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The spanking debate
Interestingly when you walk into a room and ask if spanking your kids as discipline is appropriate, most parents would exclaim "no!" in horror. However, a survey by Harris Interactive reports that:
- 81 percent of Americans believe parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate
- 86 percent of participants say they themselves were spanked as a child
- 73 percent of respondents who were spanked as children have spanked their own kids
- 25 percent of those polled who were not spanked as a child have spanked their own kids
But, an online poll conducted personally using SurveyMonkey showed the scales tipping in the other direction:
- Fewer than 42 percent of parents who responded spank their children
- More than 57 percent of parents do not
But is swatting your kiddo's behind doing more damage than good?
Say no to spanking
Just as parents are divided on the issue of discipline, so are the experts. "While it may be legal in some states to spank your children and accepted in many cultures, psychological evidence says it is not a good idea," advises Jessica Leichtweisz of Toxic to Exotic. "While spanking may work in the short term, it can have many adverse long-term consequences on a child's development." And, Dr. Ronald Crouch agrees. "There have been decades of research on spanking and it has failed to show any benefit at all from spanking. Spanking is associated with more behavior problems and increased aggression in the short term, and greater risk of mental health problems in the long term."
Spanking to discipline children is OK
On the other hand, some experts explain that it's OK to spank your child under certain circumstances so long as you don't take it too far. "I'm not a big fan of spanking, but I don't think it hurts kids and for some kids it can be useful in a few situations," counsels Dr. Michael Anderson of GIST Parenting. "Spanking can be an effective way to stop a sudden and dangerous situation... but, the vast majority of situations can be handled better without a spanking." But, the real question is why experts are up at arms about spanking children when, "...literature does not have sufficient evidence supporting conditional, age-appropriate, spanking based on the general population as being abusive," explains Dawn C. Reid, M.S. of Reid Ready Coaching. "If spanking was as detrimental as some will have you believe, we would see much more emotional trauma."
Saying sorry versus standing your ground
Regardless of which side of the swat you stand, there are times when your hand makes contact with your youngster's behind. But, should you apologize for spanking your child? Most experts agree that a sorry is appropriate — but to different degrees:
"I always tell parents to lead by example and incorporate teachable moments into every day with your children. Parents should always apologize for spanking their child," says Dr. Joe Taravella. "It teaches the wrong message! It does not work in the long term!"
"If you lose your temper and spank your child in anger, it is important to apologize to him or her," advises Leichtweisz. "This will help your child to understand that you are human and make mistakes and they will be less likely to resent you for punishing them."
"If you regret spanking your child, then apologize and don't do it anymore. If you don't regret it, then don't apologize," explains Dr. Anderson. "I would recommend something like, 'I don't like using spankings, but I will if you go down to the lake without a life jacket again.'"
"Did you spank in anger? Did you go too far? OK, you can apologize for that, but not for the spanking itself," recommends Reid. "If you apologize for administering a spanking you are saying to your child I was wrong for spanking you. Spanking then becomes counterproductive to the goal."
Whether you believe it's OK to spank your child or discipline by other means, many experts agree that you should apologize to your child after a spanking to some degree. Just, "...don't do it when angry or as a spontaneous reflex, be calm and make sure you are acting on a conviction and not reacting to a situation," advises Anderson. But just like most parenting styles, the decision is a personal one.