Some of my coworkers and I were having an argument about spanking children. I've never spanked my children and hope I never will, but I was amazed at how many people regularly do. Where do you stand on the issue?
Armin Brott answers
A few years ago Child magazine did a survey of their readers and found that 37 percent of parents discipline their toddlers several times a day, and 27 percent discipline their child in public several times a week. It's not all that surprising, then, that 39 percent of them spank their kids "often or sometimes" and a fifth slap their kids' hands often or sometimes. Personally, I find that pretty horrifying.
The big question, of course, is "Does spanking do any good?" If you want to attract the child's attention in a hurry, the answer is Yes. But if you're interested in any long-term positive effect, the answer is a resounding No. In fact, there's plenty of evidence that the long-term effect of spanking children is actually quite negative. (It's worth noting here that of the people polled in the Child Magazine survey, only 4 percent felt that spanking was effective in getting kids to be good.)
Basically, researchers confirm just what you might expect: that spanking children does little more than teach them to resort to violence and aggression to solve their problems -- not exactly the message most parents want to get across to their kids, especially with snipers in Washington, DC, a record murder rate in Oakland, and the country on the brink of war.
I remember very clearly a scene that took place a few years ago at a bus stop not far from my house. A rather agitated woman was trying to keep her two kids -- about 5 and 7 years old--from fighting: "How many times," she said, smacking the older child, "do I have to [smack] tell you [smack] not to hit [smack] your brother [smack]?" Any guesses about where that little boy learned to hit his brother?
Author Doug Spangler suggests that fathers who spank their children are sending some very specific messages:
Although Spangler was writing about fathers, the exact same thing could be said about mothers. Research also shows that children who get spanked are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem and depression, and have a greater chance of accepting lower-paying jobs as adults. While this may not be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, there is clearly some correlation between being spanked and poor self-esteem.