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If you spank your child you might be convinced that you’re doing it “right.” You might think that spanking is good for a child and not only stops bad behavior but leads to improved behavior over time. A new study confirms that you would be wrong on both counts.

Thirty-three parents who said they spank agreed to be recorded over four to six evenings. Most of the parents were the children’s mothers, and were married, well-educated, white, and worked outside the home. Their children were, on average, a bit younger than four. The recordings captured 41 instances of corporal punishment (spanking, slapping, shoving, shaking, pinching, and so on) that happened mostly while the parent prepared dinner or was bathing the child before bed.

The scientists, led by psychologist George Holden from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, found that these parents spanked in three ways that are especially troubling: they spanked in anger, they spanked quickly instead of as a last resort, and they spanked for minor misbehaviors, not in response to serious problems or dangerous behavior. In addition, parents hit their children repeatedly, instead of giving a single swat.

As you know by now, I do not believe spanking is effective but I understand that many parents do spank. So, if you hit, I invite you to observe your own spanking behavior.

If you spank, slap, or hit your children, take a long, hard look at that. How effective is corporal punishment, really, in making your life more serene and happy? How better behaved for how long are your children as a result of being hit? How much better do you feel about yourself as a result of being a parent who hits?

Corporal punishment has been associated in other studies with everything from low school success, obesity, bullying behavior and delinquency. If spanking isn’t effective at home anyway, is it worth the risk of derailing your child’s future? I think not.

Please, think before you hit.



© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Join Dr. Anderson in an online conference for teachers and parents. Find out more at Quality Conference for Early Childhood Leaders.