Parenting Poll Of The Week – Does Spanking Work?

Last week I went to Red Robin for lunch. Sitting in the booth next to us was a toddler girl, maybe 2 or 3 years, with her mom. The girl kept standing up and turning around to our table, like toddlers do, but it wasn’t what I would call particularly bad behavior. Believe me, I have seen bad table behavior.

The mom was in a bad mood and wanted the girl to sit in her seat and wait patiently for the food to come. After asking demanding she sit down, the mom said very sternly:

If you don’t sit down now, I will spank you right here in the middle of the restaurant and everyone will see!

I wasn’t surprised that, to a toddler, the threat of being humiliated in public would have no effect. I mean, my toddler thinks nothing of skipping, dancing, or singing in public places. Or of being naked while doing those things.

We don’t spank our kids. It’s not so much because I am morally against it. I just don’t see how it actually works in disciplining kids. This mom could have had much better results if she had thought to bring some simple toys or snacks for her kid. Or maybe get up and walk around until the food was there.

Clearly, the spanking method she was using was not effective. I don’t have any problem with parents being allowed to spank their kids. As long as it doesn’t cross the line to abuse, they have the right. I just don’t see how it can work.


17 thoughts on “Parenting Poll Of The Week – Does Spanking Work?”

  1. It doesn’t. Plain and simple as that. This is something my husband and I go back and forth on . We have smacked the hands of our 2 toddlers after numerous warnings. This may be considered spanking in some parents’ eyes. Time -out seems to work best for “our family.”

    I have found that with my 2 boys that if we talk to them and tell them what is expected of them…most of the time it always works. On the occassions when it doesn’t… we simply remove them from whatever the situation is for a cool-down period for both them and us. I grew up being spanked…so did my husband…we are not emotionally scarred from it…did spanking make us better people? parents? I think not.

    A friend of mine pointed out (Jenny) “Do you think Jesus would spank his children?” It really brought the whole spanking thing into perspective for our family.

    I have noticed the more hubs and I are negative with what we say…the worse the 2 boys behavior is. If we handle it positively…the outcome is great. Now…there are times when mommy or daddy need a “time-out” too. It can stem from a bad day at work…lack of sleep…or whatever. This is when my hubs and I are “grown-up” enough to tell the other to please handle the situation.

    We have gotten remarks from other people…most of the time older grandparent-like individuals that it was nice to see us handle our kids the way we do. It has been brought to our attention that we speak to them using words like “thank you, please, and your welcome.”

    On a side note….we are guilty of using bribery at times…is this good? At times I think. :)

    Great subject suburban daddy.

  2. It definitely doesn’t. Our two-year-old son laughs at us when it’s threatened. And it teaches them to have violent reactions to anger. Instead, we focus on rewarding good behavior to encourage it. Also, as you put it, standing up in a booth at a restaurant is normal toddler behavior and definitely not worthy of a spanking.

  3. I wrote a big long comment here earlier and it didn’t work! Doh!

    Anyway, my mom spanked me and it made me scared and angry. I don’t want to pass that on to my child. Besides, I have a temper and if I write myself a permission slip to hit my daughter, who knows what might happen if I got angry and didn’t think hard enough about what I was doing?

    We try to create a “yes environment” for Suzi, removing temptation and redirecting her rather than fussing when she does find something inappropriate to play with. She’s only one but it works so far. Maybe the uber-classy mom in your story would benefit from taking her daughter to a faster restaurant, or calling ahead so they could get started on her order and cut back on wait time.

    If people are going to spank their kids they should do it on those rare occasions when the child has truly behaved abhorrently. Standing up in a booth, like Jason said, is normal. It pisses me off to no end to see kids spanked and humiliated for not acting like adults, when even their own parents can’t act like adults!

  4. I say “yes” and “no.” It depends on the child and their personality. Worked for me and I don’t feel that I am any worse because of it yet for my little sister… well, I doubt she was ever spanked. Different kids just need different methods of discipline.

  5. The problem with spanking is that, in the event that it doesn’t work, what do you use then? It’s like nuclear weapons. If using them doesn’t get you to your happy place, you’re pretty much screwed.

    We’ve always focused on enticing them to the positive rather than threatening them away from the negative. It’s worked wonders thus far.

    Funny, but I’ve been in your shoes many times previously: kid standing across the booth/airplane seat/any close-proximity public space and staring at you. Not being all that bad, all things considered…just cute. In cases like that, I’m inclined to smile back and not pretend to be a curmudgeon. I’m sorry the mom didn’t pick up on your comfort level. Sometimes, parents need to loosen the reins a little, too.

  6. No.
    I was spanked repeatedly as a kid; in fact, we knew who was coming home first and angled to get spanked by the parent with the lighter hand. So it did not deter the behaviour ( in the case of my brother and me ). Also, looking back, I behaved worse when I wasn’t getting any attention; knowing I was going to get spanked was a surety of some attention. So in some ways, spanking encourages worse behaviour.

    My wife, on the other hand, wasn’t spanked as a kid.

    We don’t spank our kids, although there have been a few cases where we were totally frustrated and at the ends of our ropes, willing to try anything to get the kid to listen. We give each other timeouts at that point.

    Actually, dumping water on their heads works the best for us, for a negative response to their actions.

  7. HELP! I am being outnumbered by my family about this spanking issue and need some reassurance and moral support. I am a child development specialist/interventionist and have worked with young children for over 10 years. I have always been an adamant opposer of spanking and believe it teaches only negative lessons. I now have two young daughters of my own (3 and a half and 1 and a half). My older daughter is what I would call ‘strong willed’ and ‘high need’. She has pushed my patience to the limit and I have tried EVERYTHING I know to get her to follow instructions and to listen. She has no remorse for bad behavior, has no problem with sitting in time out, doesn’t care if favorite toys/activities/etc. are removed, has no interest in reward systems or positive reinforcement etc. and with all of the above, she consistent repeats the bad behavior – defiance, hitting, backtalking, etc. I am the primary caregiver, a stay at home mom and a very ‘intentional’ parent. About a year ago, my daughter’s behavior had gotten so out of hand that my husband suggested that we spank her (out of desperation). For a long time, I refused and let him do it but since I am the primary caregiver, essentially ‘the job’ fell onto my shoulders. I have HATED every time I have had to do it and continue to HATE myself for doing it. And now, a year later, I am still at my wits end and am feeling forced to spank more although it is clearly STILL not working. Her behavior has now gotten both my parents and my in-laws involved! I am telling everyone that the spanking is not working and that I think we need professional counseling! My husband does not want anyone else involved in our business and my parents and in-laws tell me that I am “obviously not doing it right”. My previous confidence in parenting and working with young children is completely gone not to mention my own personal self-esteem and I am really struggling. PLEASE give me some advice!!!

  8. I think it just needs to be consistency! I see so many parents these days giving “warning after warning after warning”. So many parents have idle threats. If you say you are going to leave if your child is misbehaving then leave! If you say they are getting a time out then do it! I do spank my children but never do it with emotion. I also never do it in public to avoid humiliation. I set expectations right 0ff the bat ie no hitting pushing, good listening etc. I believe in routine and sticking with it ie naptime, lunch time etc. Kids need to know what to expect. I spend time with my kids but I think it is also important for them to spend time occupying themselves. Life is not a big party all the time. These days parents feel they need to constantly keep there children entertained.

  9. Consistency, love, patience is the key to any discipline. If you are screaming at your kid to behave and aren’t taking into account the situation (they are just being kids, they are tired, hungry, etc.) no method will produce effective results. Any “spank” that is reactionary instead of disciplinary is inapropriate, but the same goes for time outs. If you are yelling at the kid to go to their room instead of investigating the situation, figuring out the cause of the misbehaviour and dealing with the issue, you are being just as ineffective. In our family we use both depending on the situation. Sometimes kids just need to chill and sometimes they need a swat.

  10. We have found with our kids that spanking is not the most effective form of discipline. In general, timeouts, the removal of toys and/or privileges, redirection, etc. tend to work better for us and our kids. I’m not anti-spanking, but I do think it should be used as a last resort and not the primary method of discipline. My sons definitely respond much better to the threat of losing a favorite toy than to getting a spanking. I do think all discipline should be consistent and administered as calmly as possible (God knows that can be hard some days :)). There is an excellent debate about spanking at Experts from both sides weigh in and make some interesting points on the topic.

  11. We tried giving one swat with the hand to our 3-year-old daughter but it didn’t work. Time outs work better, and we use spanking as a backup if she comes out of her room early. Since the hand wasn’t effective we started using a ping-pong paddle which she hates. The first spanking is given through clothes, but if there’s a second spanking for the same thing we do undress her and spank bare. Using spanking sparingly has worked.

  12. I was spanked frequently as a child and probably 99% of the time I deserved it. Whether or not it’s effective really depends on the child and how the spanking is administered. Some children just don’t respond to spankings, some do. Also, if you’re spanking your children because you’re angry, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. A child needs to understand that they are receiving the consequences for their actions rather than being used as a way for their parents to vent anger.

    I am a better person today because of the way my parents disciplined me, and I’m very grateful to them for that.

  13. Hey, Frustratedmom, don’t spank your children.
    It sounds like there is no consistency in your routine. I recommend using Supernanny’s Naughty Step technique (timeout).Never give your daughters many warnings, just one. After that, follow that with a time-out. Tell the child why they are there and walk away. If they get up, do not say anything to them and put them back. Here is where the behavior breaker comes in — before they get up have the child apologize,and if they do not, have the child stay there for another time limit and repeat the process. I have seen Jo Frost (supernanny) use this, and eventually the child understands their actions. Anyway, be consistent, and do not spank. I do not recommend it. And, stick to your guns — YOU ARE IN CONTROL!
    Good luck! I hope you find this helpful.

  14. Spanking absolutely works, when they’re young. I agree that it should not be done out of anger but rather as a calculated punishment for bad behavior. Spank them, put them in a place of punishment (the corner, a chair, etc..) and do not talk. Let them think about it. Talk later when they are not emotional if you feel the need to. If they put their hands in a fire, the fire will not talk to them about why it is a bad idea. It burns them. And they will have plenty of time, as it heals, to figure out that it was not something they ever want to do again. If you go too close to the bee hive you get stung. No negotiations. The fire and bees are a great lesson for us. If allow arguments and negotiations over bad behavior they will always argue and negotiate before listening. Set the rule, set the punishment, be strict and consistent and do not entertain arguments. It does not have to be spanking, but spanking definitely works.

  15. NO!
    Here in Sweden spanking is forbidden by law since the 70’s (in school already in the 1940’s)
    and we sure don’t have as much violence here as in other countries. We do also never had a war for like 300 years… I see a connection, do you?

    Smacking your child is ABUSE.
    We TALK to each other to solve problems, you don’t beat your neighbour up if you two have an issue, right?!
    Why you wanna hurt your kid?
    When you spank them, you teach them that violence is okay.
    The child will only frighten the pain, not learn by his or her mistakes.
    A child is just a small human being. Take care of it instead of trying to get the respect by beating and hurting your own flesh and blood.

  16. Um….no! But i am of the belief of public whippings for idiots that do know and are taking the risk of spanking a child that is delayed in nurological or cognitive growth…how barbarack is our society.

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