Okay, brace yourselves, Good Enough Mother is about to venture right into ground zero on one of the most incendiary parenting debates, spanking.
Yesterday I posted about Jerry Lewis and his incendiary comments regarding Lindsay Lohan. Lewis said he’s ‘smack her in the mouth’ if he saw her – completely inappropriate in my mind… but it got me thinking about how many old school parents differ from the younger generation in their parenting tactics. Jerry is 87 years old, a smack in the mouth is a long way from a spank, and Lindsay is a grown woman now… but you get where I’m going with this!
I was spanked as a child and you can rest assured whatever I got my tail swatted for I deserved. Now, as a mother of two children, I too, believe in spanking.
It helps, when you discipline a child, to have a variety of tools to be able to call upon. Spanking is just one of the tools I used. Of course, I no longer spank my kids as they are 12 and 14 and different forms of discipline, like grounding and taking away items and privileges works for this age group. But when they were younger, I did not spare the rod.
The American Academy of Pediatrics official position is that spanking should not be used on children but it is a perplexing issue for parents. An estimated 90% of parents have spanked their children at one time or another yet 85% wished they hadn’t.
There are also interesting breakdowns between race and gender. According to a survey done in 2008 77% of men were likely to agree that kids needed (what the survey called) a “good hard spanking” compared to 65% of women. Among race, African American women appear to the be group most in agreement with spanking as a disciplinary tool (80%) as opposed to 63% of white women and 61% of Hispanic women.
But there are questions on the long-term effects of spanking on kids. Researchers studied more than 3,000 American women and toddlers and found that the kids spanked several times a month were 40% more likely to display aggressive behaviors. And what of the cognitive impact? A recent study out of the University of New Hampshire showed lower IQ’s among kids who were spanked versus those whose parents used other methods of discipline .
I cannot speak for everyone else and those of you who follow me and this site know I do not purport to be an expert, just one mom feeling her way through this life with kids and hoping I don’t screw them up too badly. But my take on spanking is this:
- Use only when necessary: When Casey and Cole were toddlers, what I typically did was warn once and explain what was coming if they did not obey. The second time I had to say something (meaning they were being deliberately disobedient) they got a swift smack on their padded bottom. It is also the fastest way to get a toddler’s attention. Are they reaching for a hot stove and you don’t have time to explain what might happen if they continue? Are they about to run through a crowded parking lot? I believe there are instances when it’s the most effective way to extinguish a potentially dangerous behavior.
- Consider the amount of force: A swat on the butt is very different from a beating with a belt. Having been on the receiving end of a few of those as a child, that is something I cannot condone. But I see nothing wrong with a swat on the bottom with an open hand.
- Control emotion: We are physically larger than kids so we need to keep emotions in check so we don’t inadvertently use too much force. I think this is much easier said than done but it is critical.
- Age: I honestly cannot remember when I stopped spanking Casey and Cole but if I had to guess I would say it was probably somewhere in early grade school. At that point they understood what behaviors would result in time out of having things taken away.
- Lastly, I think spanking needs to be used in conjunction with talking. After the spanking I would sit Casey or Cole down and explain why they got a spanking. I would ask if they understood, if they had any questions and then let them know mommy still loved them.
Casey and Cole appear no worse for wear from the bit the spankings they received when they were younger. I guess I would add my husband and me in that group and we got far worse than anything our own children received. I can only go by the anecdotal evidence in my own life and that is that spanking worked for us.
So what are your thoughts? Did you or do you spank your children? Were you spanked as a child and did that impact your view of it as a way to discipline? As I said before, this is one of those really hot topics that people have strong opinions on. I would love to hear yours but please be respectful of other people’s positions. Fire away!