Despite today's predominate thinking that spanking is largely an outdated and destructive discipline technique, plenty of parents are still spanking away -- and not just over big issues. A recent study, which was actually designed to find out how much parents yell at their children, found a surprising number of parents spank their children and do so for pretty minor reasons.
Researcher George Holden, who conducted the study, which is the first "real-time" one of spanking, found 37 parents (36 moms and 1 dad) who agreed to let their lives be tape recorded from the time they picked their children up from daycare until bedtime. The economic makeup was equally divided, but the majority were white. While he was listening for the yelling, it was the spanking he heard that was most shocking. There are no hard statistics yet from his study, as that data is still being coded, but he said the spanking he heard was "virtually all highly inappropriate."
Of the results, he told ABC:
They highlight that so much of corporal punishment are misguided notions of parenting that are bad for the child. It's sad that a parent inadvertently ruins the quality of their relationship by jumping on the child for being a normal kid.
Here's more about what he found:
It's heartbreaking to hear what's going on behind closed doors. While I support a parent's right to discipline as he or she chooses, there's a definite difference between discipline and abuse. Spanking skates way too close to that line for my taste. I have never and can never imagine hitting one of my children. As naughty as my daughter is, I just can't imagine inflicting physical pain on her.
Also as Holden points out, it can easily move beyond discipline.
The problem is when parents rely on physical punishment, they are more likely to escalate when the kids misbehave if they do not stop. They come back and they hit harder and are indeed more at risk to abuse them.
Others of the spare-the-rod mentality believe it's perfectly acceptable and sometimes necessary. Robert Larzelere is an outspoken defender of spanking and says it leads to "less disobedience and less aggression." He does say parents should use caution but that "sometimes kids need negative consequences."
I have friends who have done it as a last resort, and said it was the only thing that worked for safety or a big issue with their children. They made very deliberate decisions to do so and didn't do it anger. I can respect that, but think it's few parents who can and do spank so thoughtfully. This expert talks about many of the dynamics one must consider before doing it.
I don't go so far as to think spanking should be outlawed, but I do think parents should have a good understanding of what "spanking" is and the potential damage it can do if used inappropriately.
Do you spank your children? Are you surprised at how often and how inappropriately it seems others may be doing so?
Image via Ben Husmann/Flickr