A Stance on Spanking

Conventional wisdom leads many adults to believe that spanking is an effective way to discipline children. At Think:Kids, we believe that a critical part of rethinking challenging kids is to rethink the ways in which we discipline children. We believe that any kind of physical violence directed at a child is ineffective, inhumane and harmful, and we stand by the American Academy of Pediatrics most recent policy statement warning against the harmful effects of corporal punishment in the home. NYTimes.com: Spanking Is Ineffective and Harmful to Children.

We know that there are healthier and more humane ways to help discipline children than to resort to corporal punishment. A previous study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that children whose parents used physical discipline are more likely to end up with depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other mental health disorders. It’s also been shown that children whose parents hit them for discipline are more likely to develop aggressive behaviors, may have more trouble controlling their temper, and as a result, may be more likely to hit other children.

Corporal punishment as a disciplinary strategy not only doesn’t teach kids the skills they need to succeed, it also simply does not work. The effects of corporal punishment are transient – in one research study, within 10 minutes of being punished, 73% of children had “resumed the same behaviors for which they had been punished.

We often say to parents and professionals that it only takes one caring adult to make a meaningful difference in the life of a child. But, what are we demonstrating when we show our children that it’s okay to hit others? What skills are we building when we lose self-control, and resort to physical aggression in the wake of challenging behavior? When building relationships with children, it’s important that we think about the messages we send to them whenever we discipline them.

What we teach is to build caring relationships, develop skills, and reduce challenging behaviors without the use of corporal punishment, or over-reliance on other ineffective approaches like suspensions, physical restraints, detention, and solitary confinement for disciplining children. Just like we believe that “kids do well if they can,” we also believe that adults do well if they can. We know we adults are trying our best with the skills and tools we have to deal effectively with challenging behavior. If we knew better methods to use when facing challenging behaviors, we would use them. And thankfully we have one that is a proven, and healthier option over resorting to physical punishment.

We have helped thousands of adults rethink challenging behaviors and have helped many families, schools, and programs transform their disciplinary practices through our Collaborative Program Solving model. And, when it comes to spanking, we will continue to challenge the status quo and continue to work towards changing conventional wisdom about disciplining children.