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Joseph Dimmick

Ashley Argyle

Writing 2010

7 July 2014

To Spank or Not to Spank: Problem, Argument, Solution.

A Long, long time ago in a galaxy far away there was a child. Like most children this

child had a strong discipline structure. Okay, so maybe it really wasn't a long time ago, or even

in a far-away galaxy. More like twenty years ago and the middle of suburbia Utah. The child

might also have been me. I grew up in a time when spanking a child for misbehavior was not

only socially accepted but somewhat expected. I however was never really spanked, but I did

encounter it via extended family and friends. I never really thought about the differences in child

discipline and the effects, both long and short.

Always an Argument

Today, the argument many refer to as The Great Spanking Debate, is over whether or

not spanking is effective, and if it should be an accepted practice (Moninger). If asked most

anyone will say "I was spanked as a child and I turned out great." I guess that can be rather

overwhelming evidence for the benefits of spanking, depending on the speaker of course. The

truth is, in a not so distant past whippings were common place. In fact I remember some of the

horror stories adults use to tell children at that time about their past spankings. Sometimes the

punisher would employ the use of tools such as wooden spoons, long rulers, and even custom

made paddle boards with holes drilled in them to reduce wind resistance. I have heard stories

about teachers whipping students for acting out at school, a practice that I once assumed was
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disallowed. It has come to my attention that nineteen states still allow teachers and other

caregivers to use corporal punishment publicly according to Smithsonian.com. There are

stipulations currently such as if a care giver does have to resort to corporal punishment they

cannot leave marks behind after the punishment is over. Not only does the law permit caregivers

to spank, but there is currently a bill to allow these caregivers to deliver harsher punishment.

According to a Department of Education survey, 223,190 students were spanked in public

schools in the United States in 2006 (Eveleth). According to Parents Magazine, 81 percent of

parents said they have spanked their child(s) at least once. 22 percent admit to spanking once a

week (Moninger).

Why do they test me?

Children act out for numerous reasons, such as if they do not get a something they want

or they just do not feel good and cannot express their discomfort as easily as adults, and again

sometimes children just want any kind of attention and that could be the cause of their outbursts.

Sometimes, especially in younger aged children, appeasing them seems impossible. Being the

parent when a child is acting out can be frustrating. Trying to target the cause of their outburst is

sometimes complicated. If in a public forum such as a store or restaurant it can be quite

embarrassing as well. Think about the last time you went to your local super market, was there a

child acting out? Screaming, kicking, and throwing stuff or even themselves all over the floor.

Sometimes you just want to go and smack the kid yourself to make them stop. Imagine the

parents frustration. If a child is going through a difficult growing stage of life then miss

behavior could be a consistent issue. Mounting frustration and the feeling of dwindling options

can easily end in an overreaction. Spanking a child while angered can cause the care giver to use
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too much force and hurt more than initially intended. Corporal punishment is a fine line to walk,

going from punishing to abuse is as simple as not holding enough back.

Why should I even bother with discipline?

I am almost certain there are different opinions on why a child needs to be disciplined.

Personally I feel it creates a foundation on which the rest of the childs character will be built

upon. Discipline is a tool to mold morals, and standards, a tool to teach right from wrong and

actions versus consequences. Choosing how to go about discipline should be very important. If it

is not effective then you might find yourself stressed out by your childrens behavior. If the

discipline is too much your children might fear you rather than respect you. When creating a

strategy for child discipline it is important to think long term. A lot of parents fall short with this

and only worry about the short-term of punishing an action. Strategies should help kids develop

the six life skills necessary to become a healthy adult (Morin). It is important that any discipline

strategy also helps to develop self-discipline, social skills, healthy decision making, impulse

control, emotional regulation and builds confidence.

What do the experts think?

According to experts, spanking is commonly used to deter bad behavior, particularly non-

compliance and aggression. Studies for obvious reasons are impossible to do, however there

have been experiments. The results were that spanking has no real effect on non-compliance and

instead of deterring aggression it actually promotes it (Narvaez). The research showed increase

aggression in the children who were spanked versus alternative means of discipline. There are

studies that show that spanking is closely connected to the development of violence in children.

If a parent strikes a child, that child will be more likely to hit other children or try and resolve
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their issues through violent outbursts. Spanking has been proven to be effective in correcting the

immediate misbehavior, however the negative side effects are not worth the practice. Evidence

that shows the relationship between spanking and the subsequent slowing of cognitive

development and increase in antisocial and criminal behavior is shown. (Straus) More immediate

negative side effects is the difference between spanking as a discipline and child abuse is a fine

line to be walked and one not worth crossing.

Well if I cant hit them, then what?

The number of alternatives to spanking are almost limitless due to the fact that each

individual parent(s) has a different idea of what discipline is. Most of the popular alternatives are

more effective, present less risk to the child, and are easier to practice. Using time-outs seems to

be the most common alternative. Time-outs are having a child sit or stand by themselves for a

pre-determined amount of time. The idea behind it is the child should use the time to consider

what it is they did wrong, as well as to remove the child from the situation causing the behavior.

Although time-outs are a better alternative to spanking, but the effectiveness could be argued.

Another common one is restriction of privileges. Restriction, otherwise known as grounding, is

the parent prevents or sets limitations on what a child is allowed to do such as going outside,

playing with a toy or video game, or even confining them to their rooms. Restrictions are an

effective alternative to both time-outs and spanking, however remaining vigilant with your

punishment is both important and challenging. Giving in to the child on restriction could actually

have negative side-effects. All of these examples would be considered punishments, sometimes

the most effective ways to discipline is to think pro-actively about the problem. Instead of

waiting to punish the child for miss behavior, use positive re-enforcement to promote good or

acceptable behavior. The actual practice of positive re-enforcement is extremely effective but
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very easy to over-look opportunities to practice it. Complimenting a child on their good behavior

while in a store is a simple example of positive re-enforcement. Praise is by far one of the

greatest weapons in a parents arsenal of disciplinary weapons. A consistent chore and reward is

another great way to help structure good behavior. Using allowances to reward children for

helping with daily chores helps provide a sense of purpose and also provides a good outlet for

energetic behavior.

Well rounded solutions sometimes just require some time.

Having three children of my own and my wife always willing to take children for

playdates, sleepovers, weekends has given me a wonderful opportunity to witness the effects of

different styles of discipline. My own mother is also a part time care giver for various people and

has allowed me to see the challenges she faces in trying to build or in some cases even provide a

sense of discipline. No matter what strategy is chosen the single most important aspect of every

discipline practice is consistency. Being stable and consistent is so vital because the child begins

to develop a better understanding of consequences of their actions, they also know what to

expect and can make better educated decisions. In my household we have developed a Home

Constitution. My wife and I wrote up a series of amendments to explain a foundation of house

rules, we also included some fun stuff for the children similar to what you might consider a Bill

of Rights. Our documents set our expectations of house rules, including chores, and guarantees

certain rights for the children such as privacy rules that my wife and I abide by. We have a

reward system set up for their schooling where they receive something at the end of each

successful semester based on how well they did. Usually the reward is a one on one date with the

parent of their choice and we allow them to choose the activity. When it comes to miss behavior

we put on a home court where our children are allowed to explain and even try to defend their
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actions. Doing this provides the children with a chance to practice social skills and problem

solving. Once the verdict is in (our jury and judge is usually a rotation of my wife and I) we

decide on a punishment, usually a restriction. We allow an appeal after twelve hours if a child

feels that they have discovered new evidence to their defense and we even end restrictions based

on good behavior. We found that being consistent with our ruse trial is sometimes difficult but

the actual practice is effective because it involves an extensive thought process for the child and

a chance to express their feelings. The most important aspect about this process is it involves

spending time with the children.


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Works Citied

Eveleth, Rose. Nineteen States Allow Teachers to Spank Children. Smithsonian Mag.

Smithsonian Institution. 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Jul. 2014. Smithsonianmag.com

Moninger, Jeannette. The Great Spanking Debate Parents Magazine.

Meredith Corporation. Web. 22 Jul. 2014. Parents.com

Morin, Amy. Why It is Important to Discipline Your Child About.com. About.com

Web. 29 Jul. 2014. Discipline.about.com

Narvaez, Darcia, Ph.D. Moral Landscapes Psychology Today. 8 Sep. 2013.

Web. 28 Jul. 2014. Psychologytoday.com

Straus. Murray. A. and Emily M. Douglas. The Primordial Violence: Spanking


Children, Psychological Development, Violence, and Crime Taylor & Francis Group. 2014.
Print.