New Study Says Spanking Makes Kids Aggressive

Do you spank your kids? I never did, and now that they’re adults (my youngest is a senior in high school), I never will. I’m glad I didn’t. And guess what? They turned out fine. In fact, I really like all three of my kids in addition to loving them to pieces. No, I did not have perfect children who did whatever I said, and I am far, far, far from a perfect parent (but I hope my kids forgive me that).

Sometimes I swear I wanted to throw them through the window. And, yes, there were many, many times that I wanted to hit them. But I couldn’t do it. For one thing, I know that spanking is not effective. OK, maybe it will stop an immediate action, but in the long run, it makes things worse. I could never see how a big person hitting a little person could ever be effective discipline. I could understand hitting a kid in anger more than I could a premeditated plan to spank a child. It’s so barbaric.

Even though pediatricians and child development experts have, in general, said that spanking is not an effective form of discipline, more than 50 percent of the mothers of three-year-old children said they spanked them. Now there’s a study done by researchers at Tulane University that says mothers of three-year-olds who used spanking “were significantly more likely to have aggressive kids later on down the road.” Is that what we want as a result when we spank our kids? I hope not.

As parents, I hope we can keep our eyes on the long-term. The study said that spanking created “kindergarteners that bully, hit and were destructive and disobedient.” Isn’t that the opposite of the results we want from any form of discipline? Oh, and before you say, “Well, those kids were probably from troubled homes, or their moms were depressed or something,” they weren’t. Even controlling for other issues such as depression in parents, the kids who were spanked were more aggressive than kids whose parents used other discipline methods. In fact, the study found “very significant” results in the link between spanking and childhood aggression.

OK, as a parent with three children, this is no surprise to me. Parents are kids’ role models. They will behave as we behave. If kids have parents who hit them, should it be any surprise that they have learned to hit to solve problems? I remember when I was in junior high and I was babysitting a 3-year-old boy. We were playing in the front yard, and he suddenly grabbed a sapling by its small trunk and started shaking it, saying between clenched teeth, “Do you understand me!!” That was a good lesson for me in how kids model their parents’ behavior, and all these years later I remember it.

For those of you who say that spanking is the only way to get your child’s attention, then I say you may be right that it will get a child’s attention, but at what price? If a child can only be controlled by spanking, then maybe the child needs help from a professional. Maybe parents who spank were spanked themselves and think that’s the only way to discipline. I will admit that using other discipline techniques takes more thought and time than spanking. It does involve being a mature adult and practicing self-control. I know how hard it is to deal with an obstinate toddler, or one who has gone beyond being able to control herself, but I’m here to say that you don’t have to spank a child. There are other ways. When parental violence leads to childhood aggression, isn’t it worth it to try something else?


Categories: Editor’s Blog