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January 5th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

To Spank or Not to Spank?

spanking1On two of our shows this week, we have what I think, is an intelligent and thought-provoking debate about an age-old question: To spank or not to spank. Big question, and one that the answer to can have a profound and lasting impact on your child. I have seen surveys that tend to be split, with about half of parents believing if you spare the rod, you spoil the child, and the other half saying no way does it make sense to hit your kid.

Not one to waffle around on issues, I won’t hesitate to weigh in with my opinion: I believe spanking genuinely confuses children. I believe they think to themselves something like, ”OK, let me get this right. You are supposed to love me, nurture me and protect me from harm, and now you are standing there, five times my size, and hitting me and inflicting physical pain? Hmmm … I don’t get it.”

Will spanking suppress behavior in the short term? Yes. Does it teach a lesson that can be internalized and used later in the form of self-discipline? I don’t think so, and even if it does, it’s highly inefficient compared to other options. And is it really wise to teach children that hitting is OK?

I got spanked once, and I am still mad about it! HA! In the sixth grade, I snuck off to swim in a pond about 10 miles from our house in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. No supervision and lucky someone didn’t drown! When asked about it, I started to lie and deny doing it. Even though I was young, and based on my choices at the time, pretty stupid, I quickly realized, mid-lie, that I was standing there with bloodshot eyes and a good case of swimmer’s ear. It wouldn’t have taken MacGyver to figure out what I’d been doing, so I just ‘fessed up — not because it was the right thing, but because I was busted, and I knew it.

new spankingMy father spanked me with a belt for sneaking off and swimming without supervision in an uncharted pond. Five minutes later, he came in and gave me a dollar to reward my decision to tell the truth. Now, a dollar to a poor kid circa 1961 was a lot of money, but let me tell you, I stood there and ripped that dollar bill into a million pieces so tiny you couldn’t even almost tell what it used to be! I “got” the stupidity of what I had done and didn’t need to be hit to solidify that knowledge. It wasn’t the physical pain, because honestly, it was a pretty wimpy and half-hearted whuppin’. It was the indignity of it and the sense of betrayal I felt. If anything, it made me feel righteous, defiant and rebellious (please hear chants of “ATTICA! ATTICA!” building in the background. HA!) I felt the relationship I thought we had was now, in my opinion, violated, which to my 12-year-old brain meant I owed him nothing going forward. It was every man for himself! (Sooo, I have the bias of personal experience, but I confessed it, so don’t hit me!)

On this week’s shows, however, I have some guests who strongly disagree with my opinions, as I bet many of you do. They insist that an occasional swat across the behind or even a good spanking is not anything close to a physical beating, and that it does indeed teach respect. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t stop with the swat or controlled spanking and can go too far.

So what do you think? Do you think you can get results with physical punishment? Does fear work, or does it backfire?

I’d like to hear all of your stories. Have you ever spanked your child? Do you think a teacher or school administrator has the right to paddle your child for misbehaving? What about a babysitter? And what methods of discipline would you use instead of spanking?

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710 Responses to “To Spank or Not to Spank?”

  1. joe says:

    Spanking can be and often is effective discipline and healthy for children.

    Dr. Phil asks “Does spanking have a calming effect on your child?” I have to answer honestly and say absolutely ‘yes’. Even the threat of spanking calms them down and gets their attention.

    I have 9 kids. I spank. Guests in my household consistently comment how happy and loving our household seems to be. And it is true, my kids are happy and well adjusted. They are successful in school and in social situations. I also often have people tell me how well behaved my children are in public.

    Spanking works.

  2. Doug says:

    My kids are 28-30 now (three girls). I believe in spanking. It is important that you don’t discipline out of anger. This applies whether you spank or use some other method. Calm response to wrong behavior can help kids understand that actions have consequences. Because my girls knew that I WOULD spank them, I seldom had to. Too many parents warn and threaten again and again and when they finally carry through, they are frustrated and angry. I said it once and then I said, “one”. There was no question that if I reached “three”, it would be too late to avoid punishment. Spanking is not very effective after about age 8. At that point, taking things away, or other denial of wants works better. The most important element is the follow through. your children must believe your word! Don’t make idle threats.

  3. Sally says:

    I do not think a school teacher or any other person outside of the home has the right to spank a child. I remember the days of the belts and switches. Yes I always came back with the smallest one. Now that I have a four year old I have decided to break that cycle and I do use time out until she can regain control. When she wrote in permanent marker on her wall I showed her how to get out the cleaning materials and take it off. She learned her lesson because she had to work hard at cleaning it off. This was teaching her there are consequences to her actions. If I get the point I want to spank, I walk away and ask myself what benefit this will have in the long run. I have yet to come up with a good reason.

  4. Jackie says:

    It is my experience that the ignorant usually spank their children, they honestly don’t seem to have the intelligence to think of another method other than hitting someone smaller than them and putting the fear of hell into them. The child learns to fear the parent, not respect them…don’t kid yourselves mom and dad, they fear you…that is NOT respect. I have heard “I am teaching him/her a lesson”. I would like to know what these adults would think if they were taught lessons at work with a good beating…hmmm….bet they’d quit that job for sure. Do we stop making mistakes in adulthood, no…should there be adult beatings/hitting to “teach” us. There is always another way to communicate with your children in a more effective way than hitting them. Give THEM respect, and they will respect you in kind. I have 9 siblings, neither my mother, nor my father ever hit any of us. They were amazing parents and they respected each and every one of us and we wanted to reach the bar they set for us, we wanted to make them proud. Moms, and Dad’s are supposed to provide comfort, support, security, love and protection…not be the ones that violate their own children’s trust, and take all these things away from their own child. Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you have a “right” to hit your child. Educate yourself, parenting is tough, no one said it would be easy…rise to the challenge and find another way.

  5. Brian says:

    I have two children, my daughter is five and my son is two. spanking worked at first for my daughter but now that she has gotten older she treats spankings as a challenge by saying, “you know that did not hurt”. at first i would ask her if she wanted it to hurt, and she would say no, now putting her in timeout and ijnoring her is the best form, she can not stand the lack of attention. my son could care less about attention. the best way to punish him is through spankings in my opinion. When i spank him i dont hit to cause pain, i hit to make a could, like clapping, i even cup my hand. it is the sound that scares him. I think that the discipline needs to be created for the child. growing up i had a very active imagination. the corner did nothing, my father realised this and switched to a sword sheath (made of leather), thinking about it, it stung a little bit but the thought of what was comming was the worst. i would get five spankings, the pause inbetween the strikes seemed like and eternity. he modified the discipline to fit the needs. My wife and I have modified our discipline techniques, and are very strict parrents. there is a huge difference between our children, and our childrens cousins who are the well behaved. I would have to give the credit to discipline.

  6. Pat says:

    I think spanking can be useful. But spanking, not beating. SOme kids do not respond to counting, to grounding, etc…
    Years ago there was not the problems with respect and discipline there is today. Why? because parents could individualize the treatment for their kids. 1 may not need much, then another has you pulling your hair out.

    It has nothing to do with being ignorant, just the opposite,

    The kid on your show right now, is he seems to have some kind of neurological problem, not physiological. He is too fidgety to be flat out mean

  7. deblyn28 says:

    I was spanked & I spanked my kids, not beat. There is a difference to me. That little boy sure needs an ole fashioned butt spanking. when the gov. tried to tell us how to raise our kids, that’s when all kids got out of line, shooting in schools, just so much I can’t write. Respect will come from it. my kids are grown now & they are great !!! Very respectful to others & I’m very proud of them. I do feel bad about spanking them & after I did, I would wait a few minutes & tell them I was sorry & I loved them. I’m not justifying it, it just helped me raise my kids right….

  8. Evadne Morgan says:

    I was not spanked a lot as a child. My mother gave us a lot of love and I did not like to disappoint her. She would always say when ‘you are higher than that (behavior)’. Hy husband and I did not spank our children. However we paid close attention to their behaviors, praise that which is good and point out the consequences of poor behaviors and those of alternative better behaviors. We also tried to lead exemplary lives and told them stories of the exemplary lives of age appropriate bible characters.

    With prayer and lots of support in whatever activities they choose to do they have overall made good choices and are achieving their life goals. As parents they are now making the decisions about spanking or not and we encourage them to use other means because we think it leads to rebellious behaviors when they are older.

  9. Evadne Morgan says:

    I was not spanked a lot as a child. My mother gave us a lot of love and I did not like to disappoint her. When poor behavior is observed she would comment ‘you are higher than that (behavior)’. My husband and I did not spank our children. However we paid close attention to their behaviors, praise that which is good and point out the consequences of poor behaviors and those of alternative better behaviors. In most cases they chose to exemplify the behaviors with the most meaningful consequences. We also tried to lead exemplary lives and told them stories of the exemplary lives of age appropriate bible characters.

    With prayer and lots of support in whatever activities they choose to do they have overall made good choices and are achieving their life goals. As parents they are now making the decisions about spanking or not. We encourage them to use alternative means because we think spanking leads to rebellious behaviors as children grow older and therefore display less self-regulation

  10. Caleb says:

    I’m 15 years old currently and my parents have spanked me as a child. I’m actually glad they did. All the side effects that they say spanking causes my 4 siblings and I don’t suffer from. Honestly I think parents should be allowed to spank their children.

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