To Spank or Not to Spank – That is the Question

Image courtesy of Flickr user HA-designs-artbyheather (creative commons)

Image courtesy of Flickr user HA-designs-artbyheather (creative commons)

from the annual Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Baltimore, MD

This afternoon I sat through a presentation on a study aimed at improving parenting by using a positive parenting video at well-child visits.  The chief measure was change in reported use of spanking.  The intervention video didn’t make a dent in parental use of spanking though.

Now, I’m sure there are scads of research on why spanking makes for bad parenting and I’m certainly not advocating spanking as a daily event.  Still, my personal experience is that there are few better motivators for good behavior than the threat of a crack on the backside from the old parental units.

And hey, I turned out OK.

—Kerri Wachter

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8 Comments

Filed under Pediatrics

8 responses to “To Spank or Not to Spank – That is the Question

  1. Jen

    I think as a culture, we can say we had lots of things done to us and we still turned out okay, but that doesn’t make them right. I grew up not wearing a helmet when I rode a bike. I turned out okay. It’s still not safe to do so and I wouldn’t let my child do it. I was fed whole milk in a bottle at 3 months. I turned out okay. I wouldn’t feed my children whole milk until well into toddler hood. We didn’t wear seatbelts regularly and we still turned out okay. But we know the research says that riding seatbelts saves lives and I would never let a person or child in my car who wasn’t wearing one. Just because someone turned out okay based on what happened in a previous generation doesn’t make it an okay or appropriate thing to do in the next one. That’s the point of studying history, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

    I’m glad you turned out okay from an occasional spanking. I did, too, but I know from my own research that there are many alternatives to spanking. Spanking might get a response quickly from a child, but I prefer to take my time to do teach proper behavior without having to punish with a physical response because that is the right thing and I’m confident that my children will turn out okay, too.

  2. barbz

    “Still, my personal experience is that there are few better motivators for good behavior than the threat of a crack on the backside from the old parental units.”

    How does the need to be hit in order to be motivated supposed to play out for the lifetime of a person? How does that work at home and in other relationships?

    I have no doubt you can “motivate” some kids by hitting them – at least you can make them fear the consequences if they don’t, but that is far from a foundation for being a person who cares about others. In our family we’ve found the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – is a far more helpful idea. Children learn to be respectful people by parents who model and reach respectful behavior. There is nothing respectful about hitting another human being to “motivate” them to comply with your wishes. As a parent I would feel like an utter failure if the only way I could motivate my child to behave respectfully was through fear.

    I would encourage you to continue to consider these issues and I hope you will find out, as many parents have, that it is not necessary or helpful to spank.

  3. First, do no harm. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I try to keep that credo in mind as I rear my children. There is not a shred of credible evidence to suggest that it does good to hit a child. There is plenty to suggest it does harm. Brute force and fear are just not effective tools for long-term successful parenting.

  4. Kerri Wachter

    First, this blog is aimed at physicians. Anecdotal evidence is simply a compilation of good stories. While you are all quite within your rights to raise your children as you see fit, the psychology literature is replete with data that demonstrates that well-timed, selectively-used negative reinforcement is much more effective than positive. It’s the threat of a spanking that is the deterent, not the actual spanking itself.

  5. Negative reinforcement is the withholding of reinforcement from a previously conditioned response. I think the term you meant was punishment.

  6. Kerri Wachter

    Mazeway, I’d be happy to take this discussion offline, as it is off-topic with regard to the intent of this blog, which is to keep physicians abreast of news/observations from medical meetings.

  7. barbz

    “First, this blog is aimed at physicians. Anecdotal evidence is simply a compilation of good stories.”

    I agree. I wonder then why you chose rather than posting research you cite “I turned out okay” and “personal evidence” as your support?

  8. Kerri Wachter

    Barbz, apparently you did not read carefully. The result of the study is reported high up in the post. The intervention did not change parenting behavior. As with Mazeway, I would be happy to continue to discuss this offline with you. I don’t consider the discussion to be within the parameters of this blog, which, again is intended to provided news and observations to physicians from medical meetings.

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