10 Alternatives to Spanking

Spanking isn't necessarily something a parent consciously chooses. Most often, it happens when grownups lose their cool, get worked up or feel desperate. Dad may give little Tommy a whack because he's already asked him three times to turn off the television. Or when four-year-old Johnny runs across the road, his mom may spank him and warn, "Don't you ever, ever run into the street again." All parents know how profoundly annoying it can be when their little one doesn't listen to them. Fear has the same effect: "Oh my gosh, what if Johnny isn't so lucky the next time he runs into the street?" The vast majority of parents have either felt the urge to spank, or have given their child a pat, whack or smack at one time or another.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, spanking happens at least once a week in 25 percent of two-parent, middle-class families. Why do so many parents end up spanking their kids? You might assume it's because spanking works. But, in fact, spanking works if, and only if, you look at the short-term. Three-year-old Lucy picked up her toys with lightening-fast speed after her mom gave her a swat on the behind. However, Lucy's teachers need to keep a close eye on her in the playground because she tends to bully the younger kids. What does one have to do with the other?

A crucial 2002 study takes a look at how spanking affects kids. Psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff of Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty analyzed 62 years of collected data, and found that the more often a child is spanked, the greater is the risk of childhood aggression and other antisocial behaviors such as lying, cheating and bullying. Children who are raised with spankings are less likely to learn right from wrong, and are more likely to misbehave behind their parent's backs. One of the pro-spanking mothers in my practice conceded, "My son behaves if I spank him -- but I don't know if he's behaving out of fear or because he's learning to distinguish right from wrong." Clearly, spanking changes a child.

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