Why I Will Never Spank My Children

A study shows that spanking can lead to mental illness later in life.

Photography from iStockphoto.com

A study released by Canadian researchers in the American journal Pediatrics says harsh corporal punishment can lead to an increased risk of mental and personality disorders later in life.

The study looked at 34,000 non-institutionalized individuals between 2004 and 2005, and found an association between people that were subject to serious (though not so serious as to be classified as abusive) physical punishment as children, and illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and alcoholism later in life. Spanking was included in the criteria.

This study and its claims are being used as support for parents on both sides of the spanking debate.

The anti-spankers are hailing it as more proof that you should not raise a child by raising a hand, and the pro- (or at least, ok-with-) spankers are calling the study nebulous while hauling out old gems like, “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” or, “Kids these days have no respect,” to solidify their positions.

And while this study may indeed be added to a growing pile of evidence to substantiate the proof—or lack thereof—that spanking children is not only morally wrong, but harmful, it doesn’t sway me much.

My anti-spanking stance was set long before I read of this study. Long before I even had children of my own.

I have never raised a hand to my children. I never will. Not in anger, not after a period of deep reflection, not as a first or a last resort. And truth be told, it saddens me when I hear that other parents would.

My position is based partly on personal experience and partly on my pacifistic belief that a person—especially a person in a position of power—should not inflict physical or mental pain on another person.

I understand the impulse, trust me, I do. As a parent, we are tried and tested. My little ones have pushed me to my brink of patience, and I fully expect to be pushed even further at some point.

But I reject fully the notion that spanking actually corrects any behaviour in the long term, or that it does anything to strengthen a child’s relationship with a parent. I don’t pander to my children, and they are well aware of the acceptable boundaries of their behaviour. There are consequences if they traverse those boundaries, but they never include hitting. And I have good kids. I really, really do.

I don’t know if an occasional spank on the bottom can be blamed as sole cause for depression later in life, but why chance it when there are so many alternatives?

In our house, we will continue to discipline with an open mind and open arms, rather than an open hand.

 

 

Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005.

12 responses to “Why I Will Never Spank My Children”

  1. Mrs. Wilson says:

    With my first kid, I did spank her when she was younger. I gave her a tap on the hand if she touched something she knew she wasn’t allowed to, and in cases of purposeful defiance, she got a tap on the bottom. I stopped, though, because I found myself doing it when I was angry and there was no way I wanted to spank my child when I was angry, therefore inflicting more pain than I’d meant to. She hasn’t been spanked since. She, however, can have her behaviour corrected with just a look. Verbal discipline and time-outs/loss of privileges work with her. For her, it’s punishment enough that she knows we are disappointed in her behaviour.

    My second child is a whole different matter. She is as defiant as they come. She does not respond to time-outs or loss of privileges. She gets spanked once in a while, in extreme cases of defiance, but before she gets spanked, my husband or I take a moment to calm ourselves before we deliver her consequences.

    I’m not sure if I can get on board with the study you mentioned. My brothers and sister and I were spanked, and only one of us suffers from mental illness (me) and I can say with 99% certainty that is has nothing to do with getting spanked as a child. I deserved those spanks.

  2. TG says:

    I have spanked – and have quit spanking (Though it was maybe a total of 10 times all together) with one exception. Danger. I make no apologize for spanking my daughter to teach her to stay away from the fireplace or from playing with the dog food. I do not want her to get burned or salmonella poisoning. It only took once in both cases to stop the behavior – after weeks of every other method – and I will take the risk of whatever may come over possible 3rd degree burns because truth is with 3 kids (8,2 and a nursing 12 weeks) and a husband that works away from home for week at a time I do not have the ability to grow eyes in the back of my head though the kids sometimes think I can ;)

  3. Cari says:

    Spanking is violence, it is never OK!

  4. yuki says:

    i don’t have kids but i do not believe in spanking. Spanking is hitting and if you spank it teaches your child that it is okay to hit someone else. So you punish your child for hitting someone when you are hitting them. So they believe hitting is okay.

  5. AMC says:

    I was spanked for wrong doing but when I spanked my children (2) now young adults – I always explained why this was happening and also made sure it was more of a slap than a hit. I can understand that spanking can be more severe, which can lead to beating, but there must be consequences for actions. However if spanking then leads on to beating children, then these persons have not been shown how to be parents or have issues themselves. I do not feel that spanking affected me in any mental way, but it made me remember not to involve myself in anything I should not be doing.

  6. Sol says:

    It’s very hard to look at this issue from a strictly objective position – it’s too tainted with questionable psychological studies and even more questionable personal feelings and anecdotal evidence – so I’ll take my cues from my fellow mammals. Yes we are different because of language, but up until the point that a child has developed a real understanding of human communication, there is no reason we shouldn’t discipline our children the way other mammals do. I fully support using the equivalent of a mother dog nipping her puppy’s ear as a way of teaching a young child proper behaviour, ESPECIALLY as TG noted, when it comes to curbing DANGEROUS behaviour. Not a pants-down spanking or anything – that is not only humiliating but unnecessarily violent – but a quick smack on the hand or butt – any sort of negative stimulus that a child can understand before they have developed the ability to reason – is completely appropriate as far as I’m concerned. If you think a very young child can be taught not to do something dangerous by introducing the concept of their mortality or something abstract like that, you’re kidding yourself and endangering your child.

  7. AL says:

    I have spanked my children. Both of them. I think the purpose behind the spanking should be clear and spanking should never happen to express your own frustration as a parent. I spank my children when they do dangerous things like climbing steep stairs. After that they know not to do it. After I spank them and the crying is over, I hug them and say I’m sorry for spanking them but I just don’t want to see them get hurt by falling down the stairs and it scares me when they climb stairs. My son understands that I only punish them this way because I love them so much.

  8. Alice says:

    This topic is so overrated. I can think of so many other things that will potentially affect your child. Have you ever let out a big sigh and acted really disappointed in front of your little one? If spanking is not okay, that is certainly not okay either, also swearing, yelling, speaking loudly, and talking to others rudely and/or lack of respect etc is also not okay. Have you ever misunderstood your child for doing something wrong and telling them that they are wrong when all they wanted was to help out? Kids see us interact with everyone everyday, somethings will stay in their minds forever, like you speaking rudely to a cashier even. We are teaching them respect, patience, caring, social skills… and they see everything we do. My point is almost everything and anything can affect our child’s way of life. So stop talking about this topic. Child abuse should be talked about, not how we discipline our children.

  9. Debbie says:

    Everyone nowadays have shrinks whether it’s because they have stress or a mental illness from their lives are high stress jobs. Were they all spanked when they were kids?

    A lot of things throughout our lives will potentially cause us to have mental illnesses later. Spanking is different from beating up your kid. Lighten up everyone. Mental illnesses are talked about more than anything today and just admit everyone is crazy nowadays. Aren’t they?

  10. Alice says:

    This topic is so overrated. I can think of so many other things that will potentially affect your child. Have you ever let out a big sigh and acted really disappointed in front of your little one? If spanking is not okay, that is certainly not okay either, also swearing, yelling, speaking loudly, and talking to others rudely and/or lack of respect etc is also not okay. Have you ever misunderstood your child for doing something wrong and telling them that they are wrong when all they wanted was to help out? Kids see us interact with everyone everyday, somethings will stay in their minds forever, like you speaking rudely to a cashier even. We are teaching them respect, patience, caring, social skills… and they see everything we do. My point is almost everything and anything can affect our child’s way of life. So stop talking about this topic. Child abuse should be talked about, not how we discipline our children.

  11. Nicole says:

    You are an idiot. No kid ever deserves to be hurt by spanking! My son is strong willed also but we have never spanked/swatted him even for doing something dangerous. As a student in childhood development in college we learn why kids act how they do and even learn spanking is actually counted productive. I’d be ashamed of I caused my child even a second of physical pain. That’s not what we as parents should do. And my son no matter how rambunctious he is still knows when I say no I mean it. Parents need to stop being brainwashed into thinking they deserved to be spanked as a child. I admit I didn’t deserve if and have let my own parents know. They have since admitted they were wrong so I have forgiven them. I want my kids to behave caus they know it’s the right thing to do not because they are afraid to be hurt by me if they misbehave.

  12. Tolu says:

    It’s wrong, just wrong. It sets a VERY BAD example for them. It teaches them absolutly nothing. It does no good. Of course they would do it again, so why should you hit them? I’ve had expierence when I was a child & I would NEVER EVER want my children want to expierence that feeling again. It doesn’t make them “think about what they’ve done”. It just makes them angry. That’s right, not sad, but angry. I’m sure If a kid were written this, he/she would say the exact same thing. Sometimes it even makes them hurt on the inside. I’m not saying it’s not right to disipline children, of course you should disipline them, but not like this. Sure, the parents may have ALL THE POWER, that just means you’re a downright bully. Find other ways to disipline your child BESIDES hurting them.

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