Spanking, or corporal punishment, is the intentional use of physical pain to control a child's behavior. Spanking carries more of a social stigma today than it once did. Corporal punishment is banned in public schools in 31 states. As of 2015, corporal punishment is actually illegal in 30 countries. However in recent polls of American parents, up to 70 percent spanked their children.
Corporal punishment is an important moral issue, because it is widespread among Americans and in the developing world. But why are many parents willing to sanction behaviors towards children that they would never sanction towards adults? Why is there a double standard at play when it comes to hitting kids, who are the smallest and most dependent of people?
Many parents who were spanked as children believe that it is fine to spank kids because they themselves turned out ok. However this is a poor argument and a logical fallacy (appeal to tradition or common practice). Thanks to various academic studies, much more is known today about about the psychological and behavioral consequences of spanking than was known in the past, and none of it is good. Parents should carefully consider the case against spanking before deciding whether or not to spank their children as a form of discipline:
1. Spanking Teaches Kids That its OK to Hit People You Love
Children and family members are the most important people to us and we (presumably) love them more than anyone else. The parent child bond is, or should be, especially close. Spanking is generally intended to modify a child's behavior through "tough love." But aren't there better ways to guide and discipline than by inflicting physical pain on people we love? Spanking is fundamentally at odds with the love we have for our children. A good measure of our moral values is how we treat those under our care.
2. Spanking Implies That You Should Use Violence to Solve Your Problems, and That Might Makes Right
Spanking teaches kids that might makes right. We as a society recognize that men don't have the right to hit women even though they are physically stronger. Men were once legally allowed to hit their wives, who are physically weaker than themselves. Children are weaker still, and completely dependent on parents for support. They cannot leave and they cannot take care of themselves until the reach adulthood. What gives us the right to hit another human just because they are immature?
Children model parent behavior. If parents "solve," behavioral problems by swatting or spanking, it should be no surprise when kids learn to hit. They have learned that might makes right. If we want to teach that aggression is not an acceptable way to resolve arguments, then we shouldn't spank. How can we teach children not to hit others when we ourselves hit them?
3. Your Children Will Loose Respect For You
According to the philosopher Immanuel Kant, we should always treat others with respect. When we respect others, we are willing to live under moral precedents that other people would be able to live under too. If you don't enjoy being hit, then don't hit others.
Kids notice hypocrisy. If you set a certain example and tell them to behave in ways that are contrary to how you yourself act, they will model your behavior and not your words. You aren't modeling the type of behavior yourself that you expect from them, so how can it be surprising if they notice this contradiction and follow your example?
Over time, spanking damages the bond of trust that your child has with you. We tend not to trust (or even like) people who hit us or cause us pain. So when a parent hits us, its confusing because that person is supposed to love us and have our best interest at heart. Spanking even once or twice can erode the quality of relationship that we have with our children.
4. If You Did the Same Thing to Any Adult It Would Be Considered Assault
Speaking of law, the flogging of inmates was criminalized in 1952, navy sailors in 1853 and Marines in 1957. Yet in 2015, most American parents still hit children. Ask yourself, why it is it illegal to flog prison inmates, but it is ok to hit the weakest among us in society, those who should be most deserving of protection and love?
Something is wrong with our values when inmates have greater protection under that law than children do. Spanking only differs in degree, but not in symptom, from assault and child abuse.
5. Spanking Causes Long-Term Psychological Issues and Rebellious Behavior
Spanking isn't just physical, it is often emotionally traumatizing. Kids are usually so upset after a spanking that they remember the punishment but not what they actually did wrong. I can still remember being spanked on several occasions when I was kid, and with one exception, I don't even remember what mundane thing I did to incur a spanking. The punishment didn't actually correct my behavior by teaching me anything worth remembering about why my behavior was wrong! But I definitely remember being hit!
Even more troubling is that spanking a child on the bare butt has erotic overtones because the buttocks is an erogenous zone. There is reason to believe that at least some kids who were spanked go on to become adults who fetishize spanking. Not that spanking/sexual violence is always a bad thing between consenting adults, but it certainly could be the result of the cognitive dissonance that results from being hit as a child by someone who is supposed to love you.
6. Studies Show that Spanking Increases Child Aggression and Decreases IQ
Studies dating back to the 1960s conclude that corporal punishment may result in lower cognitive ability in early childhood. This is due in part to the deleterious effect of stress hormones on the body. The more often a child is hit, the more pronounced the effect on IQ.
10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids - Natural Child Project
Influence of Corporal Punishment on Crime - Natural Child Project
Books by Alice Miller
Study on Spanking - Psychology Today
Real Time Study - Time
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What Everyone Needs to Know About Violence and Self Defense
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