats on my butt. 



I share a complete guide to effective non-punitive discipline in my book,  No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame





Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Great way to turn it around. It made me really think about this hard.

    I would have to hire someone to spank my children, if it came to that. I am too horrified by pain and violence.. (Inadvertently, my parents once did that.)

    1. Colin, your parents hired someone to spank you? Seriously? Please tell me more…

  2. Wow, Janet. This is probably the most powerful post I’ve ever read about spanking. It brought tears to my eyes, because I know my parents love me deeply and unconditionally, yet still spanked me and used other parenting practices that are abhorrent to me. It’s a constant struggle every day not to fall back on old patterns, and this hits on exactly why. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Suchada. The changes you’ve struggled to make are an inspiration to us all. Your experience makes you an important voice on this subject and I deeply appreciate your comment.

    2. Im on the same page as Suchada.
      I sometimes look at Edmund and say “i dont know any other way” and it saddens me to my very core because i resent the way i was raised and vowed to be the change for my kids yet its like looking into a mirror seeing me doing the very actions that hurt me. The spanking, the sarcasm, the outright being ignored. I know they love me but their actions were not right. I did not deserve them. (as i read in one of the comments… what a sad belief to have)

  3. Interesting question. I’ll be honest, it makes me uncomfortable to think about spankng my child and I abandoned the questioning pretty quickly.

    But I’m not actually against spanking persay. I grew up in a small ultra liberal city surrounded by farmland. One of the schools we competed against in middle school basketball still had paddling in school. Plenty of the people I grew up with take it for granted that spanking an integral part of good parenting. I disagree, but I know how much these people love their kids, and I’m watching their kids grow up, and I simply don’t believe that spanking is doing them lasting damage.

    I think spanking is dangerous because it can easily escalate, and ultimately I think it’s counterproductive as a discipline measure, but I don’t automatically think it’s bad parenting. It’s usually just parents doing what we always do: the best we know how.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment (as usual), Meagan. I totally agree with: “It’s usually just parents doing what we always do: the best we know how”, but what do people make of the studies? Are people not aware of them, or do they find ways to dismiss them? I understand how compelling “but I turned out fine” can be.

      1. It’s both… they are often unaware of the studies, and if they do hear about them they dismiss them. Science is remote- it’s rich old men in white lab coats, and it’s simply not as compelling as “this is how we’ve always done it.” It goes beyond “I turned out fine,” it’s part of the loving relationship they had with their parents. I think most people just don’t examine this sort of thing as much as you would expect. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Maybe it means they don’t always know what the “best practices” in current parenting are, but that might be balanced by a strength and confidence in parenting that some of us are constantly trying to achieve, and fail, because we simply over think it.

        1. Thanks, Meagan. Hmmm… I’m really going to have to think about whether or not it’s possible to over think parenting. This is such an important job and I’m honestly not sure if we could ever be too thoughtful about it. But I agree that confidence is essential.

          1. I guess over thinking might be the wrong word. I’m sure you know parents who have a hard time acting confidently because they are constantly questioning whether they’re doing the best thing. The people I’m thinking of who spank their kids just aren’t that stressed out about it… they haven’t put that much thought into it because as far as they’re concerned they already know the right way to parent. And because they “know” the right things to do, they do it well most of the time, even when the “right” way wasn’t the best way.

            1. Meagan, I really appreciate this discussion. I think it’s more productive to be unsure about one’s parenting (and therefore open minded) than it is to be confident about a practice that studies show is potentially very harmful to children.

              1. I agree, but it’s degrees. What I’m trying to say is that I think this is how someone can be a good parent even if they go against the science on best parenting practices. Even if they do something potentially harmful as part of what they think is best for their kids.

                And I also am really appreciating the discussion. Because I like to think about these things. It’s just… and I don’t know any less insulting way to say this… not everyone thinks about things. Not just parenting. Religion, politics, many people just take their truths for granted. They can still be good people.

                1. I think “good person” and “good parent” (which I define as mindful, willing to evolve, embrace new information, educate oneself for the sake of his or her children) are two very different things. But I guess that’s why I’m bothering with this blog. Thanks again.

              2. But can you be a mindful parent if you aren’t a particularly mindful person to begin with?

                I would define a good parent as someone who loves their children entirely and does everything they can to do their best by them. If someone is not the questioning sort, that could very well include spanking. I think, while there’s potential for harm, if spanking is done by loving parents who are trying to do the best they can for their kids, it usually isn’t more damaging than other errors we might make as parents all the time.

              3. Ok, it’s 2 am here, gotta go to bed! I’ve really enjoyed the conversation Janet, thanks.

          2. I was told one time that I take parenting “too seriously”. I ponder that comment all the time. I love that I’ve discovered so many wonderful parenting experts, like you, that help me in my journey to be a good parent for my children. It’s the most important job I have so how could I take that too seriously? I can see how you read something and get really excited about “implementing” what you learned and can steam roll the people in your family out of excitement and good intentions so I’m working on that part. 🙂 Mostly, I realize that key to discipline is changing myself first. Lately, I’ve been reading about brain integration and Mindfulness and that’s been fascinating. I can feel the urge to want to teach my kids about everything I’m learning but I take to heart what they say about letting the process of becoming Mindful evolve naturally from me becoming more mindful first. That’s a challenge for this left-brained, type A Mamma.

      2. Here’s my perspective, as one who grew up in a family that spanked and also from an evangelical Christian background that emphasizes spanking as being an important part of biblical parenting. I’m still a Christian and attend a non-demoninational evangelical church, and I consider the bible to be my authority above all else. Where modern studies disagree with scripture, I have to conclude error with the studies, not with scripture, as I hold to the infallibility of the bible. I have chosen not to spank my own children, because I do not believe that there is anything in scripture that commands that we do so and my conscience is strongly against it. But many (or most) of my peers within my church feel that spanking is commanded by God in order to teach children to obey their parents (and obeying parents is a commandment to children in scripture). So when studies show harms of spanking, they are thought to be inconsistent with the truth of the bible, and thus disregarded. Also, studies do not align with the reality that they are seeing. Most families I know that spank have wonderful well adjusted children. The spanking is not done in anger (truly, honestly, it’s not. For myself, the only time I ever feel like I could spank is when I’m angry, which is another thing that prevents me from feeling it’s a tool for me to use in discipline) and the children are well behaved. I felt very loved by my own parents despite spanking, and for the most part, I don’t look back on that as a negative part of my childhood. The only strong negative emotion I feel associated with spanking is from one particular memory of feeling I was spanked unjustly, I hadn’t felt I had done anything wrong. One thing I’ve read from Christian resources about spanking studies is that they include any form of hitting, including slaps to the face or other more severe abuses, as spanking, and that is not at all what peers/friends of mine who spank are doing. It’s pretty methodical, done calmly, and ends with a restoration of relationship and forgiveness. If the child is leaving feeling disconnected, there’s a problem with the method. But like I said, my conscience is so strong against it that I still can’t see myself doing it, so we don’t in our family. Anyway, maybe that gives a little insight.

        1. The Bible does not actually support spanking or hitting children. It is a misinterpretation of scripture and people have used it to abuse children and women for far too long.
          I love Jesus and I know for a fact that if my son was in his care, he would be respected and loved unconditionally. He DEFINITELY wouldn’t be spanked!
          Christian parents need to get with the times, stop listening to BS about spanking being okay as long as you’re “not angry”.
          I grew up being spanked in the typical Christian way…”this hurts me more than it hurts you” (a confusing and manipulative phrase that is a flat out lie). “I have to do this” (no, you don’t), “I’m doing this because I love you” (message received: people that love you hurt you and blow through your physical boundaries)
          Spanking is shaming and an abuse of power no matter how it is done.
          My parents did their best And they love me. It doesn’t mean they were good parents when it comes to discipline and emotional care.

      3. I think one of the issues is that often children do “behave” better when their parents use fear in parenting. I was judged by my family for having to get up to help my two year old do what he was told. In their opinion, the child should mind immediately, without question. So they think the spanking (or other tactics) are working. Because their children are afraid of being ridiculed, spanked, humiliated at every turn, they are in constant fear and apprehensive about everything. They ask for permission for everything. Meanwhile, I have a very strong willed child, and
        have chosen to use gentle discipline, so he “misbehaves” (meaning he explores and voices his opinion). They dismiss the research because what they are doing is “working.” But research shows how kids respond over time, and that’s needed with gentle discipline because not all of the benefits are immediate. The funny thing is, at other times my family will go on and on about how well I do with him and how well adjusted and independent he is. But they don’t connect it with discipline.

  4. The one time they went off on a real vacation my parents hired an older woman to stay with us. They did not discuss the subject with her. They never spanked us. There were three of us under six.

    We were quite distraught at being left behind. We tested this woman quite extensively until she spanked us each with a wooden spoon from the kitchen. I can’t imagIne it was anything but frustration and anger. We wouldn’t eat any of her meals, either.

    She never worked for anyone we knew again. My brother was already extremely articulate and my parents received a detailed report of her transgressions.

  5. Hit the nail on the head with this one. My parents would spank and frequently shout when they were frustrated. Now a mother and early childhood teacher myself when my daughter tests my limits and I get very frustrated even though I am so against it I am often tempted to and have to walk away/take a few deep breaths. I never felt this when teaching (Thankfully!) even when children would push back for a lot longer. It really shows that it’s a cycle learnt from your own parents.

    1. Your awareness and self-control is awesome, Chloe.

    2. Wow Chloe, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I mean, my baby is 4 months old now, so he’s still not pushing any buttons. I’m very anxious because I know that being spanked, and yelled at, and told “no!” was part of my upbringing. I’m also an ECE, and never had any real problems with patience, but I worry that at home it might be something else.

  6. I was spanked out of anger and yelled at constantly. I have 2 kids under 2 now. It’s a daily struggle to try to avoid these destructive behaviors. I still remember some of my earliest memories as a child of probably 3 or 4. I would be alone after being punished, or whatever you’d call what they did to me, rocking back and forth and telling myself that no one loved me. I grew up feeling alone and unloved; never like I was “good”. My fear is of that same pain being inflicted on my children. Yet, it is all too easy to fall into those behaviors myself. I just don’t know what to do with uncomfortable emotions; mine or theirs. Spanking can be a very dangerous thing. I never experienced it done “right”, but I can’t imagine it feeling very loving in any context. And, the behavior is learned. When you hit and humiliate a child, you teach them to do the same. Thank you for this article. I pray my kids will not have the impulse toward violence either.

    1. Megan, with the consciousness and courage you obviously have, I’m sure your children are having an entirely different experience and won’t have violent impulses. Thanks for your honest sharing.

  7. I was spanked and yelled at by my parents. I never spanked my own child (once- but it freaked me out and I never did it again…). When my son was 3 and in pre-school, he drew a picture of me. I was dressed like a princess and shouting. He told his teacher that he loves me, and knows that I love him, but I yell a lot. It totally woke me up. I stopped yelling (not perfectly- I was a working, college-going single mom and sometimes my fatigue got the best of me.). It worked. More love, less yelling.

    I am now a mental health professional who works with parents and children and do my best to convey this to my clients.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  8. I loved reading the discussion between you and Meagan in the comments. It’s interesting how she suggested that parents who spank aren’t worried about it because they are confident in their parenting. I do see her point. My personality is naturally to over think things, so I can see what she means by being unsure while parenting (especially in front of other adults.)

    However, I do think that because I have over thought my parenting philosophy, I better understand the effects of common discipline methods. I’m usually quite disappointed in friends and family who do time-out (especially those who have degrees in elementary education because I would think they would be even more interested in child development.) Recently my brother and sister-in-law (who have four kids under 4 years old) started to back off on time-out and now spanking is their to-go discipline tool. This does bother me, but it’s not my responsibility to raise their children. I’m rereading Uncondtional Parenting and a researcher suggested that spanking may be a teeny bit better (than withholding love) because the effects of physical pain doesn’t take as long to get over as emotional pain of forced separation. But we are also aware of the damaging effects of spanking, aren’t we?

  9. Thanks for this post! My husband was spanked and I think from the outside looking in I can see the damage it did in his connection with his parents. We came to the conclusion that there is *always* an alternative to spanking. He still thinks he turned out ‘fine’ which he did! But I can see how much better his relationship could have been with his parents.

    1. Alyssa, thanks so much for sharing this helpful perspective.

  10. i saw this on my FB feed and feel weird responding to this on my FB. why? well, it turns out that this spanking thing has turned into the new “religion and politics” for me. i had no idea I wasn’t supposed to talk about it and every time I’ve gotten into a discussion it’s ended pretty poorly. i had no idea but most of my parent friends except for a few spank or have spanked their kids and believe it’s a good thing no matter what anyone else may say otherwise. i lost a friend this past week bc i got into a heated discussion with her friend who believes spanking is not hitting and it’s the only way to get thru to a child. I asked her why she won’t simply talk to her 3 year old about undesirable behaviors and she replied that he’s just a child and they don’t get it. i’m finding that a lot of spankers either knowingly or unknowingly are attached to the notion that kids need authoritarian figure versus having someone who is his/her authority . and somehow when a human being is a child they’re supposed to be treated differently. i asked what if you did something that your parent didn’t approve of when you were 20 and they spanked you and if that would be ok? well, they say that it’s different. it also seems most of those people are into the ‘i’m the parent and i’m the boss’ type of parenting. i certainly believe that i’d like to be my child’s best friend as well as his authority but i’m certainly not his boss. i help him make decisions and tell him ‘i’m your parent and one of my jobs is to keep you safe and make good decisions in life’.

    it seems people tend to remember things in their early life if it was life changing whether it was good or bad. ironically, every person i have spoken to who was spanked remember the incident(s). i certainly don’t want my son to remember me hitting him bc my inability to control my behavior or thought spanking or hitting resolved issues.

    as a child who was spanked i can still remember the weapon that was used. it was this wooden paddle that we swatted our futons with. I grew up in japan in the 70’s and many people slept on futons which they hung outside for the day and swatted to get the dust out. this was when i was 3 bc we moved when i turned 4 further into tokyo.

    the other memory i have from very young is when my mom forgot to pick me up from preschool. the other is when i was home alone at age 4 i cut myself with a razor blade by accident. the last vivid memory is sitting around the dinner table for a great meal of curry rice, my favorite dish still to this day. my current relationship with my father is non-existent and shaky at best with my mother. i always feel i’m not good enough and i can’t explain why. i understand relationships are complex and can’t blame one thing for it’s failure but i know for certain that spanking doesn’t help.

    1. I think that’s the thing that gets me… If a kid is too young or not developmentally able to “get it” (understand why and how not to behave in certain ways), then how is spanking going to make them “get it?”

  11. I grew up in a house with lots of yelling, very little spanking (the couple of times there was spanking it was extremely traumatizing for me, because it was happening to my brother). Your blog has really opened my eyes to how much damage it really did (I have a *very* short fuse, and often resort to nasty comments as a way to hurt people when I’m frustrated or angry with them). Since we are on a TTC journey, I plan to seek some more in depth counselling to work on coping techniques, since I don’t want to yell at my kids the way that my mom yelled at us (it didn’t solve the problem, it just made us afraid of her).

    That being said, my mom, in her own context, did an *amazing* job, considering the home she grew up in (my grandma used to cut her out of pictures because she was “so ugly”, I’m pretty sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg). I grew up knowing I was very very wanted and loved and that I was beautiful and smart and full of life. My mom broke the hardest bonds, and if she can do it, I can too!!! Thank you, Janet!!

  12. How can causing pain be it little or big do any good to anyone.??

  13. Here is what made up my mind. As a full-time working parent I leave my children in the care of others during the work day. I believe that if I spanked my children I would not only be teaching them that it is OK to hit, but that it is OK to be hit. It occured to me that if someone else hit my children they might think that it was OK and not tell me or ask for help. The thought of my children being hurt by anyone (including myself) made up my mind to never hit them in any way. We tell them that it is not OK to hit and that it is not OK for anyone to hit them.

    1. Oh, Lis… you are so right. I learned early that I had to let people do what they wanted to me. I had no power, so I became one of those girls who is victimized over and over again. I can’t look back on any part of my life prior to my mid-30s without an overwhelming sense of shame.

      Fortunately, I can say with complete assurance that my own children will never be victimized by anyone. In fact, I would love to see someone go up against my 3-year-old. She would have that person for breakfast. 🙂

  14. I’m guessing that you don’t get good response to that question from people who spank because the answer is probably “No..but..” followed by silence because they can’t think of other ways to be effective discplinarians. No one wants to admit that they lack knowledge, especially when it’s about something important like parenting. If you’re socialized into a culture that spanks, you never think beyond it unless you’re actively seeking and talking about alternative methods.

  15. This was a hard post for me to read. I come from a spanking background and though every day I vow that I will not loose my temper with my 12 month old, inevitably I often fail. Just yesterday when she hit me repeatedly on the face it ended with a smack for her. I feel sick over my short fuse, my apparent inability to control myself, and I don’t understand how in a single instant I can go from loving and patient parent to what I would frankly consider an abusive one. I am at a loss of what to do as we enter the more trying toddler years. I can see the vicious cycle happening in front of my eyes.

    1. We were also hit quite a bit (with a belt), and my father tended to apologize after. The physical part of it was bad, but the scariest thing for me was that my parents were always out of control. They were just pouring their frustration and anger out on us. I have issues with my 20 month old too, and your comment felt like me a couple of months ago. He hits me in the face as well, but I’ve noticed that the more calmly I react (while establishing boundaries), the better he does. Your baby is perfect just as she is (just as you were), and she deserves to be treated (and taught) with love, as do you. I’ve found that I need to slow down when I am with my son (everything flows better and I feel more calm), and that I need to manage my emotions and needs. I definitely need to parent myself. Once I remember to give myself some space and tell him gently, the better I feel and the better he does. Toddlers pick up on our emotions and act them out. Also, I have to look for the wonderful things my baby does every day and focus on those. You’ll find many, because you know that you are so lucky, and that you wouldn’t change a thing. Now you just need to work on your emotions, so you can be the mom you want to be. Janet’s posts have been a lifesaver for me. I’m sure they’ll help you too.
      BTW, the Llama books are my baby’s favorite 🙂

    2. Hi MamaLama. It sounds like a scary place to be in – worried to go into the toddler years, not trusting your own reaction to your daughter. But you can overcome it! I’ve been learning about emotional intelligence and emotions recently and I have two things to share that might help. 1 – The life-span of an emotion is 90 seconds. When your daughter hits you, you probably feel negative emotions (anger? Hurt?) and you could be reacting to those (by hitting her back). But if you can let the emotion ride out it’s 90 seconds without holding on to it, then it will pass and you’ll be in a place where you’re able to react to your daughter in a more constructive manner. 2 – There are five components to emotional intelligence. The first is self awareness which you have 🙂 and the second is self-regulation, which is an opportunity for you! You can read up on this – start with Daniel Goleman, and you can watch Kelly McGonigle’s Ted talk on stress. You can learn to change the way you handle the stressful or difficult feelings and emotions that your daughter elicits in you and I believe that when you exercise your positive self regulation, you’ll feel better about yourself and that will lead to a positive self-reinforcing cycle. Good luck, you can do it!

    3. Do you have a safe place you could put your child down while you walk away and take 10 deep breaths? Now that you’ve noticed what behavior triggers that kind of reaction for you, you could pro-actively calm yourself down and decide how you want to respond. That’s a short-term solution. The longer-term solution is the deeper work of being confident in yourself so that you don’t feel threatened by your child. Reading Janet’s blogs, attending therapy, and short daily mindfulness activities have been really helpful for me (educator not parent) in gradually becoming more even-keeled and confident in responding to challenging behavior.

  16. My husband remembers being spanked by both of his divorced parents quite vividly until he was really too big for such a punishment. My parents had chosen not to hit us, and I remember once where my dad lost his cool and did. He had a harsh childhood and never ever wanted us to feel the way he did. I am so grateful for his strength in stopping that cycle. I am sure it was very hard at times not to fall into what he had grown up seeing and feeling. My husband never thought being hit helped him behave better and mostly felt he was being punished inappropriately for the offence. He is against spanking and so am I. He was spanked and turned out “fine”, but not because of being spanked by any means. I find it odd that people would correlate the two. We are resiliant beings and can turn out “fine” after going through trauma, but why would you want to personally inflict trauma on people you love by choice? Why take the chance in the first place?

  17. Hey Janet – I typically do not leave comments on blogs, but I felt compelled today! I just want to thank you for this post.

    I am from a spanking family (both me and my husband). And this is a form of discipline we will use if and when the time comes. I have always thought this way. Both my husband and I see the value it brought to our own lives. (Sometimes I just needed to be straightened out…nothing else worked.) Neither of us are scarred from this whatsoever.

    But I love the question you posed above: “If you knew with all certainty that spanking was totally unnecessary for raising well-mannered, kind and successful children, would you still do it? If so, why?”

    With ALL certainty?? Well, then, NO! I hate the idea of spanking, but I definitely needed it as a kid. My parents spanked in a loving way. Never out of anger or rage. Never screaming. Just love and discipline followed by forgivenes.

    I was just sent to your website today and I plan on hanging around to see what this is all about. I would much rather NOT spank…but I think some children may need it in certain times when being empathetic and “connecting emotionally” just isn’t cutting it.

    I have a one year old and another on the way. We have some time to figure this out, I guess.

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Hi Kristin! I’m honored that you commented…and I do hope you will check out “No Bad Kids” and the other posts in my discipline section. Yes, it is my opinion (and that of MILLIONS of others, especially highly educated people like psychologists, educators, etc.) that spanking is 100% harmful rather than helpful to children and parents. I know with all certainty that we can raise wonderful, loving, law-abiding children with respectful limits and boundaries that don’t include physical punishments (or any punishments).

      There are not two kinds of people…those that were spanked and are well-behaved and those that weren’t spanked and are not well-behaved. This is a fallacy perpetuated by parents who spank.

      I find it interesting that people, like myself and the millions of others who were never spanked, never once felt we “deserved” to be spanked! Young children are very impressionable and trusting of their parents…we have to be at that age…we need our parents so desperately. So, we would be extremely hard pressed NOT to feel deserving of whatever our parents do to us.

  18. So, I know this will be another one of “this bad thing happened to me and I turned out fine, so there!” posts, but I hope you’ll see some more subtlety in it. My adoring parents never hit me in anger or as punishment for defiant behavior. They did, however, very occasionally give me a swat on the (diapered) backside as a deterrent from obviously dangerous things: running into the street, hanging out a second-storey window, playing with a hot stove. The spanks were never meant to hurt, just to startle and to redirect my attention, as well as to form an instant negative association with the dangerous activity.
    Explaining why I shouldn’t do these things wasn’t an option; I was too young to be reasoned with (in diapers, as I mentioned above), and a calmer intervention might not have been quick enough to keep me from getting hurt. Plus, as I said, these are the kinds of things that you want to make sure a small child never even thinks of doing again!

    So, what is your opinion on this: a low-impact, underhanded (like you were bowling) swat on a diapered bottom to startle, redirect and deter? I’m sure you won’t endorse it wholeheartedly, but it’s a totally different thing from spanking a child out of anger, or as a premeditated, pre-arranged punishment for “bad” behavior.

    Thanks in advance for your response! I really do want to know what you think and your articles are always interesting 🙂

    1. Thanks, Rose. I’m glad you turned out fine. What’s interesting to me is that the examples you give are all, in my opinion, examples of parental negligence. Young children are curious about everything and that is a good thing. Checking out all of those things is what toddlers are supposed to do. Curiosity is why they are marvelous natural learners. It is not fair to give toddlers access to hot stoves or unlocked windows and then spank them for being curious about those things. We should insist toddlers hold our hands when they are anywhere near dangerous streets. So, no, I don’t believe these situations warrant any kind of punishment, especially spanking. By doing that (although you turned out “fine”), your parents discouraged your healthy adventurous spirit. Would the spankings have assured your parents that you would not try those things given the opportunity? That is like giving a toddler swimming lessons and then feeling certain she won’t drown, even if unsupervised. Pointless and dangerous, in my opinion.

  19. I agree that checking out interesting things is a major part of a toddler’s job. I agree that it’s a really important part of their development. My parents did, too–I remember having free rein over a large, safe yard, an interesting garden, and a well-childproofed house. I also agree that doing one’s best to keep children away from hot stoves, open windows, and busy streets is imperative. I held my mother’s hand near busy streets until I was in grade school!

    However, I don’t know how you would live in a modern house, in a developed society, and not have them encounter any of these things at some point, unless you kept them tethered to a wall! Children are quick, and it only takes a few seconds of distraction for them to dart out into the street, go too close to a stove in use, or head for a window. In my case, these were isolated incidents. They didn’t happen constantly; only once, in each case. If they were, I’d be in total agreement with you! I was never left unattended for developmentally inappropriate periods of time, and the small pond in the backyard was drained and fitted with a stout wooden lid when I started crawling. I don’t think it’s fair for parents to be held responsible for the capriciousness of a child’s curiosity, nor should they be made to feel guilty for a moment of inattention. And I was an only child. I can’t imagine how the parents of many kids do it…

    Actually, I think the spankings DID reassure my parents, since I was a compliant, obedient child for the most part, and it had been made clear that those things were off-limits, albeit negatively. I am going to try not to do that with my own children, when they appear, though.

    I’m excited to share your teachings with my parents. I think they understand and agree with most of it anyway, with a few touch-ups here and there 🙂

  20. I was spanked as a kid and I clearly remember feeling angry at my mom not only because of the physical impact but because it felt like i was put down each time. She was the authority and i was not even allowed to disagree or talk back. I have three children and I have spanked them before and it happened when I was extremely stressed out that i couldn’t think straight. I hated it right after and cried and apologized. And i also got mad at my mom inside of me for teaching me this horrible lesson. She has over the years apologized for spanking us but using the “that’s what my parents did” excuse and I refuse to continue the pattern. I have read a lot about ways to dicipline my kids with positive reinforcement and for the most part it works but there are still those days were I fold and sometimes this demon takes over me. I don’t want to be that mom 🙁 It is a constant struggle but I know I will succeed

  21. Im definitely anti-spanking even without any scientific evidence. My experience has lead me to believe that any hitting equals a lack of respect, empathy & understanding, which undermines the fundamental trust that a child needs to have in his or her parents.

    Our mum used to hit us on the palm of our hands with a wooden spoon. Once, twice, or three times depending on the seriousness of offending. The earliest incident that I can remember I was 4. It wasn’t very often, maybe once every couple of months at most. But the fear of mum getting angry was a constant in our house. Looking back, it wasnt a big part of my childhood timewise, but the fear and distrust overshadowed most things.

    My elder sister and I would stand as still as possible and do our best not to let our mother see that she was hurting us (physically or emotionally). I can’t remember the “reason” for even one of these punishments. I do remember feeling scared of her and thinking that it wasn’t safe to trust her with my thoughts or feelings. I think what was most scary was seeing our mother totally out of control. And our father not stopping her.

    The last time she ever hit me (punching), I was 14. I didn’t feel the pain, I was just shocked at how crazy she was behaving. I had to cover the bruises up at school. Later she told me that I was proud of myself for “making” her hit me, but I think that she even scared herself that time. I left home as soon as I could at 17.

    I “turned out OK”, got my vet’s degree and (eventually) got married & had two children. My mum has had treatment for her depression, anxiety and addiction to painkillers. I’ve had plenty of therapy myself. It’s hard to imagine how things might have been different between me & my Mum – was the smacking a symptom, or the cause of the lack of trust & understanding which seems to have defined our relationship? I realise now that our mum did love us, she just had no idea how to say it or show it, and this is still a challenge for her now.

    Having two fantastic children has been a joy and a revelation. I have honestly never felt angry at them, they are just people that are learning and need to be understood. They need me to be calm when they are not. They need to know, and to FEEL that they are important and that they are loved. The revelation has been that doing this comes easily and joyfully to me. Its wondrous to receive their trust and love in return. Before I had kids, I was always scared that I’d be like my mother.

    My proudest moment has been when I asked my distraught (then 4 year old) daughter if she trusted me. She was scared of the next needle coming (part of her chemo) It was worth being scared of, but she said yes. What an honour to have earnt her trust, and what a responsibility to keep it.

    Trust cannot coexist with smacking.

    1. Thank you for sharing this comment. You have so clearly articulated what others may feel as well. That need to be a rock in the chaos of childhood, and that feeling loved and trust are two key ingredients. Your compassion for your mom comes through so much, as does the fact you have created boundaries and kept your own family safe.
      I hope even on the hard days you can appreciate your own internal strength and obvious positivity and fortitude.

  22. This was yet another fantastic post. My parents spanked. I love them dearly, but I totally disagree with spanking. I absolutely believe they were doing what they believed was the best thing… I do believe that… And it’s interesting that through my sister and I, and what we’ve shown through parenting our children, they have completely changed their views on spanking. They would NEVER touch a child in that way now.
    I do think we all learn and grow, make a lot of mistakes, as we are on this parenting journey. We all have regrets and things we realize along the way and try to change and fix…
    I think my parents were significantly misguided in some areas… but I know they were doing their best in trying to show me they loved me, and at that time, spanking was a common form of dealing with children… at least in their “world”…
    As for my husband and I…we have never used any form of corporal punishment with either of our children, even though both of us were spanked. We both believe it is absolutely unacceptable. It deeply upsets me when I see anyone slap, smack, hit, or otherwise hurt a child. There are so many ways to teach a child, but to teach them how to behave/act/live by hurting them? Well, it’s totally counterproductive… isn’t it?

    1. Yes, it is totally counterproductive! Thanks for sharing, Deb. I really appreciate your perspective and laud you for the thoughtful way you are parenting.

  23. Spanking is such a difficult subject for me. My mom spanked all four of her children, including me, throughout our childhoods. She herself was occasionally physically abused by her father (he would slap her head, hit her with a fly swatter, etc. and did MUCH worse things to her rambunctious brother), as well as verbally abused. She vowed not to be the same way with us. However, when my older brother, her first child, came along, she was at a loss as to how to handle his extremely willful, hyper behavior. When he was around four, she was given a book on “biblical discipline,” and as a new and earnest convert to Christianity who wanted to raise respectful, obedient children, she eagerly accepted this book’s message and began putting it into practice. She has often said that my older brother got more spankings than the rest of us put together. She also spent hours upon hours talking to him about all kinds of things. He was a big “arguer” apparently and was always trying to reason his way out of punishments and such, and he always had to know “why?” about everything. (Oh, my father was largely absent, physically and emotionally, during our childhoods, and he left us when I was 15.)

    I remember getting spanked. I was last spanked at age 12–though spankings by that point were extremely rare. Of course I resented spankings, but my mom would always talk to me afterwards about how she loved me and wanted me to learn obedience, that God wanted me to obey, etc. So I never felt damaged by spankings because I felt her love. My two younger siblings and I were always very obedient and respectful toward my mother for the most part. My older brother was never quite “broken” and still greatly struggles against any authority and has little respect for anyone and believes everyone is at least somewhat untrustworthy.

    But now, in my late 20’s, I find myself uncovering a lot of emotional trauma from the past. I have talked to my mom a little bit about it, such as my propensity to belittle myself and feel that I am never good enough, and she said to me, “But how is that my fault?” She said that kids do things all the time that aren’t because of anything the parents did. I have realized that she has rarely invalidated any of me feelings–ever–unless she thinks they are valid. Like when I was growing up, one of her big issues with me that she had to “work on” with me a lot was that I had “bad attitudes.” I would be sullen if I was upset, and I would get silent and unresponsive. She would lose patience with me and sternly tell me to get that look off my face, stop acting that way, etc. I was expected not to act upset. And I don’t remember her trying to get to the bottom of why I was upset. She would assume she knew, and she would assume that it was an invalid reason and that I was overreacting.

    Now I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter. I have been reading a lot of your articles and others of a similar mindset, and much of it really resonates with me. But it is so, so, SO hard for me to learn new habits of parenting. I still spank my daughter because sometimes all I want is for her to obey me NOW. It’s so hard for me not to view her behavior as an affront to me personally. And it’s so hard to always remember (and not forget in the heat of the moment) ideas like, “My child is not giving me a hard time–my child is having a hard time.”

    I find that when I spank, sometimes I am glad that I have the “right” to physically express my displeasure with her. And that scares me. I’m glad I have an excuse to hit someone?! Yet I would never hit my husband… that would be unthinkable. So often I am angry when I spank, yet all kinds of spanking advocates (some of which are people I know personally) talk about how important it is not to spank in anger and how it can definitely be done calmly and without anger. My mother has told me many times that she learned a good rule when we were young. She found that she would lose her temper and yell, but she knew that was wrong. So she got her anger under control, and the more upset she was or the worse we behaved, the quieter she made herself talk to us. So it ended up being this deadly, quiet voice that we KNEW meant we’d better obey or else.

    I know you’re not a therapist, so maybe you can’t answer this, but I am wondering: where does my anger come from? Is it ALL my own anger, or am I also imitating what I saw while growing up? My mom claims she got her anger under control, and I remember that she rarely yelled, and I never felt like she spanked me uncontrollably at all… But why do I struggle so much with these feelings toward my daughter?

    I struggle every day with learning new, better parenting habits and mindsets. Thanks for what you write here on this site. It helps.

    1. thank you for posting this. thank you so much. so much of what you shared about your feelings towards your daughter, I feel like with my son (he’s almost 3 & 1/2). Some times I feel like the only way I can get him to listen to me is when I spank, or grab his arms too tightly. I hate that I do it and I’m not sure how I stop.

    2. Thank you so much for being so honest. I have the same feelings and it’s a struggle every single day to not give in. Part of this age (2-ish to 4-ish) is asserting an independent will. My 3 1/2-year-old daughter is WILLFUL. She is so incredibly willful and it is so hard to not grab her and take my anger out on her. But, I know if I do that, then I will be crushing that will and damaging her trust in me. I did grab her once and I screamed at her. She talked baby talk for the next few days – something she had never done before. She was also unsure of herself and seemed to throw bigger tantrums. When I respond to her respectfully, distancing myself from the emotion of the moment, I see her behavior shifting to mimic mine – not right away, but eventually. She learns in the long run to control herself and make better choices.

      There was an excellent blog post I read about things we should NOT think when disciplining our children. I want to say I accessed the post either in this blog or through it. It was something about how to stop yelling. It really, really helped me. Maybe someone knows what post I’m talking about and can provide a link?…

  24. As a new parent and trying to read everything that I can get my hands on..I find 2 very common themes in how parents view their children and from that stems how they will discipline them.
    1. You as the adult have rights over your children. It is like a King to a servant relationship. One has all the rights and the other does not.
    – I find it interesting that people that do spank (and I was spanked growing up) tend to stop spanking around puberty. And I wonder if the timing is related to the fact that children are more adult like and are seen at that point more as equals.
    2. Second type is based on respect. You see your child as a person, not an adult or mini adult but an individual person with rights. Someone that you need to guide through life. And really that is what discipline means, guiding not punishing your child.

    I think one of the scariest things about being a parent is knowing that the first 6 years of life are hands down the most important of your child’s life. That those first 6 years will impact how your child views life and others for the rest of his/her life.

    I used to think that spanking, if not done in anger, was an acceptable way to discipline children. I have since changed my view and do not see the benefit of physical punishment in the upbringing of children. There is no need to ‘break’ a child’s will or bend a child to their parents will. As a parent you don’t want to make all your children into cookies cutters, you want to shape them so that they can be their best and know how to handle emotions and their reactions with confidence and insight. I think it is the subtle differences in language that really make a huge impact.
    Punish vs Guide
    Break vs Shape

    It is overwhelming at times, trying to wade your way through parenting topics and the challenging part is that it will change with every child. 🙂 But we are so lucky to have all this information and all these studies at our fingertips.

  25. I’m not a mom (yet! 🙂 ) but I am someone’s adult child. I was physically disciplined on a regular basis. I always felt that it was done out of anger and that it was inappropriate, even as a young child. This continued into my teen years before it was stopped. It escalated from simple spankings to all-out physical assaults on me where I feared for my life. I spent many years in my parents’ house feeling completely unsafe and unloved/unwanted. It was a pain that was carried with me into my early 20’s and caused me so much anger that it became harmful for me and I had to seek counseling. Now, in my late 20’s I can tell you that I love my parents and I forgive them; they both came from abusive childhoods and were only doing the best they knew how. Even though I forgive them, I will NEVER EVER EVER resolve to hit my children because of the scars of my own childhood. There has to be a better way! So thanks for writing these great articles; it’s a relief to see clear steps and instructions with advice and information about loving, non-violent discipline. I will bookmark this website and refer to it often when I become a parent myself (which is hopefully in the near future!). Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  26. I have hit a low point in my parenting life and I’m turning here for guidance. I understand what I share here will be read by strangers with all different view points and that harsh judgement may very well come my way via mean comments.

    I have a 3 year old and a 9 month old. I feel I do a fairly good job of parenting, I answer questions, I get down on the floor and play, I’m an active listener (and I apologize right out loud if I realize I haven’t been actively listening & immediately correct myself). I give affection and tell my children frequently that I love them.

    However. I have a 3 year old. Who pushes buttons. Who is sassy and disrespectful and all the unpleasant things that come along with being 3. I’m not perfect and I don’t maintain control all the time.

    I have spanked or hit my child before (my oldest, not my youngest). I never go in to it with the intention or realization that “I’m going to strike my child now” and then carry through. It’s always like a snap – I’m angry, I’m frustrated and before you know it, I’ve hit.

    This is unacceptable. No parent should ever strike their child out of or in anger. A mothers hands are supposed to soothe. They’re supposed to comfort, to guide, to love. They are not supposed to hurt, injury, frighten or mark tender, tiny skin.

    What advise can you give? What steps can I attempt to take to make sure this never happens again? I would not say I find myself in this state often (though, to those of you who’ve never hit their child, even once may seem often). If I’m being totally honest, I’d wager I’ve hit my child less than 10 times in his life (which is 10 times too many).

    All parents must feel themselves on the verge of losing control when small people push buttons and toe the line and do small people things. How do you avoid crossing over? What sorts of things do you do to calm yourself down, to remind yourself that your child is simply a child. How do you yank yourself away from that area of no return?

    1. I completely understand where you are coming from. I too have “crossed the line” a few times (yelling). I find that on the rare occasion I am not handling things properly (usually Im exhausted and have a ton of stuff to do, not giving them the attention they need) I turn on a movie. Not the greatest parenting trick, but the 15-30 minutes of quiet that occurs is usually just what I need to take a breath and pull myself together. I don’t recommend this for all the time 🙂

      When this is not an option, I will try a few other things.

      1. Call a friend. Even if they don’t agree with your parenting style, all parents relate to feelings of frustration. Ask for some encouragement!

      2. Tell your children. “I am feeling frustrated/tired/angry/sad. I need to go calm down.” Then go sit on the couch and take some deep breaths.

      3. If it is possible, put kids down for an early nap. Take a nap too!

      4. If whatever behavior that is upsetting you is not a danger to your child or you, then use it as a distraction. An example, my son recently got into the pantry and was pooring rice all over the floor. I had just gone to the bathroom for 2 minutes. I was very tired that day and not as patient as I would like to have been. In reality, this isn’t a big deal and normally wouldn’t ruffle me at all! Anyway, I just walked back into the bathroom. Splashed my face with water, took a breath. Took another breath. He was distracted and safe and I got my moment.

      These aren’t very clever… but when I am really just overloaded and overwhelmed and I feel myself starting to lose my composure, I do whatever I can to get a moment.

    2. Maybe the problem is how you are viewing your child? Think what you would say if an adult said those things to you, what your reaction would be. They have limited language skills so maybe teach them more acceptable phrases to use.

  27. I didn’t read all of the replies, and also I am “late” to the party… but wanted to share this. It has been discussed a bit at the beginning of this thread how spanking parents can be mindful and good parents, despite the spanking. I am the only one in my family (aside from my sister in law) that does not believe in spanking. Because of this I have had ample opportunity to find out WHY. I’ve talked about all the different ways to parent without it, why we shouldn’t…

    I think that though there are many studies out there that show spanking is bad, there aren’t enough “successful” examples of respectful/gentle/positive parenting. One example: My mom was just asking me if I don’t believe in any boundaires and at what point do I “draw the line” when my son continually tests a boundary. She then expressed concern because her ONLY experience with gentle parenting is with a family that does not set boundaries. Their children come over and wreck the house, refuse to listen when she asks them to do minor things (dirnk in the kitchen, eat at the table, keep toys in the play room). These parents don’t require their children to respect or “obey” others or even themselves.

    After a very long discussion on setting clear boundaries in a respectful way, understanding and empathizing… My mom was very happy to hear about my “creative discipline” approach. She was relieved to know I wasn’t just allowing my son’s to do whatever they wanted.

    While there are many blogs like this now, there hasn’t always been. And many parents have heard about books and articles… but have never seen what true respectful parenting actually looks like. What they have seen is that spanking “works”. Just a thought I wanted to share. I try my best to be very patient and understanding with “mainstream parents”. They love their children just as much as I do… And we all do our best with whatever skills and information we have on hand. I myself have come a long way in the 2 years I have been a parent.

    1. I think that’s a great point. It’s one of the reasons I think gentle parents need to be (gently) vocal in sharing how they do things. People tend to do what feels culturally normative — when gentle parenting seems normal, more people will choose it.

  28. Janet-Thank you for this thought-provoking question you posed and for answering it yourself. For a long time in our parenting we were non-spankers. Now recently we started and it isn’t doing us any favors. I read some articles yesterday on your site and landed on spanking tonight. The spanking is stopping. I am recognizing it is my failures of training and disciplining them that they aren’t complying and spanking only adds fuel of distrust creating a wedge in our home. I am disgusted I began and honestly thankful to find your real practical rational to support that you can successfully raise children without it. I was raised with it, but quite honestly, I regret it. I don’t want them to regret it either. In closing it said about “hurt me more than you” I heard that a lot too-I honestly don’t believe it. Kids always cry harder than folks do. I hate that phrase. (and I don’t say hate liberally at all!) thank you Janet for your worthy guidance and expertise!!! A better home life can certainly emerge with these positive relationship building and training skills with God’s blessing! Sincerely, Sherra

  29. I love this post, Janet. I was spanked (although infrequently) when I was a child. I clearly remember an instance when my mother put me over her knee and spanked me in a friend’s back yard. I was humiliated. Now as a parent, I am sometimes shocked and horrified by the amount of anger I can have towards my son. Sometimes I REALLY do want to spank him, and if I’m touching him I realize I am touching him roughly and I have to let go and walk away. I tell him I need a minute to calm down because I don’t want to touch him with angry hands or speak to him with angry words. (I don’t always catch the angry words, though!) I realize that my frustration and urge to spank him comes from a deep sense of helplessness; it’s when I feel no control in the situation and on the verge of losing control of myself. I am glad I have never spanked my son because it would only be a release of my own anger at his expense. He would witness me lose control instead of experiencing me help guide him towards self control. I think self-control is the most difficult aspect of mindful parenting. I mean, let’s face it – you can never truly control another person, only (hopefully!) yourself.

  30. If I can add to the discussion with a personal story – my mother is incredibly loving and would do anything for her children, but she failed to keep us safe from her very cruel husband. Even so, I trusted her as my only safe haven. That is, until she “lovingly” (and very lightly, I might add) decided to spank me one day. It didn’t hurt at all. I only cried to make her feel good – to make her feel like she was spanking me effectively. I loved my mother, so I didn’t want her to feel like she was doing it wrong. However… here was my only safe haven trying cause me physical pain. Here was my beloved mother doing this to my body – MY body – in a way that I did not want, whether it hurt or not. Here was the only person I trusted treating me with such disrespect. Even then, I knew there was a better way to model respect. The betrayal I felt was so profound that to this day (30 years later) I struggle with forgiving her. And I would never call her a good parent. She was a poor parent who loved her kids, but she simply did not know how to parent us well. I love her, but I could never honestly say that she was a good parent, and her past choices still negatively impact her relationships with all of her children decades later.

    Like other posters have said, I struggle daily to not scream at my own children and inflict physical pain on them. I struggle daily to respect their bodies and their spirits. It all comes down to this – would I scream at or spank my neighbor or co-worker? No? Then why would I ever do such things to the people I love most in this world? My children are well-behaved, thoughtful, and respectful because I model that for them in the way that I treat them. They have their moments, but I’ve learned to let them experiment with asserting their wills. Because of this, they are so much more secure than I ever was. They will never have the poor self-esteem that I had. And I thank God every day that, before I had children of my own, I was able to learn how to be a GOOD parent rather than one with good intentions.

  31. I didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of spanking because I grew up being spanked. I know from experience it makes children feel terrified and mistrustful of their parents. I know it isolates a vulnerable child when their whole being is crying out for love. I know that while the practice ends as a child grows bigger, its effects linger on and on, manifesting as various dysfunctions within the parent/child relationship.

    The worst part was knowing that you were in trouble — you did something bad, and dad was going to come get you. I would feel fear and adrenaline coursing through my body and I would try to run away, lock myself in the bathroom, scream, curl up behind my mom. It makes me deeply sad to remember those feelings of simultaneous terror and isolation.

    Here’s something that just breaks my heart to remember: in my closet I hid a backpack that was stuffed with hardcover books and stuffed animals. When I knew my dad was going to come for me for a punishment, I would run and get the backpack, stuff a book down the back of my pants, and throw stuffed animals at him to try and keep him away. I was so scared and was trying to defend myself.

  32. Wow Janet, I admire you for facing this debate head on, I would want to RUN from conversations with pro-spanking parents and would feel so helpless in (not) convincing them. I have seen the effect of this type of abuse in some loved ones, and it is very destructive and damaging (and it doesn’t work). The “I spank you BECAUSE I love you” teaches such a twisted, disturbing message. I hurt you because I love you, basically? I wonder what spanking parents think of the whole idea of modeling in general? Do they not believe in teaching by model at all? And the other “I spank you because I can’t help myself, you’ve pushed me over the edge” category isn’t much better in the modeling area…

  33. great post. im always curious how people define “fine”

  34. Kresha Warnock says:

    I’ve been dealing with this issue forever. First, your perception above is honest. I teach college development to college students and their biggest justification for spanking is always that their parents did it and they turned out fine. Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a huge research base indicating that all spanking is destructive to all children.
    However, I’ve been teaching positive guidance strategies for years (and using them with other people’s children.) When my children were young, I had little formal training in parenting. While I didn’t believe in spanking, I admit to using it once or twice in frustration. Now I do know other strategies, but more important, my philosophy has evolved. My biggest argument against spanking is that it is violence. How can we expect our children to learn to solve problems non-violently if we ultimately resort to violence to “teach” them. We are perpetuating values that have been destructive to humankind since the beginning of time.

  35. I don’t hit or ‘spank’ my child, and don’t feel that it has any positive impact. I do not plan on spanking my child.
    I feel extremely confident in my position.
    Its interesting though, because i was slapped and hit with a wooden spoon by my mum, and occasionally hit by my dad when we were really ‘bad’.
    This discussion has made me realise how easy it was for me to take the position I have, and also to be grateful for the influences in my life that have helped me come to this parenting decision.
    I had a friend that became a mother much earlier than I did. She always felt very strongly about not spanking and shared her views on it – and it just made sense to me.
    I easily admired and was open to learning from her. I think this is what steered my direction – being exposed to the ‘other side’ and then seeing how it could work.
    I dont feel that I was ‘damaged’ that my parents spanked me, but at the same time I feel like I missed out on some positive learning experiences in responsibility, choice and what ‘power’ means. And maybe I was ‘damaged’, its hard to say. The great thing was though, that it was easy for me to take a different route to that of my parents.
    But I was also taught to be independent, free thinking and pave my own path – and had children later in life, and do not live in the same area as my family – so all these factors could contribute. Also my parents generally accept that I will parent the way I see fit.
    But definately – having exposure to those with a different approach I found to be beneficial in choosing, what I see as a more conscious and positive route.
    I so greatly admire those that choose a different approach to that of their parents, particularly when in a community of people that believe that ‘spanking’ is not harmful and a part of being a ‘good parent’.

  36. …and also…now this has just made me think a little deeper.
    I think my own reflection about how hitting made me feel has helped.
    I felt like it was a game.
    I will never forget when my sisters and i laughed and laughed when my mum broke the wooden spoon when trying to hit us.
    I remember I used to try and provoke my father to hit me – when I knew he was going to anyway. I would stand up to him, and try and prove that he didn’t scare me – and I guess, try and ‘psych him out’..
    I realised that I didn’t respect his ‘needs’ – i.e. I wasnt interested in what he was trying to teach me, more I was interested in trying to not be hit – or make him feel like an a-hole for doing it…..
    I really don’t want to have that dynamic with my child.

  37. I felt i just had to contribute to this discussion – spanking is such a huge issue, and one that i feel very very strongly about (against). However, it is the point about ‘over thinking’ parenting that i wished to comment on.

    It makes me feel really quite sad to think that people could feel it is actually possible to ‘over think’ their parenting strategies.

    I dont understand how folks can assume that they (we) are naturally gifted/skilled at the role of being a parent. We train and study to do most things in life – read books to learn how to cook, take lessons to learn how to drive and follow instructions even to operate household (innanimate) equipment. How then is it right to believe that we do not require any advice, learning, knowledge to raise another human being? It is beyond me to comprehend.

    I read a lot. And mostly parenting books (attachment parenting, Dr Sears stuff etc etc)and my husband (like many people) does not. I do not challenge him on this. We each have a right to our own perspective – but i do feel that i (and my son) benefit greatly from the ‘learning’ i complete.

    I do not think it is possible to ‘over think’ parenting. I suspect it is actually a ‘lack of thinking’ about parenting that has led so many people down a ‘spanking’ route.

    I believe that my parenting role has led me on a lifelong learning journey – i suspect it may be difficult to learn all i need to know about how to be the best parent i can be just in this one lifetime – but i am going to give it my best shot. As my son grows and changes, so my learning about him, and how to support him, must do too. I will be ‘overthinking’ about how to help, and assist and support, and love him for the rest of my life. And hopefully that will make me the best parent i could possibly be.

    1. So eloquent, Cath, thank you! I couldn’t agree with you more, and may actually want to share this further…on FB or in a post, if that would be all right with you.

  38. hitting another person is physical abuse. spanking is abuse. for me, it’s that simple.

  39. Catherine says:

    Just thought I’d throw out the idea that the question you pose, Janet, about research makes me think about sleep training. I felt deeply, viscerally opposed to walking out on my crying child for a very long time. Eventually, I got there. I found some strategies that felt respectful and I came to feel that it would be beneficial for us as a family. Sure, my approach may have been different from some forms of CIO, but I think the main difference was the lense I had and the lense I tried to give my son about it.
    During the time when I agonized about sleep training and All the research out there that says it’s harmless and beneficial..and all the other perspectives that claim it isn’t necessary, I came to the conclusion that one very important factor in whether an action is harmful to a child is the parents personal belief about their action. If the parents is thoughtful, deliberate, confident and full of conviction (when they discuss bedtime in advance and then walk out) the child may be unhappy, but will understand that their parent is acting out of love. On the other hand, if I had done sleeping training before I felt good about it, my son would have known and would have felt terrible that I was doing something “bad to him”.
    I personally have no experience with spanking. Don’t have friends who do it now. If my friends were spanked as kids, its never come up in conversation. I’ve never had any reason to look at the research. I have no doubt that in certain circumstances (rage, feeling over-whelmed etc.) spanking is a form of physical abuse. But, I can also entertain the possibility that in some cultures where it is common, done calmly/routinely, and with conviction, it is a very different thing. All actions occur in and are interpreted within systems.
    Again, not defending it, certainly not saying that I believe it’s necessary, but just sharing some food for thought.

  40. Ah Aunty Janet (that is meant as a compliment as I see you as my observant, validating, and advice giving Aunty) you have helped me sleep again. I searched your blog as I was tossing and turning after a heavy day visiting my parents. They had spent the lunch trying to convince me that I needed to nip my 21mo old’s behavior in the bud – aka use ‘physical discipline’. I had so many internal responses for them but I wad reduced to being mute as so often happens in our interactions. My head whirled with ‘yes, I respect your opinion but… you realise she is supposed to push boundaries, what about overwhelming evidence, it is our right as parents to decide on what is best for our family, this isn’t a personal attack on your parenting approach, totally agree that boundaries need to be reinforced, please explain the logic in preventing hitting through hitting to me again, there are alternatives…’ My muteness was replaced by exhausted tears exacerbated by lack of sleep mostly due to my gorgeous 3 week old nursing in my arms (‘aha!’ say those who have been there). I sensed their relief as they thought they were getting through to me.
    For me, there is no point attempting to change their view point. I like to believe that by letting others enjoy their point of view this gives me the right to have my own (and this was not the time to share my excitement in the breakthroughs we had been seeing as the phrase ‘falling on deaf ears’ springs to mind). However, my internal rage needed an outlet and your post allowed that (that and a very supportive and understanding husband!).
    So, thank you. Over 2 years later this post is still making an impact half way round the world.
    Now I really must go and get the audio for your book as I can’t wait for it to be made available here in hard copy!

  41. Janet, thanks for looking at this issue from a new angle and helping me do the same.

    I think you touched on something important when you said “Believing in the need for spankings would also mean accepting to my core that my parents failed me.” This reminded me how decisions of my own are sometimes backed up by strong emotional and relational reasons that I don’t even realize on the surface. This is why we’re unlikely to change someone’s mind on this issue, as you said. It takes more than logic and reason.

  42. I was spanked as a child.
    I have never understood the logic of “calmly and lovingly spanking ones child, giving the reason for spanking, and then reconciling with them”. Or just plain spanking “calmly”, period. Why would I want to hit someone if I’m not pissed off at them? If I’m calm, I have no reason to, unless we’re doing some kind of sparring, which is quite different. If I am at work, and I like all of my coworkers, and everyone is calm or happy, even if someone does something I do not like, I can simply bring it up with them and ask them not to do it again.
    It’s when people are being nasty and mean and outright horrible that I get pissed off at them, and want to be just as nasty back. If they’re really being nasty, that’s when I want to hit the person. I have never wanted to hit someone when I was calm. I have only ever wanted to hit someone when I was really pissed off at them. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s like… Let’s say my co-worker comes in into my office, and we are discussing and disagreeing about something, and while “talking with her hands” during the discussion, she knocks my coffee mug over and it breaks. I say to her all calmly, “that was a bad thing to do. Now you have to face the consequences” and punch her in the face and break her nose “now you know what you did was wrong. Let’s hug and be friends again”. People would think I was a psychopath! But if I’d gone “you b***h! You broke my favorite coffee mug!! *Punch*” people would probably still think I was in the wrong, but they’d understand my reaction.
    I see it the same way with hitting (aka ‘spanking’) children. It makes absolutely no sense, and there is no sense of fairness, to hit when a person is calm. If you are calm, why are you hitting??

    And hitting (aka ‘spanking’) while one is angry, what is that teaching our children? It is scary for the child, it breaks trust, it’s very easy to escalate into dangerous physical abuse. If you had a boss that was hitting and yelling at you to make you do your work, to tell you when you were doing things wrong, to make you obey, how much would you want to have anything to do with that person? People who are angry and physically violent are scary, and nobody trusts them or wants to be around them-how is this any different for a child?

    I find it particularly telling that children are hit as a form of discipline mainly from the time they’re 1 to about 10-12. So, after they’re old&big enough it won’t kill them, literally, and during the time they’re too small to fight back, up to the point where they’re becoming big enough to fight back and old enough to realize mentally they literally don’t have to take that from you, and also have become very good at lying so you can’t get them for as many things. Hitting ‘spanking’ continues until the age parents can no longer control their children by hitting them.

    What are children learning when they’re hit as a form of discipline?
    -child hits someone, gets hit for hitting. Learns that it’s the stronger and bigger that hits the smaller to make them do what they want. Reinforces the model of hitting others.
    -child takes something they shouldn’t, gets hit, and the thing is taken from them. Learns that the violent get the spoils. If you want something, take it by force, and if the other doesn’t comply, hit them until they do.
    -child talks back/speaks disrespectfully, gets hit for it. Learns to be a)silent b) not share thoughts and feelings with parents c) be subversive d) it is the bigger, stronger, more violent person who’s speech matters.
    -child does or does not do something they should (ex: normal house rules), gets hit. Learns to hide what they do. Learns to make others do what they want by force.
    -child disobeys, gets hit for disobedience/non-compliance. Child learns to be secretive. To obey in body only, but plan rebellions. Most likely learns to resent, if not hate. Also learns to get obedience and compliance from others by force – if they don’t do what you want, hit and threaten them until they do.
    Ex: “Come here right now and put your toys away. Come HERE! You have until the count of three. One, two, three. Now you’re getting a spanking, because you did not obey! “Spank *hit* spank *hit* spank *hit*” that’s what you get for not obeying. Now put your toys away right now!

    That is a really common spanking scenario. What did that child just learn? What did the child REALLY learn. Was it what the parent thought they were teaching the child??

    I think that if parents are actually trying to teach their children to be respectful, to not hit or grab, to be kind, to be good human beings, hitting them does not teach them any of that, no matter what the intentions.

    And so I return to the statement. I was spanked as a child. I was hit as a child, because spanking is hitting. I never liked spankings. I never felt they were justified. Spankings were always scary, whether my parents were so-called calm, or whether they were angry. Calm spankings were scary because they never made sense. Angry ones were scary because my parents were angry and hitting me. I never wanted to hug them after. I was never grateful for it. I was usually upset afterwards and couldn’t calm right away, even if I faked it. I always resented them after and was usually quite seething, and simply resolved not to be caught next time. I learned to hide my feelings. I learned to lie, because if I lied and got caught, or didn’t lie, I still got punished, so it was better to try to get out of it. I learned to act obediantly, and yell and scream and defy on the inside. I learned that doing anything could get me in trouble, so I learned to do nothing. I learned to retreat into books, into my own mind, and block it all out. I learned deceit, anger, resentment, to seeth. To distrust. And I learned hatred.

    And then, in my teens, I learned that there are ways to be abused without ever being touched. I learned to hate car rides and lectures. I thought that sometimes it would be nice to just get a spanking, because then it would be over and done with. I would have to get in the vehicle, and drive with my mom and her bf somewhere for a half hour, or more, and listen the whole time to a lecture/rant about the stupidest things, and any type of response that was deemed wrong simply increased the length of the lecture or made it worse. Reading was not allowed. Disagreeing was not allowed. Saying yes, you’re right, or I’m sorry only extended the lectures if not done with a “right” attitude (which was difficult as I thought the whole thing was stupid and just wanted them to shut up), and it never stopped them anyway. I learned I did not have a voice.

    If you encounter children that say they would prefer a spanking, then whatever their parents are doing certainly isn’t respectful and gentle parenting.

    Spanking, hitting, yelling, lecturing, abuse or violence of any sort, does not teach trust, kindness, patience, gentleness, love, joy, sharing, loyalty, self-control, confidence, bravery, obedience (true obedience comes out of trust and loyalty to the person requesting the obedience), honesty, fairness, justness, righteousness, self-worth, nor respect, not respect for others, nor respect for self. How can it?

    Really think about it. How can it?

    1. Wow, Lynn. I agree with all you’ve said and I wonder how you managed to handle all those feelings you held inside. How did you come to terms with all of this? I don’t expect you to answer, but wanted to share my thoughts and how sorry I am that you had these experiences.

    2. Wow. I know you are against hitting, but your comment hit hard. Wow.
      The lecturing. The being stuck in the car with your lecturer and having no correct response. Must be contrite in the right measure but even that will only soften not stop the censure for the most inane things. Is it any wonder there is a constant loop of internal negative self-talk?

      And yes. Calm spankings are scary. Cold. Seemed out of nowhere because of the lack of emotion that preceded it. My dad claims he spanked me (the “right” way: calm and measured) once and felt so bad he never did again, but I thought it was more than that. How intense and long lasting the fear of another confusing yet supposedly deserved punishment must have been.

  43. A parent shared this with me in a Facebook message. She wishes to remain anonymous.

    Dear Ms. Lansbury,
    I’m replying in private to your question about spanking because it will involve sharing a few details about my family and children that I don’t care to share publicly with the whole world.

    I’m a Reggio Emilia trained educator, mother of two, occasional bottom swatter. I don’t define myself as a “spanker” because I found out it involves a sort of ceremony, of warning the child, of lowering or not the child’s pants, turning her over a knee and hitting, more or less hard, a certain number of times that might or not be predetermined, which I have never done. I have hit the bottom of my kids, usually when I completely lost it, and never thinking it was the right thing to do but completely at a loss of options.

    And no, it doesn’t work. It may make the parent feel fleetingly better while he releases anger, and sometimes stop the child for that moment, for that day. But I’ve never been able to say “My child was doing XYZ, I spanked him once and he never did it again”. Why people do it? Probably because we are imprinted by how we were raised, and I was hit/slapped/spanked well into my older years, or maybe because of the social isolation that parents live now. There isn’t a community around of grandparents, aunts and uncles, much older brothers who could take a child away for a few minutes when mother is completely overwhelmed.

    I’ve found myself, fresh after moving in the US from a different country, without friends, without fully understanding the language, without access to a car, cooped up in our apartment and areas in walking distance with a two year old that would react to the situation by kicking walls, screaming for long stretches of time, throwing stuff. Noone in sight to help me during the long (12-14 or more) hours his dad spent working.

    And I happened sometimes to lose it, hit his little bottom, yell. Would I recommend it? Well no. Those weren’t my proudest moments. But we grew together, my firstborn and I, through our adventurous life, me buying a new child rearing book every time I lost it and slowly building a small library on the topic, discovering “mommy time out” (when you’re about to lose it, lock yourself away), and other helpful techniques.

    My son is incredibly smart, certified in the upper 3% of the population by IQ, incredibly stubborn, possibly ADD (we have a diagnosis that I’m not sure I totally agree with), and now at almost 14 years old he’s blossoming in an incredible small adult. I can say that those occasional hits he took were not my highest moments. On the other hand I know many people who would never hit a child but did far worse by never establishing consistent limits, being run by their children, always afraid to scar them for life with the wrong parenting measure, who now have teens who are impossible to live with. I think this is the “overthinking it” your other reader commented about. Always being on the spot, damned if we do, damned if we don’t, us parents never have the luxury of being sure of what we do. Should I be ashamed of when I slapped my son after he ran out of the door during a discussion, leaving me and his baby brother in the house, forcing me to call back his father from work? Should I apologize to my younger son for smacking his butt after he hid in the hot car outside in 108 degrees weather yesterday because his dad didn’t take him to the store too? Maybe my actions conveyed how scared I was in those situations, more than being disciplinary sound, but they indeed were.

    I’m not defending spanking as a disciplinary measure, but I’m defending all the overtired, overstretched, overwhelmed parents who occasionally resort to it, always trying to do better. We are not heathens, and we do want the best for our kids like most parents do.

    Warmest regards

  44. I fight with the feeling of wanting to shout at and spank my kids. I never thought id turn into my mum. Life is so strange.

  45. As for parents who have been spanked and yelled at as children, who really don’t want to do the same with their own children. As for why they find it so difficult, this is my theory. I think it is because what your child is doing right at that moment when you [almost] snap, what they are feeling is resonating with yourself as a parent. And that feeling is probably what you were feeling right when you got spanked or hit or yelled at in a very similar situation when you were little. In essence, you are feeling your child’s feelings, or feeling what you had felt in the same situation as a child, and that those are triggering subtle flashbacks. In unconsciously trying to make sense of what happened to you way back then, you’re reenacting with your own child. Play therapy, IRL. Basically, therapy would probably help, and huge dose of self-awareness, and changing one’s mindspeech, one’s internal dialogue describing what’s happening.

    Deal with the immediate issue. Acknowledge that everyone’s feelings are valid, including your own. Take a few minutes to pause and calm yourself, and then at some point ask yourself, why did it really bother me? and ask why at least five times.

    What bothered me? The toddler screaming. Why did the screaming bother me? It hurt my ears and made me feel panicked. Why did it make me panicked? I can’t control the screaming. Why does that make me feel panicked? Because when I felt this way when I was my child’s age, I would get spanked or yelled at, but that just made me scream more, and it was scary because my parents felt like they were out of control, and I had no safe haven or person. So… My child’s screaming makes me feel unsafe, like I was as a child, out-of-control, like my parents were, and hurts my ears, all of which makes it very hard to think and act reasonably.

    Ask why. Think. Relax, Stay calm. Get enough sleep. Ask for help. Take time to recharge. Set limits.

  46. Janet, it has been quite difficult, and to be quite honest I don’t know if I’ve completely come to terms with it, or if I can. If anyone can. Thank you very much for your empathy 🙂

    I did quite a few different things. I went to a Christian college for a year right out of high school and took a number of classes, specifically psychology, sociology, and marriage & family. They really helped me to understand myself – even years later, things that didn’t make sense then, do now.

    I moved around the country a lot, did a lot of different things, different jobs, different adventures. I kept in touch with my mom, but a lot less so once I moved out. I kept as little contact with her significant other as possible. I kept no contact with my father.

    I decompressed. Looking back, I was seriously miserable and depressed for just about all of my childhood up to when I left home, which was a few months after turning 18 and graduating. I was depressed, miserable, withdrawn, quite socially awkward, didn’t want any kind of attention – I wanted to be invisible, because that’s how I had survived. Although at the same time, I was quite smart and liked to be acknowledged for it (although I was a bad procrastinator). Basically, I was a complete mess. Then I left home, and started decompressing from it.

    I got heavily into tactical war guild gaming on the Internet for quite a few years. It was a lot of fun. Attack things, destroy thing, build big armies and feel powerful. Good way to get anger out.

    I read a ton of books on relationships and parenting. I found that the secular ones were generally the ones that actually promoted respectful, healthy relationships and behaviors. Although I had zero desire to ever marry or have children, I wanted to understand relationships and people and myself, and I didn’t have very good social skills at the time. I learned how to interact with people in much more socially appropriate ways. I learned self-control. I learned how to let my anger out in ways that didn’t hurt others, and so that I wouldn’t just dump everything on a person.

    I looked at Judaism, and some of the aboriginal spiritual beliefs in North America. I looked at the Christian religion, and decided there was a lot of things I really didn’t like about it. I studied religion, and tried to decide what I do and do not believe.
    I quit attending church for several years, because they all seemed so hypocritical. Every church I encountered seemed to promote spanking as godly. That women and wives were to be under and obey their husbands, and I think that’s all a big stinking load of BS. As Gandhi is so famously quoted “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians as so unlike your Christ”. I do not know if I would say I am a Christian, because of the many Christians that I have encountered. Perhaps Christ-follower is more accurate, don’t know. I am not saying all Christians are bad people, not at all – I have met several that I really like. But there are also a lot that I dislike.

    But I digress. How to handle all this. How to come to terms with it. I think it’s a lot of reading, trying to find different points of views on relationships, on trust, on what healthy relationships look like. Not just in non-fiction relationship books, but also fiction. There are books I liked as a teen that I read now and think “those are really unhealthy relationships in those books”. I think it’s a lot evaluating and re-evaluating and re-evaluating again who you are, what you like, what you want out of life, who you want to be, how you feel, why you feel that way. I think it’s finding ways to bleed off the rage and anger, physically and/or mentally, even if it’s finding somewhere in the middle of nowhere where you can scream like you wanted to so many times before, and couldn’t. Or ranting in your vehicle to yourself while travelling cross-country.

    I think it’s removing yourself from the unhealthy situation you were in, disconnecting as much as possible from it and the people in it, and then making sure to not re-connect to the same types of people, even if that means you go into solitude for a while. I think it means staying away from people who are toxic and negative, and then at some point, learning discernment, and surrounding yourself with people who are mentally healthy, and who have healthy relationships that can serve as good examples, and I’m not meaning just romantic, but friend, parent/child, sibling, grandparent/child, mentor, as well as romantic ones.

    I think it’s trying as many new things that interest you as you can, and deciding what you want to do with your life. I think it’s learning to breathe, to take in this moment, to sometimes immerse yourself in nature and just relax and calm. I think it’s learning how to deal with conflict, how to stand up for yourself, how to be calm in the face of adversity and other’s upsets.

    I think it’s learning enough about yourself and life and relationships that you change from that person you were when you just left your unhealthy situation. That you change enough, that your relationships are healthy ones, with people who are calm and even-keeled. That you change enough that if or when do you get in a romantic relationship, it is not with someone who is like your parents (or whomever it was that was toxic) were. I think you’re still going to struggle. Parenting and marriage is still going to be hard. Children and spouses are still going to push your buttons. But if we think, if we study, if we learn different methods of interacting with people, if we cultivate self-awareness so that we are aware of what we are doing, we can learn new behaviours and can create new habits.

    I think it’s also a matter of “planning to succeed”. I happily married now, although I am not a parent, so you can all take this with a grain of salt. Although sometimes getting advice from non-parent persons is a good thing because we can sometimes remember better what it was like as a child (aka non-parent). It seems to me that a lot of times children drive their parents nuts because the environment they’re in is good for driving their parents nuts. If you have your young children inside all day long, then they’re going to be bouncing off the walls with energy, getting into things, exploring everything, pulling pots and pans and food out of cupboards and dumping them on the floor, dumping toys, food, water, laundry. You do a load of laundry, take it out to fold, while you’re setting it down on the floor, a bag of pasta gets dumped on the floor and somehow the toddler got into ketchup, you run to the kitchen, clean the mess up in 2 minutes, and in that two minutes, the toddler has dumped the laundry (while covered in ketchup) and is “hepin u fowd it”. That’s an environment to drive your quickly nuts – there’s no way you can keep up. So, change the situation. Find a way to do things so that both parent and child succeed. In my opinion, if you can get your kids outside as much as possible, that’s an awesome solution. If they’re not inside, they can’t be making never-ending messes inside, which you then won’t be never-ending-cleaning! That isn’t the solution for everyone of course. But the more you can set things up to succeed in your life and relationships, whether it’s with children, spouse, friends and relatives, the more content and happy and less frustrated everyone will be. Then you’ll be that much less likely to snap and revert to unhealthy behaviours, and it will be that much easier to do healthy behaviours.

  47. As for anonymous Mrs. Reggio Emilia educator, I hear you. I do. Everyone gets tired and overwhelmed. But to say you’re not a spanker because you think spanking involves what basically is a ritual, and you don’t do that ritual, is incorrect. *Some* people promoted spanking in a ritualized way, and declared it the proper way to spank.

    What spanking ultimately is, is hitting a child usually because they do something an adult doesn’t like. That is the definition of spanking. Most of the time it’s on the bottom, but can be on other major parts of the body

    Spanking is an adult hitting a child, because the child is doing something the adult doesn’t like.

    Slapping or smacking ‘discipline’ is usually an adult hitting the hand or face of a child, because the child is doing something the adult does not like.

    Hitting is generally defined as a child hitting another child, because the child does something the other child doesn’t like. And is something adults disapprove of and seem to try to stop.

    Assualt is an adult hitting any other another adult regardless of what they did, whether on the face, hand, legs, or body, and is punishable by law.

    Spousal abuse, also known as assault, is when an adult hits another adult whom is their spouse, usually because the adult did something the other adult didn’t like (which can be as ridiculous as wearing a dark blue shirt instead of light blue) and is generally quite frowned on and is also punishable by law.

    Assault is also defined as an adult hitting a child, usually because the child does something the adult didn’t like, but it is considered assault because this adult is in a different category in relation to be child, than other adults who may hit the same child, but are in the ‘allowable’ category, usually because they have a close relationship with the child.

    So there you have it. Spanking is hitting. Hitting is frowned on when it is children to children though not illegal, and is punishable by law when it is adult hitting adult or adult hitting child, unless the adult doing the hitting is a close relation like a parent, and then it’s perfectly okay and legal.

  48. Sarah DiBernardo says:

    Louis ck does a bit on hitting kids and it’s pretty spot on (edited version): “And stop hitting me, you’re huge. How could you hit me?! That’s crazy. You’re a giant, and I can’t defend myself.”I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. It really is–here’s the crazy part about it. Kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable, and they’re the most destroyed by being hit. But it’s totally okay to hit them. And they’re the only ones! If you hit a dog they… will put you in jail for that… You can’t hit a person unless you can prove that they were trying to kill you. But a little tiny person with a head this big who trusts you implicitly, f(orget) ’em. Who (cares)? Just… hit–let’s all hit them! People want you to hit your kid. If your kid’s making noise in public, “Hit him, hit him! Hit him! Grrr, hit him!” We’re proud of it! “I hit my kids. You’re… right I hit my kids.” Why did you hit them? “‘Cause they were doing a thing I didn’t like at the moment. And so I hit them, and guess what? They didn’t do it after that.” Well, that wouldn’t be taking the… easy way out would it?”

  49. After learning about positive parenting, particularly through Rebecca Eanes’ book An Essential Guide to Positive Parenting, where you realize that you are your child’s guide and role model, there is no way that you can spank any child. Spanking teaches that violence solves problems (if you look into Alice Miller’s work which basically says that child beating is the reason for violence in this world and explains how criminals come into being. You understand how severe the consequences can be, check her work on wikipedia) and is not applicable in real life just like, to quote Rebecca Eanes, a nose in the corner doesn’t solve problems. We do not go around spanking people because they did something that was wrong. But some spank their kids because:
    they can – isn’t that an abuse of authority 1), wouldn’t you Be arrested if you did it to some other adult ? Isn’t it the cause of so much domestic violence (if u can’t dominate, use violence, check out the movie ‘the mask you wear” to see how devastating it has been on some people)?
    and 2) because it is the adult who needs to release his own anger and frustration and who is actually showing – because kids learn from what they see you do and not from what you tell them is right while you are doing the “inappropriate” behavior – that the adult doesn’t know how to channel his own anger or frustration and is not aware of his own trigger. How do you expect a child to deal with his own frustrations when no one teaches him to do that ?
    Our society has loads of rules and codes of conducts and it is our job as a parent to teach those rules to our kids.
    Spanking them doesn’t teach them anything. It just causes frustration in the child. To take an example, sometimes the adult is pissed for some other reason and the kid does one little thing that he thought would be fun but that to the adult is dangerous and he gets spanked, it is humiliating. It belittles him to the level of an animal, who couln’t understand an explanation (btw don’t hit your dog he understands too 🙂 ) and if the adult had already explained this to the child, the child just didn’t understand because the child is either too young because his brain is underdevelopped and/or the adult didn’t explain it in a way that he could understand it (ref. To repeating the same action and expecting the same result is a sign of insanity) .
    In Alice Miller’s book Good For You, which is free on the internet – I read only the beginning because it is traumatizing – a father spanked his son for two hours and the kid died the next day. I say to this an adult can get so pissed that he can just lose it and may not know when to stop spanking. To me spanking is opening the door also to more violence and with the stressed life we now all have, a small trigger can leash out the worst in some.
    Also, to address your earlier point Janet on those who turned out “fine” : In a discussion on fb, there is someone who said his parents spanked him and that he is thankful and another guy responded that that is “elistist nostalgia” and that at some point they used to pin a kid’s ear in times square…
    I’ll add that I understand why the older generation spanked their kids, it is because they didn’t know better but we now have positive parenting and THAT is a constructive and peaceful type of parenting that provides the grounds for a child to be happy, self-confident and successful : which is what we all want for our kids (or should want for our kids).
    Also, thank you Janet, because your books opened my eyes to the fact of how our society has us believe a lot of things about infants and children that are just plain wrong.

    1. Please read my quote on insanity as follows : Albert Einstein said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

  50. I’m Catholic and I cannot imagine Jesus spanking a child. The ‘rod’ referred to in Scripture, I imagine to be a staff and for me symbolises leadership, example, love, resulting in a ‘disciple’..a follower of the leader who sets a good example, who exercises self-control, gentleness, respect and love without coercion. This, in my opinion is the result of discipline..creating a ‘disciple’ who honours, loves and respects his mother and father and others because they showed him/her by example how to do so. The ‘rod’ therefore is the guide..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More From Janet

Books & Recommendations