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

  1. Having raised 3 boys I had used spanking some times just a swat and at times more than just a slap on the rear..It would depend on the issue was it minor or was it major.The major things were if it was dangerous to the child such as crossing a street with out looking after being told 100 times to stop look and listen..Things like that or things that warrented a slap for say grabbing a cookie after being told no..Some thing that was not going to hurt them then as they grew older the swats and spanking stopped and they would be talked to and if needed thing like grounding or giving more work to do.Mainly things that would give them time to think..This style did not work for all 3 Boys who are now Men..I love all 3 of them but they have turned out completely different..From one doing time in prison, to one being a great father and provider but trouble with being truthful, To the last Young man being a person who thinks of others and is very well mannered and considrate and hard working Man that just makes a Father burst with pride…So I feel that it all depends on the person and the ability not to go over board and not to keep it up after a child is old enough to understand when being talked to..

  2. Amy Julian says:

    A good smack on the bottom never hurt anybody.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Dr. Phil.
    I too have personal experience with spanking. at times did i not only get spanked with a leather belt but with a belt that had metal studs shaped like little diamonds in it to an extent that made it painful to sit on even a soft surface.
    That was wrong.
    One time some one unlocked and went into my parents bedroom. my parents were very unhappy. they lined me and my three siblings up and beat us one by one one lash at a time until one of us confessed to going into thier room. My brother ended up confessing to it. i dont believe he was the one to do it because while my brother had his share of behavioral problems that isnt something he would have done but the brother that was younger then him would have done something like that. by this time each of us had been beat a good 5 or 6 times. my brother then took another 15 or more lashings.
    this was wrong.
    However there r reasons to and to not Spank (not beat) a child.
    1st. when as a parent you have tried, explaining the reason why it is wrong, time outs, removing privileges and toys, writing sentences, extra chores. (yes the last two are going to depend on the age.) ect, and they are still doing the offensive behavior
    2nd when a child is between the age of about 2 and 6 and they dont understand the concept of death and thier for you can explain till you are blue in the face that swallowing bleach could kill them or running in front of a car or jumping in the pool.
    here is the example of the only time i have ever spanked my son.
    i was cleaning the bathroom and my son grabbed the bottle of bleach.
    i tried moving out of his reach 2x i tried explaining to him that it would make him very sick (he is 2) i tried putting him in time out. but every time i walked out of the room to say get paper towels or wash clothes he would go for the bottle of bleach. i warned him that i was going to spank him i spanked him one time bare handed on the but. that was 4 mos ago and he hasnt touched the bleach since. even when he has been in a position to have access to it. I tried the other parenting ways. because i generally believe spanking should be a last try option.
    In addition i will first say what i found wrong with your experience 1st at 12 there is no reason to spank a child. you can explain death, drowning, pain and consequences to a 12 year old in a way you cant with a two year old. but i do have to say i have a problem with the arguement “i admitted what i did wrong or new that it was wrong so i shouldnt have been punished” if a person in adult society committed a crime and then said ” oh i know better, or i now realize what i did wrong” would they always get away with thier crime. (for example something that resulted in a persons death) no. And we are raising children to become Adults. there have to be consequences for our actions. in my house hold in this society i would have either had you volunteer in the coma section of a hospital or something like that to teach you not to do something but you would have been punished in my house as well.

  4. Rachael Elizabeth Thompson says:

    Today I am 22 and I can’t say I think spanking is right but I can’t say it is wrong either I’m torn on this subject. I will say I hate when people scream at their kids cause it either doesn’t work or it scares the crap out of the kids. Spanking can also scare the kids too. I was 18 when I moved back to where I grew (up until I moved at 14) and I had a friend of my moms come up to a few of them actually and they told me they use to hear my mom scream at me, mind you we lived in a town of 250 (my graduateing class was bigger) and they lived 4 or more blocks away. Now I was spanked with a wooden spoon by my aunt anytime I did anything wrong, my mom screamed at me anytime I did anything wrong, and my dad just gave me time outs. When I was a teen my Dad would ground me and take everything away. When and if I ever have kids I will use time out or grounding cause I don’t want my kids tro ever be scared at me and sometims spanking and screaming at a kid just doesn’t work.

  5. Danielle says:

    SPANK!!!!!!! Kids are out of control because their parents are afraid to spank them….take control of the situation. Don’t harm the child but let them know you run YOUR HOUSE!!!!! My mother would NOT DARE allow me to talk back to her or anything else disrespectful, and I RESPECT her for that. She is MY MOTHER…I don’t control her!

  6. Keith says:

    I think when we as punish our children we have to do so in a manner that is consistent with the behavior and in a manner that the child understands. Not all children respond to spanking – however I am in favor of spanking when it suits the behavior. I am not in favor of beating and there is a huge difference.
    I believe that one of the reasons that so many people are against spanking is because they don’t believe that they can show the restraint necessary to keep spanking from becoming beating.
    I also believe that punishment – whether spanking, grounding, timeout or whatever you choose must be done at the time the behavior occurs. We confuse our children when we don’t punish them right away, give them time to forget about the behavior and move on with their lives and then come back and issue the punishement.
    In conclusion – I personally think that spanking would be effective in every situation where it is appropriate with children – I do not however think that every parent is capable of issuing that type of punishment due to their lack of control.

  7. Kelly says:

    I believe you shouldn’t have to use a spanking often, but is a good idea when a child forgets who the parent is regardless of consistent discipline.

  8. Jamie says:

    I am 18 years old and I will admit – my parents DID spank me as a child, and most of the time I deserved it!
    I think spanking does not hurt a child – mind you, spanking should not be something that prevents a child so much pain they cant sit down, but more of a reminder that what they did was wrong.
    My mom spanked, my stepdad yelled. It made me angry to be yelled at – yelling does nothing and can ALWAYS be tuned out. Spanking was my moms way of saying “hey, listen to me. What you did was wrong” and the message ALWAYS got through.
    I see children now and most of them are so unruly due to the fact that parents refuse to spank thinking it would “hurt their child”…no, it doesn’t and me, my siblings and my cousins are proof that it makes children more responsible for their actions. I love my parents, especially my mom, because the fact that she spanked us taught all of us to be responsible for our actions otherwise there are consequences that could hurt.
    But i will say EVERY child is different. Its up to the parent to know what punishment their child will react best to. Though i will say most will react better to a spanking rather than being yelled at.
    SO, in a few years when I have children? I will be doing the exact same thing as my parents did – I stand for mild spanking as long as it gets the message across.

  9. Jelevia says:

    I was spanked as a child and it never hurt me. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 23:13-14 also says, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” When Solomon spoke about beating the child, he is not referring to the “beating” that children of today have been experiencing at the hands of angry parents. My brothers and I weren’t perfect children – we did things our parents warned us not to do and in the end we were spanked and it taught us that there are consequences when we choose to disobey our parents’ instruction. Children must be taught the difference between right and wrong and they must understand that mom and dad only wants to see them tread the right path. Children ought to learn discipline – I believe that 85% – 90% of learning comes from home. I know that some may stray however, when they become young adults they will be able to reflect on what they were taught as children. God is not pleased with disobedient and misbehaving children. Parents are blessed with these “precious jewels” so that they can teach and guide them into their God-given purpose here on this earth. God has a purpose for all of us and the same promise he made to Jeremiah (Jer. 29:11) is what He has promised to us. He said he knows the thoughts that he thinks toward us, thoughts of peace, and not of evil to give us an expected end.” Satan has made it his own business to try to deter us from receiving eternal life so he is walking about “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5:8). So we have to guard ourselves and our children from thed adversary by staying close to God, reading His word, fasting, and staying in close communication through prayer. Always remember that your child(ren) belong(s) to you, God has entrusted you with His “precious jewels”. Train up your child in the way he/she should go and when he/she is old they will not depart from it. If you are the type of parent who gets angry very easily, give yourself some time to calm down before talking to your child(ren), get your thoughts together, sit down as parent and child and discuss the issue and be stern without anger. I could say a lot more but I will stop here for now. God bless you all!

  10. Shawana Ramirez says:

    I believe that some times children need to be spanked. Some parents have no control over there kids because they are afraid to discipline them. When you have your child out in public and they are showing off you can’t put them in the corner and if your out for a long day by the time you get home both the parent and the child has forgotten what happen and nothing gets done about it but if you take action right then and there the child know that mommy and daddy are about business if that means spanking there butt or the hand out in public then so be it they will learn there lesson if they don’t want to be imbaressed…

  11. lyla says:

    I believe that it depends on how old the child is, the normal behavior of the child, and the child’s age. Also, it depends on how hard the parent is spanking, if they had be abused as a child, or if they have charges of domestic violence. A lot of people see it as black or white, but if the child doesn’t respond to other things, such as time outs, groundings, and so on and so forth, they can. I say that you should try the other, nonphysical things, and spanking should be used as a last resort. As well, you shouldn’t spank a child while you are mad, because, most likely, you will hit them as hard as you can. I’m not saying just give them a tap and send them on their way, but spank them just hard enough to make a point. I also think that it should be used for children from the ages of 3 to 8. if they are 2 just give them a tap on the rear and say no. if they are any younger than 2 you shouldn’t punish them to badly. any older than 8, they should be able to understand the importance of material objects. If they are really into T.V., take that away. If they like Video games, take away computer and gaming consoles, as well as the T.V.. If they like sports tell them they can’t go outside, and so on and so forth. I know a lot of people don’t like to hit their kids, but for other people it is the only thing that works. Don’t exclude any options, and make spanking a last resort. I hope this helped at least one person.

  12. Miriam says:

    You know I find it amusing how so many people are afraid to admit to spanking their kids once in a while! The purpose of spanking is to send the message across if the message is not being taken in by the unruly child in any other way. And for heaven sake, giving a quick spank WHEN necessary is NOT the same as child abuse! You are not beating your child endlessly for no reason, and terrorizing your child for no reason! IF you do that, then that is child abuse. But if your child is PURPOSELY misbehaving and NO OTHER method of discipline is working, then if you need to give the child a swift spank on the behind to send the message across, then that to me IS OK, because that to me makes the child realize you mean BUSINESS! I would still say it is something to use as a last resort for several reasons. I say only use it when absolutely necessary because if you do it each and every time the child misbehaves, the child will not take it seriously either in the end. Sometimes a firm scold alone will set them straight. But if you have tried other methods and nothing is working, and if you need to spank, then do it and if it sends the point across, then how is that abuse? Some kids need more discipline than others. And as far as I am concerned, so many parents are afraid to discipline their kids to the point that they coddle them and the kids turn out to be spoiled and out of control little brats! There is absolutely no coddling happening in this house, and if a spank is needed then it is and it works. But at the same time, if the kid does something that makes you proud, you need to make a big deal out of that too and praise the kid like anything! Kids do not know right from wrong, and they also rebel by testing their limits. You need to teach them what is right and wrong and some kids will learn that if a spank here and there must be involved. And if they are testing their limits, they need to be reminded who is boss! A spank will remind them quickly. I think a 50’s style parenting should be brought back. More kids would be straightened out in the end that way IMO.

  13. Kathy says:

    Spanking I grew up in another time where patents used spanking in the most extreme times
    now parents are afraid of spanking their child because children have been told if anyone hurts you should tell the police. spanking is not abuse it is what needs to be brought back
    without fear of being concidered a criminal

  14. Pierre Fortin says:

    Responding to my own post… breaking the “loop” in my step-son also included sensing when the POWER order had been restored. This is the most difficult part as a parent; but a parent is almost always in the best position to recognize that point.

    Then, to re-enforce the notion that this was an intervention, I handed him a bag containing a sandwich and asked him to leave and not come back until he understood the POWER order.

    This was the final step in CONTROL… in his own TIME (seasoning time), he re-enforced within himself that he was loved; but he had to return to receive that love on terms acceptable to the family unit. It took 4 hours before he returned, crying and hugging us.

    The most difficult part was convincing his mother that this would end as intended.

    Today, he’s the most gentle, loving husband and father of three.

    I feel I can speak on this matter since I can claim having done it with success; and NO, it was not emotionally easy.

  15. kim says:

    Thats what wrong with todays generation of children…they are protected instead of punished. There are no consequences anymore. Acting up in school, not doing their chores, bossing hitting their parents, sneaking out at night. Bust that butt it wont happen i guarantee that. My dog acts and minds better than kids these days. js

  16. Christie Fine says:

    I am 24 years old, and I was spanked as a child. I don’t see anything wrong with it. My parents were very clear with what would warrant a spank. Most of the time it was things that were dangerous or for lying. If we did it, we knew the consequences. One time I went down to the creek in our backyard that is large and moves quickly. I was trying to get my older brother from going down there after a neighborhood boy. Even though I was just trying to look out for him, we both got spanked because we were both down there. To tell you the truth, I turned out pretty successful, respectful, and understanding of authority. I think it’s a huge problem with the younger generations today. I see kids mouth off to their parents all the time at my job. Flat out ignore their parents because they are glued to texting. Tell their parents to shut up. If they had a good butt beating, that wouldn’t go on. If their parents don’t want to spank them, let me!

  17. Kysha Walburn says:

    As a toddler I was the worst kid EVER. My parents whipped me and I didn’t care. They tied me in a chair…I got up. My parents kept after me though and finally broke my will. I am grateful that they spanked my butt. There is a place to spank and that’s not in the face but on the butt. If my parents hadn’t spanked me I would be in prison most likely today. I believe it is necessary to spank kids when they need it. There is a difference in spanking and being abusive. I learned to listen or to get spanked.

  18. Tammi says:

    I just got through with spanking my daughter and I can’t even tell u how bad I feel. She is 8 and takes meds like focalin and clonidine, I believe she has a little more mental issues that she cannot be diagnosed with yet bit it runs in her dads side.
    That being said, she walks all over me! She will run from me and hide when she doesn’t like my rules. The other day she ran barefoot around a building I go to group at and I freaked out, screaming her name I had people looking with me, a citizen called the cops to help(bless his heart) when they came guess who came out from the building? I let her get away with it! I know I know but this thing I have about wanting to see my girls happy and smiling. I take them swimming I find things around town to do so we don’t have idol hands, and still. However it’s not just her it’s the other two too , ages 5/6, my oldest is just the worst and the crziezt.
    The other night a social worker was here they are trying to help me take control and she said it is clear I have no control of any of them. That stung. However they say we shouldn’t have to spank we are smarter than that now.
    Tonight she was out of control kicking her sister and stomping up and down…I spanked her. Yes it was probably out of frustration, but I tried to talk her down.
    But I went out side to cool off and cried because it shouldn’t have to come down to me causing pain on her. She already has problems enough and all I want to do is love her! I walk on eggshells here just not to upset her!
    Please dr.Phil send me some input on how to help her.

  19. Sandy says:

    I am 28 years old and expecting my first child. The first rule of discipline my husband and I set up when we found out I was pregnant was no spanking or hitting in the house. Although we were both spanked by our parents when we were young it didnt impact us the same way. I had a sense of frustration anger and resentment towards my parents while my husband seem to understand it was just a form of dicipline. Our conclusion for not spanking our kid is based on the justification that we would not accept our children to hit other children or siblings so therefore allowing us to hit them would be hypocritical and counterproductive. With all the other ways to teach our children discipline we can obtain the same results without hitting. We believe consistancy will make you achieve your goal in discipline.

  20. Stacy Baez says:

    I do not agree with Dr Phil About spanking. Spanking is like anything else that people use wrong, food, prescription drugs, sex. They are all awesome tools that abused in the wrong persons hands. I was abuse, not because I was spanked but because the very fabric of who I was being stripped away as I was beat and punched in the mouth and beaten with wires but I have learned the art of spanking. I don’t agree in spanking a child pass 6 but I believe that when they r younger then that and they are about to harm themselves or someone else, TIME OUTS don’t always work. If my kid is running in the street constantly, would I be persecuted for spanking them and being in control of the level of pain they experience for a moment or let them get hit by a car and lose them for ever? Let’s get real, how many prisoners are in jail for violence and their parents never hit them? How many prisoners r in jail because they were spanked at the age of 4 for touching the stove or playing on the stairs or putting their finger in an electric socket? Let’s not be so educated that we lose common sense. I have 4 amazing kids and two of them r in school and they r thriving fine. Their not mourning because I spanked them for running off in the crowded arena. It’s a tool that is being abuse and if we get rid of that then get rid of food, prescriptions, and let’s stop having sex.

  21. derotha kimbley says:

    you can look at out society and tell that back when parents spanked their children produced a lot better results. I listen and see children throwing fits in resturants, stores or other places in public and REALLY want to walk up and slap the parents for abusing their children. When we don’t teach them what to do and how to act, that is abuse in my opinion. I would not have dreamed of acting like that and neither would my children and if they had they would have been taken t the car and taught better. I see children telling their parents no and slapping them and i think here comes another hooligan that doesn’t respect authority. NO wonder we can’t afford all the jails we need. I was spanked until I was a teenager. my childrem were spanked also. and we are all good citizens and well thought of. I think teachers should be allowed to give spankings. they did when i was in school and we didn’t have to be afraid to go to school. our worst behaviour was running in the halls, making spit balls or ever now and then someone would get caught smoking. I think dr. phil is smart but I believe GOD is smarter than he is and HE says to give punishment if it is necessary. Lets face it we all need to know that it wont be pleasant if we do something that we should not do..and dr. phil, if you were that old when you got your first spanking it was already to late. I know that you needed one before then..I know you say that it makes a person more aggresive but i haven’t found it so with my siblings or my children. never been in fights or in jail or anything that would be called aggresive. Again I say just look at the dr. spock generation and their kids..It speaks for itself.

  22. Cheryl says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,

    My respect for you grows, exponentially, when I see you demonstrating such mature love and concern for families and individual that trust their hearts &their families’ lives to your care.
    I wasn’t always a fan, as I felt that despite your educarion and experience, you demonstrated -let’s say, ‘less then humble’- responses to people in your care.
    I’d actually stopped watching for a while. I thought, if I hear Dr. Phil (or Oprah) say one more time “this isn’t my first rodeo” or “I’ve been doing this for (24) years…”
    I know you well enough to anticipate your ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to such criticism.
    But please don’t dismiss me, so readily.
    I truly do admire you because I can see that you are working towards transparency and detachment,and that you do genuinely care about being of service to humanity. So, please don’t dismiss my initial comments.

    People in crisis want to be assured of your ability to help them, but these comments come across as braggadocia, not sensitivity to the needs of your clients. Your cute little Texas commentary would be appropraite in a conversation with your peers, but seem somehow inappropriate with clients.
    But, as I indicated at the outset, “you’ve come a long way, baby”..(see what I mean, seems to be inappropriate famliarilty when you don’t know the person on a social level).

    For every child or every young family that you help using your public platform, there are hyndreds, if not thousand more, who never had anyone to demonstrate this kind of living guidance and assistance. As important as it is for you to be able to assist as many poeple as you can who appear on your show, the real gift is to the many others who-sometimes for the first time in their lives, irrespective of their age-get to see a demonstration of one human genuinely caring about others, and can-sometimes for the first time in their lives-feel that there is hope for them in working through whatever their circumstances are.
    You give us the language and examples of methods for working through some very tough issues that have gone unaddressed for years, perhaps forever!Thank U!

  23. Russell Vlaanderen says:

    Doctor Erica Jay Jordan Phil/Robin. I think that spanking is not for kids at all because
    the parents might be hurting the kids and not tell the parents at all what they have-
    done wrong. See you 04/28/11. Sincerley Your. Russell Vlaanderen.—————-

  24. Karen Mills says:

    I want to speak up on the behalf of the over-achieving adults in this world who were ’spanked’ as kids. Mine was physical and emotional abuse from ages 6-17. However, as I walked out at age 18 and never looked back, I had considered myself rid of it. For many years, I was too busy with making my life in the world and over-compensating for my low esteem and insecurities by working harder than anyone else. I made lots of money, accomplished many things, helped many people. Then at age 39, I ran out of steam, quit the computing industry I was doing so well in, and started painting and crying. And could not cope with the simplest things I used to excel in. Since then, I’ve retreated from the world and people. I feel I’ve lost my edge and drive but have started to uncover my soul and heart. I’m now 48, still haven’t gone back to work in the computing industry. I teach art and dance to adults (read starving artist) and get a lot of joy from helping them. I have emerged a completely new person, at more peace with myself and a truer reflection of who I really am. I recently discovered that I’m a survivor/thriver of child abuse through ascasupport.org. I’m no longer an alien, I’m not alone and there are many over-achievers like me who had been abused, and many years later, suffered mental, career or marriage breakdowns because of the contamination from our childhood trauma which had not been healed and thus unresolved. I still have difficulty knowing how I feel about many things, often not knowing my boundaries until I’m exhausted or that I hate doing something or I’m angry or upset until weeks later after the event.

    For all those parents out there who are in denial and say that they were good parents, saying “look at how well all my kids turned out except for the one ‘problem’ child in the family. And we treated them all the same”. The problem is, the children are all different and will all respond differently to the same stimuli – even when it’s bad. It is this ‘problem’ child that I admire – they have the fighting spirit to fight back immediately. All of the others who turned out well …. we stuff our feelings and try to justify the abuse by making excuses for our parents. Or just try to forget about it and get on with life. Until our past catches up with us. The pain is there … that’s why many medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, tattoos, shopping, busy work/activities etc.

    It’s WRONG WRONG WRONG to spank your children. There are so many other loving ways of teaching your children the life lessons they need to learn and giving them the gift of self-esteem, love, safety, security, protection, confidence.

  25. Chris says:

    I am pro spanking. As a father of twin 28 month old girls I have found the occasional spanking to be a formidable tool. Please note, it is a last resort, and 90% of the time it is utilized when one of our girls does something that could seriously hurt themselves or kill them. Personally, I hate it! Every single time I have had to utilize this tool I cringe. I wish it didn’t work! However, we have well behaved, respectful, kind, happy kids. Moreover, 100% of the families that I know who utilize corporal punishment have the same qualities in their kids. Even more to the fact is that I have a sibling who does not spank and her kids are: mean, physically abusive to each other and anyone in their path. They respect no one! Between throwing rocks at elderly, to yelling disrespectfully “NO” to adults who even try to communicate with them; to showing overall signs of negative emotions. Each time I see them, I am always on guard. I have to watch my kids very close and be on the look out for their self righteous parents who won’t hesitate to tell you everything you are doing wrong.

    One night my wife and I were discussing it, and she put it all so elegantly when she said, “parenting is anything but black and white; it more grey than anything.” The bottom line here is parents have to seek out and try a multitude of things before they find something that works for them and even when they find something that works the child up and changes (developmentally). Then it’s back to the drawing board…

  26. Ben says:

    “Spare the Rod Spoil the Child.” We’ve heard that quoted much more often than “Train up a Child in the Way They Should Go”. Too often the first quote is an excuse for what boils down to lazy, uneducated parenting. In this time and place (with so many medical options to stop conception), if you are going to have children take serious, on-your-knees-in-front-of-God measure of your ability to do this, then prepare and conduct yourself properly to do the job– and it is a big job, with reverberations through place and history. Otherwise, don’t inflict your lack of maturity on another being. There is no “right” to that.

    I’ve trained animals, and have observed over the years, that compared to other species, humans are just too free with their hands about hitting. Many other mammal species will body posture to make their point of correction. There are other ways.

    I speak as a person who was spanked as child under the age of 12yo by a father in rage. There is no place for hitting. In most instances, it is just bullying. It is important, in the moment, for a parent to remember that the child being hit today will grow up soon enough to an adult who will remember being hit, and will likely be none-too-fond-of the person who did it. It, quite simply, will damage the parent-child relationship for the long haul; break the attachment. Who thinks that is a good choice?

    Here’s to a better choice and way of doing things.

  27. John says:

    Having late in life gotten help for a psychosexual dmage from spanking, regressive fetish to be spanked I will state there are many parents who are in denial of their own spanking fetish who are coverely getting their own fetish needs met when they spank their child. I’ll never forget the ritual below the waist undressing and the repressed smile my mother had. This experience is common from sexual trauma. In my later age years the “ritual” became erotic in a mix of sexuality, fear, and dissociation I came to enjoy. Its the most misjudged form of culturally accepted covert incest between parents and children alive and well yet today. In all other contexts people condem sexual abuse but when it comes to removing the clothing of a child and genitally exposing them for a spanking it’s a protected right of parenthood!

  28. Spanking a child, in my opinion, as a method of discipline to improve the child’s situation is a bad idea. And it’s a bad way for parents to handle their frustration with and anger at the child.

    Physical punishment in the way of physical attack instills fear, creates distrust in the child of the parent’s real interest and is an abuse of physical power. All those are bad effects and bad ways to live.

    I wonder how the parents that abuse their physical dominance would experience being flipped over as old people and slapped by their now grown children? It is not physical abuse, because it has nothing do to with assaulting or beating another person. It would be humiliating, a very bad way to handle conflict or communicate and generally not effective for solving the emotional issues that lie behind.

    It is neither in the parenting of children, because the child doesn’t learn any new information, learn any problem solving skills or feels any personally important and worthy drawback or benefit to work for.

    Slapping, or any other physical attack on a child, is the last resort of an incompetent parent. It instills a basic, you do this, you get hurt mentality, which is unhelpful in learning to live well as one wants.

    The positive side to slapping in my opinion is that it does stop some behavior some times, because the child does not want to get hurt so often and so much. But it is a short-lived positive, because it creates relational problems with the parents and in the familiy as mentioned above, plus the worsening when the child realizes that it is a 1:1 trade-off and learns little about personal life management.

    It is also bad to do nothing at all. To let the child do what it wants and let there be no consequences of any kind.

    A good parenting way is to have a loving and disciplined style. The parent supports the child by showing care, nurture and helps with their problems in life and share joys, and has strict rules that are enforced by meaningful consequences that teaches the child personal responsibility and cultivates a personal interest in the benefits and drawbacks of a behavior in the child in a positive, achieving way. The parents basically teaches their child to stand on its own two feet and the results of what they do, while loving them and accepting them as they are.

    Slapping achieves only to teach the child the result of their actions in a negative, pain-inducing, short-lived way. It does not promote useful traits in the child.

    I know far most parents do not do that and are not capable. So it is often a mix of good and bad parenting when growing up, and I rate slapping and carelessness in parenting as bad. Slapping or any other attack on the child, not aid through consequences that is probably unpleasant for the child, is really the refuge of the incompetent parent, just as carelessness for loving or disciplining the child is incompetent parenting.

    How does a dog that has been hit fare in life? In a bend down, fearful and submissive way, and sometimes aggressive. Even more the more hitting or “spanking”.

  29. Jana says:

    Spanking is wrong. You do not spank a six year old for not fighting back. You do not spank a sixteen year old for cussing on the phone. You do not tell a thirteen year old, that you will spank them when they misbehave, and that it’s okay to spank them, but when they turn eighteen, you do not spank them anymore.


    A six year old not fighting back isn’t Bad Behavior. It is caused by the six year not Valueing themselves. A sixteen year old cussing on the phone is defending her right to be spoken to by others in a Respectful manner. Take the priveliges away, but do not say, “Quit arguing like a child!” (spank), nor do you say: “I’m going to punish you like they do in school!” (spank with all of your might). A thirteen year old? Is TOO OLD TO BE SPANKED. Period.

  30. Denise says:

    Spanking is wrong, bottomline. It is against the law to lay your hands on another human being. Why in the world people think it is okay to lay hands on a child just because you are their mother or father is beyond me. As a parent it is your job to keep your child safe, guide them and teach them to become a responsible adult. What exactly do you think you are teaching a child, who trusts you, like no other, by intentionally inflicting physical pain? How exactly does that teach them anything other than to fear you? It is the parent losing control. I am sorry there is just no argument where it can be justified, there is always a better way. If you have spanked your child you probably felt guilty about it, as you should. Nobody is a perfect parent, we all make mistakes. However, you should recognize your mistakes and take steps to correct them instead of trying to justify them.

  31. JOHN says:

    I won’t tell you my story. It won’t change the world. However, I do agree with you. All spanking taught me is this: people want you to always agree with them, even if they are extremely unethical. Or they don’t want you to be part of their life at all. Well, If they are going to act like wild animal or anyone i like. I don’t want them either. Period.

  32. JOHN says:

    To me or anyone I like. I meant. Sorry for the error.

  33. Stephanie Eyerly says:

    I was spanked as a child but i was spanked in anger.I refuse to use spanking as a method she gets stern scoldings/time outs she is 4 & understands

  34. Christopher Bludau says:

    I was spanked as a child and I needed it I was not a good child. My children where spanked and thay are great kids 28, 24 and 23, and I have 6 grandkids my oldest dosent spank and her kids are not fun too be around..

  35. Carolyn Bekkers says:

    I believe spanking is unneccesary if parents are consistent in nurturing healthy relationships with their children. I use to believe that an occasional ‘last resort’ smack was ok if a child was in danger; I feel differently now. I think children will be curious and this leads to them making poor choices sometimes. I believe that if curiosity is punished with violence; children will become adults with limitations as new ideas are avoided at all cost, because curiosity is now associated with physical pain.

    As parents we have many options available to us that do not involve violence. While these options require a bit more time and thought, ultimately I think they do strengthen the bond between child and parent, as well as result in positive long term results. These options involve discussion, time out, praise, rewards, redirection, negotiation, humor… ultimately the best way of persuading children to behave a certain way is through an expression of heart felt love and concern.

    Spanking has caused me to feel betrayed and resentful towards my parents who were too focused on what they wanted, and who took short cuts to get what they wanted at the expense of my wellbeing.

  36. Mary Hollifield says:

    i feel when you have done all you can and taken away all the toys and priveleges from your child or children that yes you can spank your child i am not saying to beat the child but i am saying that sometimes you should be able to spank your own child. I feel like you should wait till the last resort to spank your children because then they know that what they did was really bad and wrong and maybe they won’t do it anymore.

  37. Basia says:

    Dr Phil, I read your opinion about spanking and it is very much my personal opinion. I was spanked many times for many reasons. The main reason was to make sure that I never make mistakes and I always do what my parents want me to do. My dad who believed in God, used to tell me to go to the other room and wait until he calms down. Then he would bring his leather belt, tell me to lay down, sometimes take my pants off and with a cold face spanked me. Then he would leave me crying and shaking. He used to say that he does it because he loves me. I could not seat for few days in a row, it hurt so much. Everybody was saying that my dad is a nice man and I am lucky to have him as my parent. And I was. I knew he was very polite and nice person. He still is. I knew it was all my fault.
    I am a mother of two beautiful girls, 4 and 15 years old. I have never spanked them, I just use other methods to correct my children and I remember to respect them and listen to them. It took me many years to realize that I don’t have to apologize for everything and everyone but I can still feel damage that has been done years ago.

  38. Jennfer says:

    I believe that this conversation that we are having right now is what’s wrong with our children today. 30 years ago, or longer, this was never an issue. I believe that as parents we owe it to our children to teach them lessons…. to be productive citizens of society. Now, I’m not saying that if you were spanked for the right reasons as a child that you always grew up to be a good, productive citizen. BUT I do know that as a child I knew when I had pushed the limits. I didn’t get a spanking for every little thing I did but I did get a spanking if it were something that were dangerous, illegal or just simply warranted a spanking. I do not believe that a child should be slapped in the face, BEAT with a belt or continuosly hit, but a mear spanking is not violence. I grew up in a very loving home. And, wait for this….I was spanked. My parents taught me right from wrong and if I didn’t do the right thing I was punished. Sometimes it was timeout, sometimes I was grounded and sometimes I was spanked. And when I say spank, that means spank….NOT HIT!! I don’t think a spanking is required for every little thing a child does wrong but it is required to some degree. I never thought as a child that after my parents spanked me that they didn’t love me or they didn’t want to protect me…that is CRAZY!! My parents did everything they did as parents because they loved me. I feel I am a good mother, wife, employee, friend and productive citizen of society because I was spanked from TIME TO TIME. Most of the children I grew up with were spanked and if they were not then our parents didn’t want us around them because of their disrespectful, unruly ways. I think if people would catch on to this then our children wouldn’t be so out of hand today. And I don’t mean just spanking…I mean discipline itself.

  39. marie lucchese says:

    I have never smacked or placed a hand on my child , As a child i was smacked and yes it has left a very negative feeling inside me, i would never hit my dogs or any pet. I am a believer in discipline and it has worked for me. I used to give my son one warning which allowed him a choice if he did whatever again this would happen ie., going home (if at his friends) ..i would take his favourite toy for a limited time etc., nothing major but very important to him. After the first and second time i carried out whatever the discipline was , he learnt to trust my word was my bond. Likewise we would discuss the do’s and dont’s and why’s because i thought it’s important for him to grow up with as much knowledge and understanding as possible. My son is now 20 …at the age of 14 i asked him what household chore he would like to do as we all have to take some resposibility in the life..He has done the washing on a weekly bases . I am very proud of him our relationship was born out of Love and respect.
    Regards M.Lucchese

  40. Beryl says:

    It sounds, Dr. Phil, from your experience being spanked that you were more humiliated than you were physically hurt. You didn’t really mention whether or not you ever needed to be spanked again in life or if that one spanking made you learn your lesson!! I was spanked as a child – not physically beaten, spanked on the butt when I was young. It didn’t take too many times before I realized I’d rather avoid that in the future. I felt humiliated more than hurt and learned at a young age that my parents meant what they said. I also spanked my children when they were young and lo and behold they also learned that I meant what I said. I did not beat them mercilessly with an object, I just gave them a swat or two or three on their little butts to let them know that they could not continue to do what they were doing. If we, as a society, do not have a way of backing up what we say when we discipline our children, we are going to be in a heck of a mess – oh wait – that’s already happened hasn’t it?

  41. GemaaktinNederland says:

    A child spanking is not the answer to your child to raise. I may not be a mother herself, but I will and would never hit a child, because they are annoying behavior. It tells only that the child is looking for the boundaries. ‘How far can I go?’ and clear and concrete. The child knows where they stand and what the child can expect from you as an educator or parent. Of course there are the exception that children with conduct disorder, but that does not mean that you have a child with a disorder that is itself nothing can do can be spanking. I am not behind and it’s also very disappointing with vision when I go to work with children. A child is a human being and you have to supervise (educating) to an adult and there can be no violence in the process. You as a human being, a person would still not be beaten. It’s also very different in each situation how to act with the child. The child seeks attention through negative behavior is learned behavior, because the child thinks this is a good behavior … There are many factors you should also think it is still a child the values ​​and norms of society must learn that he / she later has to function in it. A mature man with his own family and once he / she has had in his upbringing to his own children do.

  42. Laura says:

    I spank my daughter. Only at extreme measures. I tell her i love her and want kisses from her every chance shes willing to give them to me! she knows shes my baby and mama only has her best interests at heart. Shes a very happy go-lucky kid who doesnt show any signs of distrusting me, our relationship, or any other present adult in her life. I also give our immidiate family, i.e. her grandparents, aunts and uncles, permission to stop her if she crosses a very thick line. She knows their word is as good as mine and I would be humiliated if she were to disrespect an adult. Our family is very loving and supportive of one another, and in that family dynamic respect is standard. I do not expect my 2 yr old to be an adult, I know she has accidents more than anyone and I would never spank her for something trivial.
    That being said, when she does something she knows is not allowed, and after being asked to stop, and a warning, the next step is a spanking. I’ve never ever had to go past one spanking and although discipline can get out of control, that should not dismiss all accounts of spanking.

  43. Robert says:

    Dr. Phil,

    With my son who is now 15 with a Juvenile police record for domestic violence and running away, corporal punishment had no effect on. I used spanking on my son when was younger until I realized that it was having no effect. He would look at me at age 6 after spanking him for stealing, and he would turn to me laughing about it, then turn around next time in a store and do it again. So as far as I am concerned spanking works with some, but is not effective with all any longer.

  44. debbie smith says:

    I have two children, 26 and 24 years of age, and a grandchild 5 years of age. I don’t believe in spanking for the reasons that are stated by Dr. Phil. I do believe you violate the relationship between the parent and the child. I also believe it is an assault on the child. My children are well educated, productive and well rounded, compassionate human beings. And yes, I do believe by them not being “assaulted” by a parent, helped make them who they are today. I did use talking, time-outs, and taking privledges away from them.

  45. Mike says:

    I’m wondering about all the people who say that they only spank in the case of major, extreme, or dangerous situations. Here’s my question: if your elderly grandmother was distracted and started to walk into the street without looking, would you hit her until she agreed not to do it again? Or spank her? Or swat her? Of course not. So why is it different with your child? It’s not any different, and there are far better ways of dealing with such issues.

  46. Barb says:

    I think that a lot of the parents today are weak and cannot say no to their children. A child needs to know his place. Kids need to know that they are the child and mom and dad are the parents. If you don’t discipline them at an early age and let them know that you are the boss, you won’t be able to control them when they get older. When my two kids were toddlers I smacked their hand when they tried to touch something that they shouldn’t. I also spanked them on their butts but with the diaper I’m sure they didn’t feel much. You have to let them know that you are not playing around. All I had to do was give my kids a look as they got older and they knew that they better listen to me. They are adults now and they grew up well rounded with honors grades. They respect me and we are very close. When I see these parents crying on TV because they don’t know what to do with their kids it makes me sick. I feel sorry for a lot of kids these days because they are confused about their role in society as children.

  47. Brandon McCorkle says:

    do what works… every child is different.

  48. Kelly says:

    I was spanked as a child, and it did feel very degrading, but it worked for me. I agree that yelling does NOT work, it really tears down a bond of trust. I would rather have a spanking with a loving lecture that get yelled at and verbally abused…..words sting a lot worse and leave lasting scars far beyond that one spank. However, having said that, I will say that I have 2 children. My daughter responded very well to one spank and did everything to avoid it. She got to where all you had to do was look at her a certain way or threaten with a spanking and it was over before it started. However, with my ADHD son, spanking sent him into a rage….he was very, very angry inside. It was strange, almost appeared to be a “defiant” response of rebellion as Dr. Phil mentioned. For my son, the thing that he feared most was having to stand still with his nose in the corner for 5 minutes. For a very, very hyperactive child, this was torture enough and it got the point across. Spanking in his mind met a poor impulsive decision with just another poor impulsive decision…..often in his mind, our impulsive decision made absolutely NO sense to him. We found other ways…..standing in a corner, removing a door from his room when he slammed it repeatedly….meeting non violent errors in judgement with non violent punishment was much better and more easily understood by him. This is because the spank immediately evoked RAGE….he had no room in his head to even think about what he had done, why he had been spanked, he just knew he didn’t deserve to be hit. ….period, the end…..also, when we did spank, we never used our hand. It was always a planned event. However, it didn’t seem to matter with my son…..it was a violent gesture from parents he trusted, and it was met with counterproductive rage and rebellion. Talk about Jekel and Hyde…that was my son after a single spank. So, reflectively speaking, I think it is best to avoid spanking as the FIRST choice, however, it is a valid option, and parents must really think about why they are spanking and use it appropriately on a case by case situation.

  49. Annie Sudbury says:

    What some people don’t realize is that there is a BIG difference in abuse and discipline. An open hand on the bottom of a child is discipline and a closed hand is abuse. I am very thankful to my parents for not only providing love and support they also provided me with proper discipline. I can’t imagine my life without proper discipline while I was growing up. My husband is the perfect example of proper discipline. His father died in an accident when he was 14 months old and he was raised by his Uncle. He was disciplined (spanked) when necessary and was made to do chores, etc. However, his cousin (Uncle’s son) was never disciplined and hardly ever gotten on to. Now my husband has been in Law Enforcement for 30+ years and is a well disciplined, well adjusted man but his cousin has been in and out of jail for theft and various other crimes and is currently addicted to drugs and it is suspected that he is doing meth. So what is the difference? They were raised by the same people with the only difference being my husband was “spanked” and his cousin was not. I think that speaks for itself.
    My husband sees everyday the results of lack of discipline in a home. When he arrests people he will ask them if they were disciplined as a child and what he has discovered is 90% of the ones he has asked either says “No, my parents didn’t believe in spanking” or “Yes, I was put in time out”. My husband has summed it up this way and it makes alot of sense. “All time out does is train a child to sit in one place with nothing to do just like they do in jail. It’s almost like they are being trained and getting experience in jail.”
    If you don’t believe in God or the Bible please do NOT read my next statement. If God did not want us to spank a child then why did He put in His book, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”

  50. Karen Taylor says:

    My parents were abusive alcoholics and had a thick leather strap they would spank us with whenever the mood hit them. I finally had enough of that strap and threw it down the apartment incinerator, then went back and told them. They couldn’t believe my pluck and actually laughed. But that didn’t stop the beatings.
    I look at animals in nature and see that parents can get pretty snarly in various ways when the youth don’t do as they are expected. But animals prefer not to go there as a general rule if they can help it.
    It would be nice to live in a world where every touch is one of love. My heart cries out for that. But we both know the truth of that one. Most people have children as if they were disposable toys bought for their own enjoyment….or annoyment.
    Perhaps it would be best to try to reason with a crazed two year old, but a little tap on a diapered bottom disrupts the thought process and gets their attention pretty quick.
    With my daughter I gave her three spankings all while she was still in diapers. And that was it. She and I are still very close and she’s 32. Sometimes when I hug her I lift her off her feet because she is tinier than I am and we laugh.
    I think it comes down to the moment and the people. Most of the time I think it’s a bad substitute for good parenting. People need classes in coping and child rearing and not just have them like pups.
    I love you Dr. Phil…..you are terrific and a real human being.

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