you spank your child for misbehavior?
Psychologist, Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff
examined 55 studies of corporal punishment
to determine the long lasting effects.
She reviewed the studies and found more
negatives than positives regarding spanking.
Corporal punishment was defined as using
force and physical pain to get the child
to control his behavior.
is the use of an aversive consequence
to decrease or eliminate negative behavior,
but does not involve physical force. Discipline
teaches the child what to do and how to
behave the next time. Discipline helps
the child internalize your standards and
values so that he will have internal reasons
to act appropriately. You discipline every
time you reason with your child explaining
what he did wrong and use a natural consequence
so that he will refrain from the undesired
behavior in the future.
Undesirable Side Effects Of Corporal Punishment
Physical punishment serves as a model
for aggression. Children imitate or model
what they see adults due to them. Aggression
for hitting, shoving and kicking may stop
the child's misbehavior temporarily, but
it stimulates further aggression in the
child. He will learn that it is all right
to hurt others. Spanking does not teach
the child the'moral message' that you
should not hurt or abuse people.
punishing adult may be identified as a
negative and aversive person. When punishment
is paired with criticism, name-calling
or verbal abuse, the child may become
afraid of the punisher. The parent loses
trust with the child.
effects of punishment have been shown
to last only for a short time. While the
child may stop the inappropriate behavior,
the punishment does not teach the child
what to do in the future.
After being punished, the child is left
in emotional turmoil and resentment. He
may focus on fantasy and revenge, which
then can grow into hatred.
The child learns not misbehave when the
parent is around. The punished behavior
may stop only in the presence of the adult.
The child may continue the negative behavior
when the adult is not around.
child may stop the behavior for which
he is punished and substitute another
aggressive act. He may stop the negative
behavior such as hitting but then increase
other aggressive behavior such as verbal
abuse of the person he is upset with.
frequent use of punishment may cause a
child to withdraw or regress into acting
younger. He may become non trusting and
fearful of others.
child may lie or become sneaky to avoid
being punished. He will not learn to take
responsibility for what he did wrong,
but may justify it or minimalizes it.
The child may develop negative beliefs
of himself that are associated with the
frequent use of punishment such as " I'm
a bad person. I'm mean." These negative
beliefs result in further lowered self-esteem.
punished, the child may strike back at
the person or h e may take his anger and
displace it at an object, animal or another
When the parent threatens the child with
a terrible consequence that is not carried
out, there can be several responses. The
child can become excessively frightened
or the child learns to distrust the parent
and view the parent as a liar.
to Make Punishment More Effective
punishment is chosen to stop a behavior
that is harmful to the child or another
person. There are situations where punishment
is chosen because other methods of correction
do not work. When the child's misbehavior
gives him something he enjoys and does
not want to give up, (attention, feelings
of power), positive methods of correction
may not work well with him. Sometimes
powerful reinforcers such as payoffs from
the behavior keep the child acting out.
considering using corporal punishment
ask yourself, " Can I get the desired
result to get my child to stop doing the
misbehavior by using another technique
that is less harmful to my child's self
esteem? When I use in this particular
form of punishment, what message am I
sending to my child?'
punishment should be clearly outlined
to the child in advance. He needs to know
clear rules about what is and what is
not allowed. Clear direct consequences
for a specific misbehavior could be given
so that when the child misbehaves, he
is making a choice to get the consequences.
Dispense the punishment in a calm, neutral
voice. If you yell, you are training your
child to refrain from minding until the
adult yells at him.
should be consistent and applied every
time that the child engages in the misbehavior.
Punishment must be given depending on
the child's actions, not your mood on
your fatigue level.
the punishment immediately after the misbehavior
to make the association between the act
of wrongdoing and the consequence of punishment.
of warning signal to tell the child what
he is doing wrong before administrating
punishment. Give the child a choice to
stop his misbehavior before giving him
warnings do not threaten, but gives clear
information about what will happen if
the child does not stop the acting out.
verbal warning is enough. The research
shows that if you give the child three
chances (or ten) before you move in, the
child will wait until the third warning
(or tenth) before he stops the misbehavior.
Saying things like,'Did you hear what
I said? Don't make me tell you one more
time.' actually make your child resistant
to following through on your commands.
Repeated warnings train your child to
become amazingly'parent deaf!'
You Believe That You Must Spank
abuse is associated with long-term negative
effects on children. The research does
not point to an occasional spanking as
causing long-term harm in children. If
you must use spanking, use it sparingly
to make a strong point that you will not
tolerate potentially harmful behavior.
Use spanking with a clear purpose in mind
after you have tried other methods of
you have been raised in an angry home,
you may inadvertently perpetuate some
of the abuse you suffered. Do not apply
corporal punishment when you are frustrated
or angry. You may not know the boundaries
and when to stop spanking. It is too easy
to get out of control when spanking a
child and lose your sense of reason. For
this reason, parents who have experienced
severe discipline methods as a child may
decide not to use corporal punishment.
They choose to stop the generational violence
that has been passed down to them.
parents save corporal punishment for those
times when the child does something that
is dangerous to himself or others. This
includes continuing to play with an electric
plug or playing in a busy street. Punishment
is used only to make a strong statement.
For example, one mother spanked her five-year-old
son when he ran away to play in the deep
drainage ditch filled with water. Because
she rarely used corporal punishment, the
child learned that his mother meant business
and would not tolerate life-threatening
times, a child seems to increasingly accelerate
the misbehavior and ignore verbal warnings,
time out and other forms of discipline.
He appears to be testing the limits to
see how far he can go in acting out. My
mother used to say that this child with
frenzied energy and behavior out of control
needed to have a'knot jerked in his tail.'
It is the surprise of the spanking, rather
than the force that breaks the child's
a mother with three young children thirty
years ago, I was not trained as a psychologist.
When my oldest child reached the age of
seven, we decided that he was too old
to be spanked, and we needed to find more
other ways to discipline him. Talk about
frustration! I had to come up with creative
ways of discipline such as reasoning,
taking away privileges and Time Out. At
this time, I returned to the University
to get my master's degree in Child Psychology.
My training in Behavior Modification helped
tremendously. I used charts and stars
as a token system to provide positive
reinforcement to motivate my children
to do their chores and be kind to each
article for a parent of angry children
is available at parent8.htm
and Teachers Against Violence for Kids
links many web site on alternatives to
violence at www.nospank.net/toc.htm
Miller, a psychologist and well-known
writer, discusses how violence committed
to children results in hatred, terrorism
and dictatorships. Her writings can be
seen at www.nospank.net/milindex.htm
is the major emotion that lingers after
corporal punishment. For two fine papers
on shame, go to http://www.nospank.net/shame.htm
should you do when you see someone hitting
his or her kid? For ideas, go to http://www.nospank.net/intervn.htm
If you find yourself challenged with your
child's misbehavior, take a parenting
course. There are great courses to help
parents learn the necessary skills to
helping children develop good self esteem
as well as stop misbehavior. I recommend
taking a course when your child is two
and a half and another when your child
is twelve. The courses are low cost and
meet once a week for six weeks. Call your
local school, church or mental health
center to find a course. I taught Systematic
Training for Effective Parenting as a
graduate student back in the seventies.