Spanking is a mild form of corporal punishment. The American Academy of Pediatrics (as well as many, many child development experts) strongly opposes ever striking a child. Whether or not parents believe in spanking their kids seems to be somewhat based on the time and place (in the Midwest in the '50s, spanking and much stronger physical abuse was simply an acceptable part of “child rearing”). It's also related to the education level of the parent (the more educated, the less likely they are to spank). Many parents occasionally hit their kids when they are frightened (the child has done something dangerous), or from sheer stress, frustration, or fear of having no other options.
If, occasionally, you lose it and spank your child, you aren't going to damage him or your relationship forever. It's not an effective or positive approach to discipline, though. It's a more serious problem if you commonly spank your child, or if it's one of your dominant disciplinary methods.
It's a Good Idea!
If you've spanked your child, you may feel guilty and contrite. Don't be afraid to express your contrition to your child. Use the experience to teach your child that everybody makes mistakes, and how to handle contrition, remorse, and restitution. This present-day mistake, rather than a tale from your past, can be a powerful teaching tool.
I find it hard to justify spanking at any time. Here's why:
- It teaches your child that violence is an acceptable way to express anger and deal with conflict. This contradicts the rest of how you are trying to raise your child.
- It is painful. Deliberately instilling pain on your child is cruel (even if you believe it's “for their own good”). The slogan, “No pain, no gain” does not apply to child rearing.
- It's harmful emotionally for you. Have you ever felt wonderful after hitting a child? Spanking often leads to remorse, guilt, and doubts about the quality of your own parenting skills. Avoid the agony-resist the urge to smack. It's a very unpleasant sensation to feel like a bully.
- It's harmful emotionally for the child. Spanking is traumatic, makes a child feel as though there's something wrong with her (instead of something wrong with her behavior), creates resentment, and can lead to body image and self image problems.
- Spanking tells a child she is powerless. A powerless person will act out, leading to more problems.
- Spanking is disrespectful to the child, and it doesn't help teach respectful values or standards.
- It breaks trust and invades a child's sense of security.
- It halts effective communication.
- Where do you go from there? Once you resort to physical discipline, the only steps “up” are more, or stronger physical discipline. Don't start down that path.
- It doesn't work! In the very, very short term, you may stop the misbehavior. The backlash is not worth the very, very short term.