What Spanking Does To The Spirit

October 31, 2013

By Angela Liddle


The apple of my eye, source of my sappiest moments and my greatest worries, Hailey recently celebrated her first birthday. So I took her to that photography place where a grandma, or Mae Mae as I prefer to be called, drops hundreds of dollars before leaving. I have to hand it to them — they are creative with their props, shots, and sales pitches. Really, it’s impossible to select only a few poses. My most favorite is the one where Hailey is reaching for the sky with complete abandon and unbridled joy. I find myself at random moments thinking of her in that picture. Born and raised by parents who had their own struggles and demons, I’m not sure I ever had such carefree abandon. Yet, I know that whatever the cost, I want what she displays to be protected and preserved.

I’m not exactly sure how a parent preserves that in a child, but I do have a few ideas. Of course I do my best to avoid sounding like a nagging know-it-all to Hailey’s mother, my oldest daughter, but am certain I do not always succeed. I caution her to speak softly, interact with Hailey in very gentle ways and keep her environment, especially home, peaceful. The thought of her hands ever being smacked, much less any other part of her body, makes me cringe. If that happens and I am witness, I dare say there will be some difficult discussions with my daughter. And yet I know the likelihood, because physical discipline is a constant thread in our society, the default button for so many, handed down from one generation to the next.

A 2012 poll conducted by parents.com found that 81 percent of parents have “spanked” their children at least one time, while 22 percent reported spanking on a regular basis. So we really should be asking, does this help a child to learn or does it cause negative outcomes? Researchers from Columbia University studied data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study and found that children who had been spanked acted out more and showed greater aggression than children who had not been spanked. Furthermore, children who had been spanked by their mothers when they were five years of age showed higher levels of externalizing behavior at age nine.

Clearly, there is evidence that spanking results in negative behavioral and cognitive development in children over the long haul. And yet, many parents spank because it appears to be effective in changing a child’s behavior in the moment. Techniques that promote positive behavior like reasoning and consideration in children often take great effort on the part of those in parenting roles and take more time to put into place, but they really do work in the long run.

It seems to me that those of us who work with families and children can spend decades listing all of the cons for physical punishment and all of the reasons why positive parenting techniques should be the preference of all parents. We cite research, we quote parenting gurus and child development specialists and we pull every trick out of our logic-based hats. All I know is I want to see unbridled joy on Hailey’s face when my skin is wrinkled and my hair white from old age; when I am no longer sitting behind the desk and reviewing what current expert says on the topic. The intuition of this Mae Mae says children have wonder and awe in their eyes and at a spot somewhere deep inside and unseen, is a fragile spirit that experiences and expresses pure joy. That is, until adults need immediate results and decide physical force is best for their child. To learn more about current research visit _http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/15788849-spanking-linked-to-negative-behavioral-and-cognitive-development