I know that spanking is a hot-button topic. Whether or not it’s for you, let’s at least look at some data and ideas to make sure we’re all on the same page about what it is and what it’s not and make the most informed decision possible.
Anyone who’s trying to figure out how to discipline their child is, hopefully, making sure to keep their child’s heart in mind. All discipline should be with the intention of gaining the child’s heart and trust. Focusing on gaining obedience will result in a rebellious and secretive child, and focusing on being the best friend will result in a child that has no discipline. We don’t discipline despite loving our kids; we do it because we love them.
Who Needs to Be Reading This?
If you hate spanking and can’t understand how parents can hit their kids, then this post is for you. I’d like to open your eyes to what spanking is—not to convince you that if you’re not spanking then your kid will turn into a bank robber, but to convince you that those who do spank are not of the devil. We all love our children and are trying to do our best by them. We don’t want to demonize anyone, whether they spank their children or not.
If you believe spanking is an act of violence, then this post is for you. I look forward to showing you that spanking is actually a positive experience for us, and it brings joy to our home.
If you believe that spanking works, but it’s not working for you or you’re not sure how to go about doing it, this post is for you. I’ll walk you through step by step what our discipline looks like (and spanking is just a small part of it).
1. What is Corporal Punishment?
I feel like it’s most important to debunk some of these ideas that have been going around about spanking first. Many believe spanking to be an act of violence, and studies show that spanking your kids can lead to aggression, learning problems, inability to solve problems with words, bullying, and other problems with kids.
Take this one for example: In the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review , these authors discuss corporal punishment in America. It includes pinching and slapping in the face. Because Corporal Punishment is technically any form of physical punishment, studies that look into it include: punching, hair pulling, lifting by the ears, locking in a closet, biting, shoving, and other physical means that are (what I can only consider to be) abuse. It’s also important to note that almost universally across the studies, the kids who develop aggression and anti-social disorders ALSO DON’T experience a warm and supportive family environment.
To sum up: People tend to say spanking is bad because studies show it leads to a slew of negative behavioral and developmental issues. The truth is that they aren’t studying spanking. They’re studying all corporal punishment, most of which is abuse. Also, those families are usually NOT providing a loving and warm family environment. So those studies actually don’t apply to the majority of people who do spank.
I shouldn’t say that. They just don’t apply to me. I spank. I don’t abuse, and I provide a warm and loving familial environment for my kids.
I would call it common sense that kids who are abused and are not loved would develop some serious detrimental effects to their psychology and well being.
It’s also important to remember the plethora of well-adjusted adults, the majority of whom have had some form of corporal punishment and would probably say that it was beneficial. Mind you, I’m NOT talking about abuse victims.
For more information on this, I encourage you to go to Google Scholar and look at the studies that have actually been performed. Most of them you have to purchase for $30-$40, but you can also request your library get it, and I’ve had excellent success with the library purchasing things I ask for. Go in and talk to a librarian, and they should be able to sort you out.
2. Spanking May Not be for You.
As much as I support spanking done in a loving and training way, it honestly isn’t for everyone. If you can’t spank your kids without getting really angry, then that issue needs to be sorted out first. The mindset on spanking is that it isn’t a punishment meant to hurt your child, but it’s a training technique used to teach your child. If you’re “taking anything out on your kid,” you’re not doing it right, and you shouldn’t be spanking because that’s too close to abuse. If you don’t have a handle on your rage, then you don’t have a handle on disciplining your kid.
If you have a history of abuse or had a negative experience with spanking (which is probably similar to or the same as abuse), then you probably need to evaluate whether or not it’s for you. You definitely need to evaluate how you’re going to do it in a way that’s different than your experience.
If you absolutely hate the idea and know you won’t do it, then make sure that you have a different disciplinary method in place. With any training technique, consistency is key, so if you’re going to procrastinate spanking or not do it at all, then you need to get a discipline plan that you can stick with.
3. Spanking Isn’t the Only Part of Our Discipline Program
Spanking isn’t the end-all be-all of our discipline program. You spilled milk? Spank! Got a C on a test? Spank! Walked into a room without knocking? Spank! Looked at me funny? Spank!! Not at all! There are all sorts of other disciplinary techniques out there, and spanking (for us) is reserved for outright defiance. Some phases, we’ll spank every day. Then sometimes we’ll go a while without needing to at all. The kids go up and down. In the meantime, if the kids are fighting with each other, I’ll frequently make them sit next to each other on the couch holding hands (they love this because they end up making each other laugh after about 3 minutes). If they walk into a room without knocking, I remind them of the expectation and have them practice three times of knocking and waiting for an answer. Training them with positive experiences is a great way to enforce good behavior.
4. Spanking is NOT an Act of Violence
Spanking is a training technique. I’ve identified 7 separate steps to my “spanking routine,” if you will, and actually spanking the kid is only one of those things. When my kids leave my room or the bathroom (or whatever private area we’re in), they are smiling and happy and excited. I’m not kidding, and I’m not sugar-coating anything. My kids DO NOT feel like it’s violence, and it’s not. The intention of violence is to harm. The intention of discipline (like spanking) is to train and edify. That may seem like a semantic nuance, but it changes the mindset and how you approach it in profound ways. Your kids can tell if you are trying to hurt them. Training, on the other hand, is telling your kid, “I love you too much to let you do this and not correct you.”
5. When do you Start Spanking?
As a first-time parent, I dragged my feet with spanking. I felt like if she couldn’t verbalize to me what she had done, then how could I be SURE that she actually knew what she was doing was wrong? But at 18 months, how much can any kid verbalize? Here’s what someone pointed out to me, though: I told my kid not to take the outlet stoppers out of the outlet. We’ll call this kid Mischief. Mischief went over and tried to take the outlet stopper out.
“No,” I said. “That’s dangerous!” I went over, picked Mischief up, and redirected. Then I had to redirect again. And again. Then Mischief did a curious thing. Mischief took blocks over to the wall and played with them. Right next to the outlet. Mischief raised that chubby hand toward the wall while keeping the eyes on the blocks. Then, right before touching the outlet, looked at me.
To see if I was looking at them.
In that moment, I knew. Mischief knows exactly what Mischief is doing. I was making excuses for not doing discipline because I was afraid of hurting my kid, but the only thing that would assuredly hurt Mischief is not teaching that child to obey and respect me.
I think most of us, in our heart of hearts, know whether or not our kids are understanding what they’re doing. If not, though, then ask your spouse or parenting mentor (or someone you trust who has good kids) what they think. Invite them over and have them watch. Do they think your kid understands? (Side Note: If you don’t have a parenting mentor, get one!)
It’s important to note, though, that a one-year-old drawing on himself with a marker is not deserving of discipline. That’s a one-year-old being a one-year-old. Unless you’ve specifically explained using markers and have had training days on when they’re appropriate to use and when not to, then it’s not fair to expect your little Picasso to know not to draw on the walls. That’s not inherent. And it’s not defiance. Not really worth spanking. Use your judgment please, but remember what good behavior bad behavior really is.
6. Steps to Spanking-
A: Evaluate Yourself.
Are you currently angry? It’s imperative to not spank out of anger. If you’re angry, then take a break to calm down.
Have you been fair to your kid? For example, if you two are playing and roughhousing, and then you tell your kid to stop, but they keep playing, that wouldn’t be an appropriate time to spank. A kid needs a few warnings. It seems okay to think that as soon as you say stop, your kid needs to obey, but it’s not so easy for kids to go from one activity to another with no warning. So you need to give them notice that the playing will stop soon, calm down the playing gradually, and then expect the playing to stop. Otherwise, you’ll give your kid behavioral whiplash, and they’ll be sitting there thinking, “We were having fun, so what happened?”
Is your kid being outright defiant? A lot of times bad behavior is just a disguised misunderstanding. I remember when my kid got out a DVD, and we told that kid to put it back. Magoo put it back where the videogames go. We kept telling Magoo to put it away. It took a minute to realize that Magoo simply didn’t understand where it was supposed to go. Once we showed Magoo where it went, then it was put away without problems.
Are the expectations set for them appropriate? It’s not fair to expect an 18-month-old to sit still and be quiet for an hour while you’re on the phone. You know your kid, so you can watch your kid and get an idea of how long you expect them to be quiet, or sit still, or whatever. Once you get to that maximum time, though, it’s not necessarily bad behavior for them to play; they are built to play!! That being said, set appropriate expectations and expect your kid to meet them.
Going into this interaction, your attitude needs to be that you’re going to train your kid. This is a good thing! We have an opportunity to train! You can’t go into it going, “Now she’s gonna get it! I’m gonna punish her!” All parenting should be done with you two on the same side working together (even if the child doesn’t understand that). Don’t go Rambo.
B: Get into a private space. Don’t yell or get angry.
I do not EVER believe that public humiliation should be used on a child. That’s me. So if my kid is having a discipline issue that needs to be addressed, then I go and say quietly in their ear, “Please go to the bathroom, and I’ll meet you there in a second.” Sometimes they start to cry, and sometimes they don’t. But I’m not going to announce their bad behavior or yell at my kid in front of everyone.
Side Note- please don’t talk about your kids’ bad behavior in front of other adults, too. I remember feeling embarrassed when my parents would talk about some issue with the other parents. Your discipline is between you and your kids. Keep it that way. Now, I do believe that discussing strategies and techniques with other parents can be helpful and edifying in the community. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that other people are going through the same thing- Your kids fight?! Mine, too!!!
But I try to never do this with my kids around.
I learned this the hard way. For so long it was, “They’re so young they don’t understand, and they’re not even paying attention to us anyway.”
Then one day, it wasn’t. I had to apologize big for that one. (End Side Note)
Get to a private area so that you can speak privately with your kid. Also, please don’t forget that your discipline is NOT you working out your anger on your kid. So don’t get angry. If you are angry, take a break and a breather. Remind yourself that you’re not perfect, neither is your kid, and all of this is a part of the process. This is for your child’s benefit. Not for YOU to feel better.
C: Identify the problem (It’s better if the kid can identify it.)
I’ll start by asking an open-ended question. “What happened?” or “What’s going on?”
A lot of times my kid will just state what they did that was wrong. Sometimes I have to ask guiding questions that lead to it. They are really smart, kids are. Make sure that you have discussed the expectation prior to discipline. It’s also good to discuss why that rule is there. For example, if they’re using mean words, then talking about whether or not that kid would like it if other people used mean words to them would be a good idea.
So identify the problem, why it’s a problem, and positive solutions instead. (“If you want your sibling to stop doing something, then say ‘please stop’ or come get mom; you don’t need to hit.”)
Some people use their hands. I don’t. I started by using my hand, but then I didn’t like that she associated my hand with pain. I was warned about that, but then ignored it. I learned the hard way, so now I use something else and she has no problems with it; things are way better. I made sure to do it to myself a few times with the instrument to make sure I knew how hard I was doing it. I didn’t want to spank her harder than necessary.
Side Note: I never let anyone else spank my kids. Other than my husband. Grandparents and caregivers do not have permission because they don’t have that trust and relationship with my kids. However, my kids do know that when they are with other people, I will spank them if they are behaving inappropriately while I’m away. I deal with it when I get back. My caregivers have never expressed concern about not being allowed to spank my kids. End Side Note.
E: Give them a Minute.
I always ask my kid if they want me to leave the room. They never do. But some kids would. Some kids aren’t fast processors, and they’re not ready to immediately spit out the lesson back to you and jump into happiness again. Give them a minute to cry (crying is OKAY, for heaven’s sake!), compose themselves (I’ll also ask them if they want to do some deep breaths with me. Yogi says yes, Hanna Barbera says no), and then you can try talking to them.
F: Identify the heart change.
You haven’t achieved a heart change if your kid is screaming obscenities at you, vandalizing the area, or laughing at you. What is a heart change? A heart change is a little tough to describe, but easy to see (like a rainbow, or a profound novel, or Richard Simmons). The heart change is when you can tell they know that they did wrong and hopefully feel sorry for it, they accept their discipline, and they’re now ready to move on.
Hanna Barbera likes to curse me with barrenness (“I’m NOT yours, and you can have NO CHILDREN!!). Yogi likes to tell me that I’m a “bad cooker and discipliner and maker!” Obviously, I didn’t quite have their heart at that moment.
Reciting verses, praying together. It’s good to pray. Sometimes the kid will pray, too, but I always pray. I thank God for everything they are that’s great; this is actually most of the prayer–thankfulness for all of my kids’ qualities. I pray for them to learn to obey, and I pray for me to be a good parent to them. Everything intentional.
We’ll recite Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” If they won’t look me in the eye when we’re doing that, I know I don’t have their heart. If I don’t have their heart, I go back to spanking and proceed from there. Some people spank until their kids cry, but I do numbers instead (my kids cry as soon as they hear they’re going to be spanked). I begin with three swats to the bottom. I keep the grouping at three.
Side Note: If you have a kid with autism, talk to other parents before enacting something like this. Eye contact won’t work for every parent because some kids honestly can’t maintain eye contact for long periods of time. You know your kid. Use your parental sense. End Side Note.
Have a conversation about what they could do differently and what positive behavior will look like. If my kids are fighting, I’ll ask Rocky, “Okay, Rocky, what are some ways you could bless Apollo Creed? How can you get along? What will you do if Apollo gets on your nerves again?” That kind of thing is positive.
G: Restoration of the Relationship
Make sure they understand FORGIVENESS. And that means you better forgive them. Make sure they know that you love them all the time no matter what. I do this by saying a bunch of actions they do and repeating the chorus, I still love you (Even when you disobey, I still love you. Even when you share with your sibling, I still love you. Even when you have stinky feet, I still love you.). The idea is to get them giggling and remind them of your unconditional love that is completely independent of behavior. Another way I do it is I will ask them how much I love them. They hold their arms out- you love me THIS much, and then I tickle their ribs mercilessly. They love it, and this is a crucial step to spanking.
I’ll ask them if they’re ready to go back out there. They’re smiling, happy, and feel secure in our relationship and my love for them. I see them spanking their stuffed animals, and they’re always telling their stuffed animals, “I’m doing this because I love you. I love you too much to let you be mean and not help you.” And I know that this is right, and this is for us.
I hope this gave you an idea about spanking and how it looks in a loving and supportive environment. If spanking isn’t for you, be mindful of your word choice when discussing spanking with others. I don’t like it when people say things like, “I just don’t spank because there are better ways to discipline than beating my kid.” I don’t beat my kid. That term says that I’m abusing my kid, and as you’ve seen from above, that’s the last thing I’m doing. I know the signs of abuse, and my kids have NONE of them. It’s okay if it’s not for you, just please don’t demonize those of us who do choose to use this disciplinary technique.
If you have ideas or questions that you can word respectfully, then please comment below! Thanks for reading!