A recent study reveals a connection between spanking in childhood and mental health diagnoses later in life.
Whether or not you agree with the findings, I’d like to present you with 9 reasons spanking is never a good idea.
1. Spanking shows that “stronger” is right. When you use physical punishment to show a child he/she did something wrong, you are sending the unintended message that whomever is bigger and stronger decides what’s right and what’s wrong. Does this mean your child can determine what’s right when he or she becomes stronger than you? Could this contribute to why elder abuse is so prevalent?
2. Spanking demonstrates that older people have a right to hit younger people. You’re sending the message that older, bigger people have the right to hit younger, smaller people. This is especially confusing when you’re disciplining a child for hitting someone. What do you think can happen when your child grows to be bigger than you?
3. Spanking gives the example that violence solves problems. Spanking also shows children that violence is an appropriate way to solve life’s problems. “If I don’t like what you do, then I’m going to hit you.” Physically punishing your child can be perceived as a form of bullying, sending the message to your child that this is an effective way to get others to do things your way.
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4. Spanking damages self-esteem. When children are hit by the very people who are supposed to protect them, it causes a child to question, “What’s wrong with me?” Self-esteem is a critically important and fragile thing. If you want your child to succeed in life, the level of his or her self-esteem will be a major determining factor.
5. Spanking can increase the likelihood of developing mental health symptoms. According to this new study, links have been found from later mental health diagnoses to higher incidents of childhood spanking for disciplinary purposes. I am willing to bet that when spanking your child, your intention wasn’t to create long-term psychological problems.
6. Spanking damages your relationship and trust. Do you remember being hit as a child? Do you ever remember thinking afterward, “I’m so thankful my parent loves me enough to hit me?” Of course you didn’t! You were probably thinking, “I hate you” or some version of an anti-relationship building comment.
Of course that doesn’t last long if parents do an overall good job of parenting. However, spanking can shake the foundation of trust between you and your child. Your child trusts you to always have his or her best interests in mind. Spanking can greatly cause your child to question this premise.
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7. No one can learn when they’re afraid. The work of Dr. Bruce Lipton has shown us that it is biologically impossible to learn and implement higher-order thinking when fearful. The fear response triggers the fight or flight instinct and adrenaline and cortisol flood our bloodstreams and brains. Our blood is diverted to our extremities and higher order frontal lobe thinking is basically shut down in favor of more reflexive responses, originated from our instinctual brain stem area. If you want your child to learn something, it’s critical to reduce fear rather than increase it.
8. Spanking reduces the influence you have with your children. I have always said, “relationship is the root of all influence.” When you think of those people you listen to, trust and seek out for advice, it’s those people who support and encourage you, not generally those who “smack you down,” either literally or physically. Do you want to have influence with your child? Then you might want to stop hitting him or her, even if it’s for “his own good.”
9. Spanking teaches children to lie to avoid detection or to avoid you. When you think about punishment, it generally does not deter behavior unless the punisher is present. Most people do what they want to do, unless the risk of detection is high. Punishment teaches children to avoid detection by avoiding his or her parents.
There was a time in history when we “cured” headaches by drilling holes in people’s heads to let evil spirits out. There was also a time when we sent messages via pony express and/or telegraph. These were effective for the time because it was the best we knew how to do with the information available to us.
This is 2012. We no longer have to spank children to have them understand the “error” of their ways. We have made advances in parenting. We now know how to communicate in a way that actually teaches, rather than punishes. Doing something because it’s always been done that way and worked out in the past, is not a good reason for continuing.
The Latin root of discipline means “to teach,” while the Latin root of punishment means, “to inflict pain.”
Let’s try and practice more humane ways of teaching our children our version of “right” and “wrong” — instead of trying to “inflict pain.” They will thank you. Their children will thank you. And their children’s children will thank you.
My process of Empowerment Parenting provides an alternative to physical discipline that works to help parents be the kind of parents they want to be, while raising happy, responsible and respectful children.
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