Spanking a Child – Is it Good or Bad?

Spanking could be a thing of the past, at least in California.

An anti-spanking bill in the California Assembly would actually criminalize spanking a child, and that worries some family advocates.

According to one observer, “The way this bill is written, a legitimate spanking can be equated with cutting a child. The accepted use of a swat with a hand could be construed as child abuse.”

The bill, A.B. 2943, makes no distinction between a commonly used and appropriate form of discipline and other, more violent acts.

So, is spanking good or bad?

Not too many years ago, we’ve all saw, ad nauseum, a parking lot surveillance tape allegedly showing Madelyne Gorman Toogood exiting a department store. Then, she appears to look around to see if anyone is watching and then begins to shake and pummel her 4-year-old daughter inside the car, hidden from the camera’s view.

I can’t get the video out of my head. And, I can’t really believe that any parent would do such a thing.

Incidents like this beg the question: should a reasonable and civilized country ban parental spanking?

Psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University recently analyzed 88 studies involving corporal punishment, spanning 62 years of collected data, and concluded corporal punishment encourages negative behaviors in children.

But what if a medical study were released on the dangers of eating apples, and media outlets nationwide championed the banishment of oranges instead? Wouldn’t that be absurd? Well, apples are magically being turned into oranges when it comes to the subject of child discipline.

Gershoff’s study, as it turns out, (and, for that matter, the Toogood incident) is not about spanking.

It was about corporal punishment – of which spanking is only a small subset.

Corporal punishment includes spanking along with many forms of training or discipline that are inappropriate. Children in some of Gershoff’s analyzed studies, as in the Toogood case, were beaten or slapped. In other studies children were abused with sticks or injured in other ways. In fact, sixty-five percent of the studies included overly severe punishment.

Since the Gershoff study was released, it has grown into another anti-spanking tantrum by virtually every major media outlet. Headlines emblazoned across papers have touted breakthrough news on the negative effects of spanking.

Apples suddenly turned into oranges.

Is it any surprise to anyone that child abuse and severe punishment would be associated with negative outcomes?

Of course not.

Any civilized parent would be shocked by these types of abuse, as most Americans are shocked by Mrs. Toogood’s apparent actions.

But this is a far cry from judiciously used mild spanking employed by many, if not most, loving parents.

The excessive punishment of some misguided, angry or cruel parents should not become an argument to not discipline at all.

Not only was Gershoff’s work misrepresented, many articles ignored reports countering Gershoff’s review, including one by a prominent trio of researchers that was published in the same edition of the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association.

The group, including two researchers from the University of California at Berkley and one from the University of Nebraska, concluded “the evidence presented in Gershoff’s (review) does not justify a blanket injunction against mild to moderate disciplinary spanking.”

So, just what is appropriate spanking? The issue is not whether parents should spank, but how should they spank.

An important scientific conference defined spanking as physically non-injurious, intended to modify behavior, and administered to the extremities or buttocks.

I would add that such discipline is never administered in anger.

Used with children from approximately 18 months to six years of age (never later than puberty), spanking has been shown to be effective, especially when used in conjunction with other forms of discipline, such as time-outs, reasoning and other disciplinary tools.

Further, when studies that isolate mild spanking from abusive behaviors are analyzed, results have consistently proven repeatedly the practice is not harmful.

Why have we not seen these findings reported in the press?

Proper spanking is often a necessary tool in parenting.

In fact, studies have shown an increase in child abuse in homes where appropriate spanking does not occur, as eliminating spanking takes away a strong, useful and suitable tool from a parent.

Equating appropriate spanking with punishment that includes child abuse is inaccurate, unfair, and misleads parents who are striving to properly raise their children.

Based upon the best evidence available, I support the many parents who believe in appropriate spanking, when necessary.

But I also believe spanking must be administered wisely and only when appropriate. The evidence does not show that spanking is a disciplinary cure-all.

Not all children need to be spanked, and not all parents should spank their children—especially parents prone to anger, hostility, abuse, or outbursts.

However, a parent that does not teach that there are consequences to behaviors will leave it to the police and others to do that later in the child’s life.

Parents, for millennia, in virtually every recorded culture, have spanked their young children, when necessary, to teach them and to shape and mold their character—to ultimately benefit their children.

Now parents are being fed confusing information — apples turned into oranges — by what appear to be anti-spanking advocates.

Perhaps some discipline is in order for those guilty of fictionalized reporting about spanking –- and for the state legislators in California who appear to not understand these basic facts about the difference between appropriate spanking and child abuse.

Should they pass and the Governor sign this ill-advised law, they may actually be increasing the chances that California children will be abused – not protected from it.

18 thoughts on “Spanking a Child – Is it Good or Bad?

  1. mom3

    I completely agree…spanking and child abuse or corporal punishment are not one and the same. A quick swat on the behind is not the same as beating one’s child and should not be viewed as such. I do believe that other forms of discipline should be used first, like timeouts, the removal of privileges, toys, etc. We use spanking as a last resort, and sometimes it can be more effective than the aformentioned methods. We have only had to use it a few times…in general, other forms of discipline seem to be much more effective. There is a great debate about spanking at http://www.opposingviews.com/questions/is-spanking-an-acceptable-form-of-discipline Experts from both sides weigh in and make some interesting points on the issue…really great discussion of the topic!

  2. mommy101

    i think that a child shouldnt be spanked or hit with any kind of object if u really think about it when u spank them for doin something bad they go and do it over and over again so it doesnt even really discilpline

  3. Child#!

    you know im glad i got spanked im 17 yrs old and i really am glad .. ive seen children in my home town who never even thought of the idea of getting spanked and most of these ppl are drug users and dealers.. if it wasnt for my parents spanking me id probably feel free to do what ever the hell i wanted .. thanks mom for spanking me ..:) love u

  4. PDeverit

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research on “spanking”.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child buttock-battering isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,

    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,

    Center For Effective Discipline,

    PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,

    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,

    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,

    The LDS Church (http://education.byu.edu/youcandothis/spanking.html click “quotes on spanking”),

    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,

    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child buttock-battering is prohibited by law (with more in process) from 1979 to present. In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The US also has the highest incarceration rate. Crime rates are highest in those states where child buttock-battering occurs most frequently (in schools, etc).

  5. Dr. Walt Post author

    We all agree. Child abuse (or, as you say, buttock battering) is not only NEVER appropriate, it is and should be illegal.

    However, not all spanking is child abuse.

    So, just what is appropriate spanking?

    An important scientific conference defined spanking as physically non-injurious, intended to modify behavior, and administered to the extremities or buttocks.

    I would add that such discipline is never administered in anger.

    Used with children from approximately 18 months to six years of age (never later than puberty), appropriate spanking has been shown to be effective, especially when used in conjunction with other forms of discipline, such as time-outs, reasoning and other disciplinary tools.

    Further, when studies that isolate mild spanking from abusive behaviors are analyzed, results have consistently proven repeatedly the practice is not harmful.

    Why have we not seen these findings reported in the press?

    Proper spanking is often a necessary tool in parenting.

    In fact, studies have shown an increase in child abuse in homes where appropriate spanking does not occur, as eliminating spanking takes away a strong, useful and suitable tool from a parent.

    Equating appropriate spanking with punishment that includes child abuse is inaccurate, unfair, and misleads parents who are striving to properly raise their children.

    Based upon the best evidence available, I support the many parents who believe in appropriate spanking, when necessary.

    But I also believe spanking must be administered wisely and only when appropriate. The evidence does not show that spanking is a disciplinary cure-all.

    Not all children need to be spanked, and not all parents should spank their children—especially parents prone to anger, hostility, abuse, or outbursts.

    However, a parent that does not teach that there are consequences to behaviors will leave it to the police and others to do that later in the child’s life.

    Parents, for millennia, in virtually every recorded culture, have spanked their young children, when necessary, to teach them and to shape and mold their character—to ultimately benefit their children.

    You can read more in my blog, “Is Spanking Associated with Child Abuse?” It’s at: http://www.drwalt.com/blog/?p=337.

  6. PDeverit

    I’m glad that at least you don’t advocate child bottom-slapping when angry. However, I recommend you read the the publications by the above listed professionals and professional associations.
    You will find AMPLE testimony from those who were harmed by spankers with non-abusive intentions:

    Ann’s Letter To Parents:
    http://nospank.net/ann.htm

    An Unintended Consequence of Spanking
    http://nospank.net/jenn.htm

    The above listed professionals and professional associations all disagree with your stance, and have come out against any form of child bottom-slapping (whether you wish to label it “spanking”, “smacking”, “swatting” etc).

    Here are a few more that also disagree with your stance:

    The Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire (found that “spanking” kids increases risks of sexual problems as adults)

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    “Infliction of pain or discomfort HOWEVER MILD is not a desirable method for communicating with children”
    American Medical Association, House of Delegates, 1985.

    “Corporal Punishment of children actually interferes with the process of learning and with their optimal development as socially responsible adults. We feel it is important for public health workers, teachers, and others concerned for the emotional and physical health of children and youth to support the adoption of alternative methods for the achievement of self-control and responsible behavior in children and adolescents.”
    Daniel F. Whiteside, Assistant Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services, 1990.

  7. Dr. Walt Post author

    I’ve reviewed the literature carefully – on both sides. Here’s what my review found:

    Virtually all of the “anti-spanking studies,” as it turns out, are not about spanking, but almost always include corporal punishment, of which spanking is only a small subset.

    Corporal punishment includes spanking along with beating or slapping. In other “anti-spanking” studies children were abused with sticks or injured in other ways. In fact, sixty-five percent of the studies included overly severe punishment.

    These studies become anti-spanking tantrums by virtually every major media outlet, and many common lay books (of which you list only a few).

    Headlines emblazoned across papers have touted breakthrough news on the negative effects of spanking.

    But, think about it: is it any surprise to anyone that child abuse and severe punishment (corporal punishment) would be associated with negative outcomes?

    Of course not.

    Any civilized parent would be shocked by these types of abuse. But this is a far cry from judiciously used mild spanking employed by many, if not most, loving parents.

    The excessive punishment of some misguided, angry or cruel parents should not become an argument to not discipline at all.

    Two researchers from the University of California at Berkley and one from the University of Nebraska have concluded “the evidence (against corporal punishment) does not justify a blanket injunction against mild to moderate disciplinary spanking.”

    Further, and this is critical, studies that isolate mild spanking from abusive behaviors are analyzed, results have consistently proven repeatedly the practice is not harmful.

    Why have we not seen these findings reported in the press or the popular lay books? Why do the ignore these studies?

    And, most critical of all to your “child abuse” argument is the fact that several studies have shown not a decrease, but an INCREASE in child abuse in homes where appropriate spanking does NOT occur.

    Why? Eliminating spanking takes away a strong, useful, appropriate, and suitable tool from a parent.

    Note that all of the studies and groups you quote very carefully (and, I think, intentionally) mix apples and oranges.

  8. PDeverit

    Again, I’m glad that at least you don’t advocate child bottom-slapping while emotional or leaving bruises, etc., but your answer reflects that you obviously have not read the above materials or TESTIMONY by people who were hit by those with NON-ABUSIVE INTENTIONS and can testify that even “measured” bottom slapping is unacceptable. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse, whether done by someone with good intentions or not.

    American Academy of Pediatrics (as well as innumerable other experts in the field of child health) has stated that child bottom slapping is the LEAST effective way to DISCIPLINE.

    http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics%3B101/4/723

    You also claimed that child abuse increases when parents don’t employ bottom slapping. If this were true, why do countries where child bottom-slapping has been prohibited (some since 1979) show a drop in child abuse cases?

    Here are a few more professional items (along with the above, which it is clear you haven’t reviewed) for you to look at:

    Spanking is an invasion of a child’s private sexual parts. The buttocks are one of the body’s erogenous zones, and in many animal species, including humans, the buttocks play a visual and tactile role in sexual arousal. Most parents don’t realize that spanking can lead to twisted sexual behaviors, but it can. Ask any psychotherapist how many clients they’ve seen who crave spanking and/or bondage during sex, and how many of those clients were spanked as children. Though I wouldn’t recommend it, browsing through the porno materials at your local magazine stand will quickly illustrate this fixation.

    -Teresa Whitehurst, Time To Stop Eleventh-Hour Parenting, Excerpt From The Practical Therapist

    “When a child is hit on the buttocks… [t]his kind of violent touch can be sexualized in the child’s mind not only because of a real flow of blood into the genitalia, but also because of a longing for intimacy with the parent: if painful physical touch is the only fulfillment of that longing, then this can “feel good.”
    Shere Hite, sex researcher, sociopsychologist. The Hite Report on the Family (1995)

    “Spanking on the buttocks can produce definitely erotic sensations, including sexual orgasm, in some children. Some of these children have been known to cause themselves to be spanked, by misconducting themselves on purpose and by pretending distress while receiving the desired ‘punishment’… The frequency with which this happens is not known, although it may not be altogether rare… The spankings in these cases may have been given for the adult’s own perverted gratification (‘sadism’); or at least there might have been culpable awareness and toleration of the child’s sexual reaction on the part of the adult. …Only some decades ago perverts masquerading as governesses or tutors were reportedly anything but rare in some European countries.”
    J. F. Oliven, M.D. Sexual Hygiene and Pathology (1965)

    “Corporal punishment trains children to accept and tolerate aggression. It always figures prominently in the roots of adolescent and adult aggressiveness, especially in those manifestations that take an antisocial form such as delinquency and criminality.”
    Philip Greven, Professor of History, Rutgers University. Excerpt from PART IV CONSEQUENCES, subheading: “Aggression and Delinquency,” in Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse, 1990 (p.193)

    Please also read the numerous TESTIMONY by those who were hit by well-meaning parents who were just misinformed.

  9. Dr. Walt Post author

    Well, at least you’re not turning to ad hominum arguments. But, apart from that, the LEAST next effective argument is anecdotes, which is what you appear to be relying upon.

    I’d prefer to go with the peer-reviewed literature.

    Again, every study that isolates mild spanking from abusive behaviors has found that non-abusive spanking is not harmful to children.

    And, most critical of all, is the fact that several studies have shown not a decrease, but an INCREASE in child abuse in homes where appropriate spanking does NOT occur.

    You can read a nice review of the topic here: http://faculty.biola.edu/paulp/acp.sub.32005.pdf.

    The link is to a systematic review submitted to the United Nations by the American College of Pediatricians: “Children and Violence in the Family: Scientific Contributions (A Submission to the UN Global Study on Children and Violence). March 2005.

    The lead author of the review was Robert E. Larzelere, Ph.D. of the Department of Pediatric Psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE.

    One of his many conclusions is, “. . . the outcomes of conditional spanking were significantly better overall than the outcomes of nonphysical punishment across the entire meta-analysis.”

    He also refutes your contention that spanking bans have been associated with reductions in child abuse. In fact, he says, “A major purpose of spanking bans is to reduce physical child abuse . . . Durrant’s data source indicates that physical child abuse also increased dramatically during the 15 years following the Swedish spanking ban, increasing 489% from 1981 to 1994, according to criminal records of physical assaults by family members against children under the age of 7.”

    He goes on to point out, “By themselves, these outcomes are not definitive, but they raise questions about whether efforts to ban spanking have unintended detrimental affects that ultimately increase violence against children.”

    Another review, “Spare the Rod? The Research Challenges Spanking Critics,” by Den Trumbull, MD, and S. DuBose Ravenel, MD, can be found here: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS07K02.

    These doctors point out, “Opposition to parents spanking their children has been growing significantly in elite circles over the years. No doubt much of this opposition springs from a sincere concern for the well-being of children. Child abuse is a reality, and stories of child abuse are horrifying. But while loving and effective discipline is quite definitely not harsh and abusive, neither is it weak and ineffectual. Indeed, disciplinary spanking can fall well within the boundaries of loving discipline and need not be labeled abusive violence.”

    The go on to say, “Critics claim that spanking a child is abusive and contributes to adult dysfunction. These allegations arise from studies that fail to distinguish appropriate spanking from other forms of punishment. Abusive forms of physical punishment such as kicking, punching, and beating are commonly grouped with mild spanking. Furthermore, the studies usually include, and even emphasize, corporal punishment of adolescents, rather than focusing on preschool children, where spanking is more effective. This blurring of distinctions between spanking and physical abuse, and between children of different ages, gives critics the illusion of having data sufficient for condemning all disciplinary spanking.”

    They then say, “There are several arguments commonly leveled against disciplinary spanking. Interestingly, most of these arguments can be used against other forms of discipline. Any form of discipline (time-out, restriction, etc.), when used inappropriately and in anger, can result in distorting a child’s perception of justice and harming his emotional development.”

    Then they systematically dissect the most common complaints about spanking:

    Argument #1: Many psychological studies show that spanking is an improper form of discipline.

    Argument #2: Physical punishment establishes the moral righteousness of hitting other persons who do something which is regarded as wrong.

    Argument #3: Since parents often refrain from hitting until the anger or frustration reaches a certain point, the child learns that anger and frustration justify the use of physical force.

    Argument #4: Physical punishment is harmful to a child.

    Argument #5: Physical punishment makes the child angry at the parent.

    Argument #6: Spanking teaches a child that “might makes right,” that power and strength are most important and that the biggest can force their will upon the smallest.

    Argument #7: Spanking is violence

    Argument #8: Spanking is an ineffective solution to misbehavior.

    Argument #9: Adults who were spanked as children are at risk for using violence as a means of resolving conflicts as adults.

    Argument #10: Spanking leads a parent to use harmful forms of corporal punishment which lead to physical child abuse.

    Argument #11: Spanking is never necessary.

    You might find their arguments, all data based, interesting.

    By the way, you can find an evidence-based rebuttal to the American Academy of Pediatricians statement and a review of the Consensus Conference on Spanking here: Trumbull D. PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, pp. 696-698.

    Dr. Larzelere also has a letter to the editor of the BMJ: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/320/7248/1538/a in which he writes:

    “In the only published review of child outcomes of non-abusive or customary physical punishment, only eight studies could disentangle the causal effects of smacking. All eight studies, including four randomised clinical trials, found that nonabusive smacking benefited children when it backed up milder disciplinary tactics with children aged 2 to 6 years.”

    He goes on to write: “Smacking, then, makes milder tactics more effective, not ‘harder to use.'”

    He concludes: “Eighteen studies . . . investigated alternative disciplinary tactics as well as smacking. Only grounding was more effective than smacking, in two studies of older children. In contrast, nine alternatives were associated with more detrimental outcomes in children than was smacking.”

    So, for parents choosing non-abusive spanking (or buttock smacking) as one of a series of tools to lovingly discipline their children, the scientific literature would seem to support their choice.

    As Dr. Larzelere concludes, “Parents need to be empowered with more effective alternatives, not disempowered by premature bans on traditional disciplinary tactics.”

    As Trumbull and Ravenel conclude: “The subject of disciplinary spanking should be evaluated from a factual and philosophical perspective. It must be distinguished from abusive, harmful forms of corporal punishment. Appropriate disciplinary spanking can play an important role in optimal child development, and has been found in prospective studies to be a part of the parenting style associated with the best outcomes.”

    The end their argument with this, “There is no evidence that mild disciplinary spanking by loving parents is harmful. Indeed, spanking is supported by history, research, and a majority of primary care physicians.”

  10. Dr. Walt Post author

    My spanking blogs have been, after the Health Myths, the most read blogs over the last year. Therefore, starting next week (Wednesday, September 16, 2009), I’ll start a 12-part series looking critically at all of the arguments foisted against appropriate and loving spanking. Don’t miss it.

  11. PDeverit

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    In addition to the non-biased professionals and professional organizations I’ve already listed, here are a handful more who are helping to raise awareness of why child buttock-battering isn’t a good idea:

    University of Minnesota Children, Youth and Family Consortium
    http://www.cyfc.umn.edu/family/resources/GB1018.htm

    http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/familydevelopment/W00021.html

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
    http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=35001&URL_DO=DO_PRINTPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html

    American ACADEMY (not “College”) of Pediatrics:
    http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=35001&URL_DO=DO_PRINTPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html

    “…The buttocks are the locus for the induction of pain in a child. We are familiar with the argument that it is a safe ‘locus’ for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic region at precisely the time the child is likely to be beaten there. Thus it is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood…” David Bakan,1971 (p. 113) Slaughter of the Innocents, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Using religious fundamentalist interpretation to justify something clearly unhealthy is a dangerous thing.

  12. Dr. Walt Post author

    Using areligious, atheistic, leftist or sexist (euphamistically called ‘progressive’) interpretation to oppose something so clearly helpful to the development of a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child is a dangerous thing. Indeed, the truth can set you free. But, it’s hard to see the big picture when one is either blind or wears blinders.

  13. PDeverit

    These people aren’t areligious, atheistic, or sexist:

    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,

    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

    The LDS Church,

    The United Methodist Church,

    etc….

    Jesus emphasized the dangers of fundamentalist letter-of-the-law interpretation over following the dictates of one’s conscience. Here is one example:

    “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8

    Here is some more info from religious workers themselves:

    Ten Reasons I Can’t Spank A Catholic Counselor’s Critical Examination of Corporal Punishment By Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW
    http://www.catholicmarriagepreponline.com/chat13.htm#Spanking

    “The much-touted ‘biblical argument’ in support of corporal punishment is founded upon proof-texting a few isolated passages from Proverbs. Using the same method of selective scripture reading, one could also cite the Bible as an authority for the practice of slavery, adultery, polygamy, incest, suppression of women, executing people who eat pork, and infanticide. The brutal and vindictive practice of corporal punishment cannot be reconciled with the major New Testament themes that teach love and forgiveness and a respect for the sacredness and dignity of children, and which overwhelmingly reject violence and retribution as a means of solving human problems. Would Jesus ever hit a child? NEVER!”
    The Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf, United Methodist Clergy (Retired)

    There have been quite a few respected professionals who were open to changing an opinion or two when new information came their way.

  14. Dr. Walt Post author

    You don’t read me very carefully. I did not accuse any one person of being these things. I just said using interpretations colored by or flavored by or biased by these worldviews is likely to lead one away from truth.

    I would agree that there’s no Biblical prooftext for “corporal punishment,” because, as we’ve discussed earlier in this string, the term “corporal punishment,” as is used to argue against loving, appropriate spanking (which I’ve defined earlier), virtually always includes activity (beating, punching, etc.) that is both inappropriate violence and downright child abuse.

    I’ll be reviewing some of these Scriptures in my upcoming series on spanking. I hope you’ll continue to contribute to the discussion.

    But, the point of this posting is that when you look at the science, these conclusions, by secular researchers cry out to be refuted:

    1) The evidence (against corporal punishment) does not justify a blanket injunction against mild to moderate disciplinary spanking.

    2) When studies that isolate mild spanking from abusive behaviors are analyzed, the results have consistently proven repeatedly the practice (mild spanking) is not harmful.

    AND

    3) Several studies have shown not a decrease, but an INCREASE in child abuse in homes where appropriate spanking does NOT occur.

    Why? Eliminating spanking takes away a strong, useful, appropriate, and suitable tool from a parent.

    So, we’ll wrap up this string, as I think we both have made our points and our readers are intelligent and wise enough to come to their own conclusions.

    I do hope to see you in my new series, starting tomorrow: Spare the Rod? Is Spanking a Child Harmful or Helpful?

  15. Richard Collins

    Dr. Walt,
    In your list of arguments you have overlooked the human rights of children. What has changed drastically in the last decade is the recognition that under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child there are no exceptions carved out for excluding children from the same protections accorded adults under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    To wit: Article 19.

    1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

    A report by the United Nations independent expert for the world wide study
    on violence against children, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, was submitted pursuant to General
    Assembly resolution 60/231 and is a landmark document in the annals of child rights.

    The report opens with an unequivicable statement:

    1. No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable. Yet the in-depth study on violence against children (the Study) confirms that such violence exists in every country of the world, cutting across culture, class, education, income and ethnic origin. In every region, in contradiction to human rights obligations and children’s developmental needs, violence against
    children is socially approved, and is frequently legal and State-authorized.

    2. The Study should mark a turning point — an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as “tradition” or disguised as “discipline”. There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children.
    Children’s uniqueness — their potential and vulnerability, their dependence on adults — makes it imperative that they have more, not less, protection from violence.

    Your notion of “loving”, “mild”, punishment simply does not square with aims of the United Nations to provide more, not less protection from violence. We don’t find your language anywhere in the independent experts report.

  16. Dr. Walt Post author

    Richard,

    Thanks for the note. And, it documents exactly what I’ve been saying in my many posts on appropriate, loving spanking.

    First of all, appropriate spanking, as defined by me and others, is and should be excluded from the definition of “violence against children.” It simply is not.

    Second, no one is either camp would espouse or condone violence or abuse against children. Period.

    Third, as I’m pointing out, all data, of which I am aware, that separates “appropriate spanking” from “violence” or “abuse” of children shows (1) no harm to children, and, where measured, positive outcomes. Our point is that appropriate spanking is a potential (emphasis on “potential”) tool for parents to consider — among many.

    And, finally, ANY disciplinary tool (warnings, time outs, punishment of any form) can be and has been used violently and inappropriately by parents. All discipline and consequences chosen by parents or guardians must be fair, age-appropriate, and administered in love.

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