Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
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APRIL 13, 2010 8:18AM

Does Spanking Make Children More Aggressive?

Rate: 24 Flag

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A new study published in the May issue of Pediatrics suggests that young children who are routinely spanked could become more aggressive.

Researchers at Tulane University shared their findings after studying approximately 2,500 mothers of three-year-olds and following them for a period of three to five years.

Those children who were spanked more frequently at the age of three (more than twice a month) seemed to exhibit more aggressive behavior by the age of five, including bullying, threatening and destruction.  Although 45.6 percent of mothers in the study did not spank their children at all, 26.5 percent fell into the group who spanked more than twice a month.  Many of those mothers in the frequent spanking group were also at other risks for parenting, something which was taken into account by the researchers.

American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines oppose corporal punishment, including spanking, despite the fact that many parents in the United States use and approve of it in parenting.   

As the authors note, "Whether CP (corporal punishment) causes aggression is of particular relevance for public health interests in disrupting the cycle of violence."  As part of their conclusions, they state, "This evidence base suggests that primary prevention of violence can start with efforts to prevent the use of CP against children."

The researchers acknowledge that their study provided controls for "key potential maternal parenting risk confounders that previously have not been examined simultaneously."   To that extent, they believe they have added to the research on corporal punishment and childhood aggression in a statistically significant way.

 

Link to the abstract for the article can be found here:

Catherine A. Taylor, Jennifer A. Manganello, Shawna J. Lee, Janet C. Rice. Mothers' Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children's Aggressive Behavior (May 1, 2010, Volume 125, Number 5)

 

On the Web:  

Pediatrics (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) 

Tulane Researchers Find Spanking Can Make Children More Aggressive Later - Tulane University  

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I have no idea if it makes them more aggressive, but I have to assume it makes them more likely to spank their own children, which rather proves the point!
Rated.
I'm not so much of a spanker because I have always felt that, for me anyway, it's more about the parent than corrective action/consequence. But I can also say that of my five, the two I'd like to spank every day are the two that already have those tendencies for aggressive behavior and bullying - in fact, if I were going to spank them, it would be for those reasons.

Of course, I have not read the study, but my instinct is to call bullshit. Of course, the theory is reasonable, but, I despise studies that base entire philosophies on arbitrary baselines. It is quite impossible to take a couple thousand or so toddlers and sort them by demeanor, so the task of the sorting becomes a scaled scoring card filled out by mothers. Her demeanor then becomes as important as the child's in the final determinations and reporting.

I also wonder what mother admits to spanking their child two times/day as opposed to "around twice/month". In my experience, a parent who uses spanking as discipline uses it consistently - and all of their definitions of "spanking" differ in severity from a slap on the hand to a full on whacking.

I dunno. I just HATE score-card studies. To me, the results are about as valid as political phone polling data. Which is not to say that the results aren't scientifically meausred, but that it is impossible to prove the validity of the collected data.
I agree with Alan. I haven't a clue what effect it has. I do know we have a whole generation of adults whose parents never gave a thought to a smack or two on the bottom. Could be why the crime rate is high and some people are so mean and surly, or it could just be the weather.
I agree with Alan. It makes sense on the modeling level. After that, I'm not sure, and I wonder about leaping to the obvious conclusion.

I'm usually suspicious of studies that claim an impact on a complicated set of behaviors like "aggression." This is a large sample of mothers, but it's the cause-and-effect interpretation that troubles me. It seems to lack a social perspective on parenting.

I just don't believe that every kid who's spanked is therefore more aggressive. I grew up in a time when it was far more socially acceptable in all nooks of America to spank children--and I did get spanked--and yet I'm a peacenik and I don't spank my son.

That's anecdotal at best. My point is that the social context often determines "normal," especially when it comes to parenting behavior--and it's the perceived deviation from normal that may matter here. According to the sample numbers, almost 50% of the moms don't spank their kids ever (or at least that's what they say). This is the zeitgeist. So in families where spanking does happen, aggression may be modeled in all sorts of other ways as well.

It is complicated, just what we label aggressive in a child, depending on culture and social context. You could also make claims--and many have--that corporal punishment makes children more obedient.
Ann, it would be interesting to see if in the study they differentiate between "hitting on the run" type spanking and going to a particular location in the house and applying discipline. My parents did the latter, with an appointed paddle on an appointed chair, used rarely, but we were never struck as children on the run. It seems to me there's a difference, even if the AAP doesn't recommend either.
You can look at anything and use the word "seem". In otherwords they just lied.
Ask yourself this;
30 years ago when most kids were spanked, what was youth crime compared to know?
I can tell you this; If you brought a knife to school it was just to show your friends, if you brought a gun it was b/c you were going hunting with your dad after school. If you pulled a weapon of any kind in a fight you were a punk, today your the "man". On and on. Spanking worked and works.
I spank mine and when we are out in public, parents of thier friends complement me on how well behaved they are, and strangers will say the same thing in restaraunts.
I'm not a spanker (only once, ever, because he started to run into a busy street and I acted in panic) and I don't have an aggressive kid, but I think this is really complicated. It is patently true that if you are spanked (which is "hitting") you learn that parents can do that, and you probably do it when you become a parent. I also think there are kids who are just...aggressive, whether they are spanked or not. Bottom line: I think spanking is a bad idea for a number of reasons, but if I were so inclined, I'm not sure this is the evidence that would convince me to stop.
I'm not sure a rare spanking in an otherwise well-parented childhood will do any harm, but there are usually better ways to achieve the same result. (I wish I had had dogs before I had children. I learned a lot about shaping behavior from working with them! No, kids and dogs aren't the same, but every time I get a dog to do something I want with subtle changes in tone and movement, I get a clearer picture as to how those techniques would have worked on my children.)
I got spanked, my sister got spanked. There's not an aggressive bone in either of our bodies. If anything it has made me absolutely dead set against spanking my own children, so I never have. I think it's traumatizing and bad for your self confidence. It leads you to believe that might makes right. It makes you a lot more susceptible to being domineered - at least that's been my experience of the whole thing.
There is "spanking" and there is constant yelling, humiliating, yanking, pinching, squeezing of body parts, sharp snaps, dragging, pushing, rough handling on a near daily basis. How do we define that?
"Love with Consequences?"
I agree with 1IM: It's more complicated than that. Parenting is an entire set of behaviors and attitudes carried out across many years, and kids bring their own personalities into the mix. Parents who have no sense of discipline at all but whack their kids every time they get irritated are very likely to raise dysfunctional kids. That's just bad parenting, and most of the time a lot of verbal violence goes along with it. But I think children come hardwired to be who they are, and across a pretty broad spectrum of non-abusive disciplinary techniques, there's not a great deal of difference in the results. Some of mine could be quelled with a raised eyebrow. Another could have been beaten half to death before he altered his behavior. Those were our two biological children; the others were all over the map too, and they all turned out to be kind, civilized adults.

I don't hit; I don't scream. I don't believe in violence, period. That said, I think we'd still have about the same number of aggressive people if spanking disappeared from the face of the earth.
Every kid is as different as their very own fingerprints. Statistics fail for me as well since disciplining my kids was tailor-made to their wildly divergent personalities. One of them responded to a slight swat on the rump to interrupt what I used to call the "spin cycle," and the other one would just crumble at a stern look. Maybe I just got lucky...

I wish there was some great way to help new parents with better information than what our own parents provided. I don't think being spanked in an "organized" fashion did me any good at all. The old "wait until your father gets home!" method with the belt. In fact it was humiliating and fed some oppositional defiance tendencies in me for sure. Perhaps it is being wise in the moment, suppressing anger, and knowing you have the emotional and physical health of someone quite a bit smaller than you in your hands. -r-
When I read the title of this post I was skeptical. But then reading that 26% of parents spanked their children twice a month or more, then it makes sense. There is no justification for that much spanking.

I have never spanked my child, but I don't condemn those who do when there is a serious misbehavioral infraction. On the other hand, repeated spankings of twice a month or more indicate that disciplinary method is not working. It seems reasonable that it would actually become counterproductive. It also shows laziness and possibly much worse on the part of the parent.
Kids who were spanked often grow up to be more kinky, which is nice.
I don't think spanking makes kids more aggressive (beating might), but I can't imagine hitting another human or animal for that matter.

I don't like the fact that my kids can get "paddled" in their schools here... but that's a whole notha talk show.
Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Hard for me to draw any conclusions other than the researchers who needed to publish to ensure tenure were able to meet their publishing requirements.
Kathy, when I saw this news item cross the services, I made a note to read the original publication. I haven't had a chance to do so. Therefore these comments will be general.

The problem with the media reporting of such studies is the jump from correlational data to a causal paradigm. If a parent is spanking, then there probably are a host of confounding variables that make that family different from a non-spanking family. For example, the amount of verbal aggression in spoken language may be significantly different.

Often, the media does not understand the research paradigm nor the applied statistics. That would require a close examination of the original publication. I will say, though, that it would be unusual for a researcher/researchers to focus on a single variable and attribute a causal outcome to that one factor.
I've spanked my boys. Nobody would guess it causes aggression, because they aren't aggressive. They aren't bullies, etc. I[m now glad I spanked, because I can't imagine how passive they would have been had I not spanked. Aggression isn't always a bad thing.

I can't get to the actual study, but from my knowledge of stats, sometimes something that is statistically significant isn't practically significant. For example, a certain teaching strategy could result in significantly higher test scores, but when you start to look at it, you realize that a 71 average is significantly (statistically) higher than a 70 average. In practical terms, there is no difference.

The other side is that I'd like to see a comparison involving not only spanking, but other behavior management used by the parents. Using just spanking, IMHO, is a bad technique. I used a wide variety of behavioral management for my boys, including spanking, timeout, grounding (as they got older), withholding privileges, and of course, praise for good behavior (the primary method used).
I've dated women that liked to be spanked.

It didn't make them more aggressive...
It will be interesting to read the published article when it is available, Catherine, which so far it is not. The closest I can come to the original research at this point is the press release, which is careful to note the researchers took into account other variables. I expect we'll be able to make much more informed comments on the study conclusions and methods once they're published.
Spanking.

All I can think of is ewwwww.

Just a fundamentally primitive way to deal with children and in bad taste.

Relying on physical force is a sign of fundamental weakness.

People should be embarrassed to have no better idea than to hit their children.
It would seem to follow logic that it would. I wonder what the trend is now days? Are parents spanking (not each other)?
After teaching psychology for 30 years and having been spanked and beaten myself as a child, I took the time to consider the type of parent I wanted to be before my children were born, and it did not include using pain and violence. SPANKING IS VIOLENCE. Period.

I know that being spanked severely damaged my relationship with my parents, for one thing. I couldn't respect adults who bullied me like that, who operated with such hypocrisy, who could hit me, yell at me, call me names, get as angry as they chose...and I could do none of those things in dealing with them. That's bullying, my dears, and one key fact absent from the bullying debate is that children who bully are bullied by their parents!

The idea that spanking creates better children is ABSURD, and to anyone who thinks so, I say, PROVE IT!!! Furthermore, how violence, which of course is totally, totally negative, produces a positive result such as better behaved children, is illogical!! How can a "negative" produce a "positive"? Those who say spanking did them good ASSUME that's the case because supposedly, that's the outcome.

As someone who's worked with children extensively, I always found the most aggressvie children were those treated negatively at home, including with violence. I NEVER spanked or hit my own children and yet had very well-behaved children whom adults, teachers, etc. always loved. How did I do that? Yeah, parenting is a mystery to most people, but really not that hard...except for the part where a parent has to monitor EVERYTHING s/he says or does, 24/7....yeah, that's right! EVERYTHING a parent says or doesn't say, every facial expression, tone of voice affects your child. Keep that in mind!
Baloney. My ass still hurts, but I'm a pussycat.
R
Kathy, I read about this study yesterday and found it definitely intriguing, but even more interesting the different views being expressed in the comments here. Thanks for bringing it up for discussion. The study itself is one of those which makes me think, "they had to do a study to prove that?" I think by and large the current generation of parents of young children, to which I belong, is by far opposed completely to the idea of any corporal punishment, whether it be an on the run" swat" or full out "beating," though I think there is a big distinction between the two. As Martha points out, there are cultural as well as generational differences regarding these beliefs. Two recent comments I heard, one from a childless Jamaican woman my age: "It's really a shame you can't spank children in this country" (upon observing a tantrum) and another, from a friend with three children 5 and under "I am so proud that my 5 year old had to ask me what the word "spank" means." There was also a recent article in the NYT about how, now that corporal punishment is frowned upon (and reportable by teachers and medical personnel), parents seem to do a lot more yelling. Are either good?
I tend to concur with John Rosemond.
Also: You know how much I hated my parents after every physical punishment? How much I wanted to stab them repeatedly in the guts with a sharp knife, for God's sake? And then slowly the guilt would set in, so that every beating included a series of very intense negative emotions. Did I want to put my children through such
hell?!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Did I also wish sometimes to hurt other children? You bet!!

The effects of violence are far more numerous than Americans think. But then, the USA is one of the most violent nations ever to exist on this planet, yet it accepts physical punishment of children without question, just as it accepted slavery FOR 200 YEARS!!!!! A nation that claimed to stand for "freedom and justice for all" and abide by a Constitution that proclaimed the same rights to all, practiced slavery for 200 years!!!!

Does accepting slavery make it OK, make it right, make it moral? Does accepting and practicing violence against children make it right or moral?!!! And gosh darn it, the USA is one of the few nations on earth at this moment in time that accepts and widely practices physical punishment of children, who are both weaker, smaller, more vulnerable human beings. Few Americans would question a 200 pound man beating up a 65 pound child if the man is the child's father.

And gosh darn it, the USA is one of the most violent nations EVER in the history of the planet, probably in the top three, if not number two after only Colombia!!! VIOLENCE IS TAUGHT FIRST AND FOREMOST IN THE AMERICAN HOME. IN FACT, A PSYCHOLOGIST WROTE A FEW YEARS AGO THAT THE AMERICAN HOME WAS THE MOST VIOLENT PLACE IN THIS NATION!!

Hmmmmmmmmmmm!!!
Spanking is not only harmful, it is entirely unnecessary. Let's see, I was on of two teachers day in and day out with 30 kids 3-5 years old. We never spanked. So, I don't really want to hear from one adult with two kids who believe that spanking is necessary. They only feel that way because it was done to them. They have my every empathy for being raised in such hostile environments, but I'll call em on it every time. xox
As an AAP member I have the study and have read it. I'm also a researcher/epidemiologist who knows how to assess a study. This one was very well done, typical of what gets published in Pediatrics. It isn't without some limitations, but all studies have them. Yet the authors showed skilled methodology and analysis.

With that said, I find the comments here a little problematic. It's as if a study showing *some population effect* of spanking while controlling for other factors in the analysis has to be debunked by people with their anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Friends, the plural of anecdote is not data.

The authors are not saying that spanking absolutely and directly increases aggressive behavior without question. What they did find was a slightly greater odds of aggressive behavior (OR 1.49 w/ confidence interval of 1.2 to 1.8) in those in their study population who were spanked a couple of times a month when compared to those who were not spanked (other factors controlled for).

This odds ratio is not a slam dunk indicating causality. But it is statistically significant enough to indicate that there may be some contribution of spanking to aggressive behavior in the preschool years. The degree of contribution is not known and cannot be concluded from this study.

Please do not go any further than that in reporting/discussing the study's findings and conclusions.
Hey teendoc :) Thanks for weighing in on what is in the actual study and for sharing your findings. Your voice on the matter is meaningful to me.

@ soapboxamy - I've worked extensively with children as well, primarily the upper class private school variety, and it's my experience that the most aggressive and cruel children are the ones with absolutely no guidance or discipline at all.
I think there are times when a spanking is appropriate....especially when the child has done something potentially harmful to herself or to another child. i.e. crossing a road unattended
I don't think putting a child in "time out" or talking with the child has the same impact as a spanking with a scolding.....especially if the child is around three years old or under.
A slap on the hand will definitely deter a 18 month old from touching something more than simply saying, "No."
I'm not talking about continual spankings or slaps on the hand. I'm talking about an occasional spanking here and there in conjunction with time outs and "discussions."
I think balance is what is needed.
Uh, yeah.

Breaking news: The abused grow up to be the abusers!

Oh, and this just in: Water is wet!

My, that is news.
I spanked my son as needed and I too was spanked as needed.

It didn't make me the least bit aggressive and if you disagree with me I am going to throw this f*&%#*ing mouse at your #$&R^$ head and I hope it hits you between the ^$$#@ eyes and makes you bleed like a stuck $@*$#@ pig.

Good post :-D
teendoc, since you've read the article, is it possible that children who are more aggressive to begin with get spanked more often? That parents are spanking children out of frustration because they can't figure out how else to deal with difficult behavior?
teendoc, I appreciate your comments on this post, particularly since you've read the actual study made available to you as an AAP member. I've tried to be careful in my own characterization of it and share your concerns with some of the comments here made in the absence of reading the actual research.
AR: All decent studies of this sort (and this one is no exception) take the initial temperment and level of aggression of the kid at baseline into account in the analysis. They control for this very important variable. What this means in non-statistical language is that if the kid's initial aggressive temperment were indeed the factor driving the results at age 5, controlling for this variable would then end up showing no difference in odds between the two groups (i.e., any results seen would before controlling for the variable would be explained by differences in temperment).

Yet this is NOT what was seen in this and in other studies. Even with controlling for temperment/aggression, along with 8 other risk factors, spanking itself showed a higher odds of later aggression. So spanking alone played a role...again the study is unable to quantify how much of a role it played, but the odds ratio showed some role.

Hope that explanation is clear.
I must say that these "variables" are questionable to me as a reader.

No ones comments so far have taken into account other abusive behaviour that a child may witness or be a part of - whether that is on television or at school or at home- kids do see parents argue, fight, drink and argue some more, siblings fighting or inciting aggressive behaviour in each other.

Kids also become aggressive from no discipline or attention by parents who have to work or choose to parent from a distance.

Kids are individuals - you can keep the studies but the opinions are quite interesting to read- all these parents who "have never spanked" a child - make me a bit suspicious of the degree of honesty of any parent in these studies - are they really giving all the dirty family facts to the reseachers - dads do hit moms- parents do drink- abuse is seen by children every single day- even if it is as mild as dad yelling at the football game on tv or soccer mom responding with a comment about the person who cut her off in traffic.
Aggressive behaviour is much more then just spanking-

So what is causing children to be so much different then they were 30 years ago? - oh yeah and lets not forget all the chemicals that we are forcing in their bodies in foods, medicines and in the air they breathe- are these variables included in the study?

Give me more details...
Thanks to teendoc, I have posted a link to the abstract for the article above.
Interesting question. Does spanking increase aggressive behavior. I guess I would have to ask since spanking is decreasing are children, teens and adults becoming less aggressive in our society?

Our children are grown and we did spank. It had limits and it had specific reason. The only reason our children received a spanking was for willful disobedience. Not because they were tired or cranky or acting like a child. If they challenged the authority or pursued a dangerous activity once warned they received a controlled and purposeful spanking on the behind. By the time they reached 4 or 5 they did not need this form of punishment.

Our children never attacked another child, smarted off to an adult, could sit in class or church without acting up. We could go to restaurants and they would enjoy the meal without screaming or running around the table because they were bored. They both grew up and now are productive happy adults who care about people and society.

Now that I think about it the only children that attacked our children never were spanked. Next time a kid tells you to fuck off or throws something at you because they did not get their way, ask the parents if they spank their child. Chances are they didn't. Next time your meal in a restaurant is disturbed by a child running around the table screaming watch the parents act like there is nothing they can do because they asked the little darling to stop 50 times.

Kids need to know there are things expected of them, there are boundaries and if they cross those boundaries there are real consequences for their actions. If they learn this lesson early most all the other stuff will fall into place.
M Todd: Straw man argument. There are many ways to discipline and consistency is key. Today's parent has a more haphazard and inconsistent approach to crossing boundaries, self-esteem development over consideration of others, as well as consistency issues that relate to the behavior of children all of which have nothing to do with whether or not kids are spanked.

Look at people in jail. Do you really think their issue is not having been spanked enough? Goodness. It isn't that simple. And the study results are not that simple as well.
What Nick Carraway said. Word for word.
@Imom: Methinks you could sum up your post as nature versus nurture.
I spanked my child once and cried like a baby afterward. So, it is not for us most likely. Spanking is not, and should not be associated with beating someone, however. I was spanked. I do not see my parents as abusive. They were not. They are not. No one beat me until I was bloody. Frankly, the spanking didn't ever actually hurt. I am not harmed emotionally by spanking.

Yelling, however .... words for me did and can do great harm. I've yelled at my child a few times and felt completely horrible afterward. MUCH more so than the one spanking. I've actually apologized to her for that. Unless one is being beaten, I feel that WORDS and tone, wrongly used, are much, much more harmful. But that is simply my opinion.

As for the study, it simply isn't conclusive enough. It's interesting, but my guess is that much, much more work would need to be done to warrant the headlines that have been bandying themselves about in regards to this study. But that's now our news, alas. Pretty much one big hyperbolic pile of freak-out. Sigh. Depressing.
Why would this need to be studied. Children are people just like grown people. If someone hits me then I am likely to hit others. Why would children be any different?
Teendoc I agree consistency is the key. I refute the idea that corporal punishment results in aggressive behavior. No spanking is not the only or the most effective means of disciple, but is something that works as part of the main important ingredient. Love and caring about raising children to be productive adults. It takes time commitment and it is a really important job that many parents today neglect.

It is not a straw mans argument to realize the advice does not work.
What spanking if anything teaches children is if you cross the line the results can be quit painful. Maybe it is primal, but it in conjunction with taking responsibility to raise children it works. Spanking is not the only thing, but it is an important part of child discipline that is being removed from the equation. Despite all the studies and professional advice the opposite results are being achieved. Are kids more functional or less functional today than 50 years ago on the whole.
I don't think it is as simple as whether or not a child is spanked. As a child who was, routinely, I can tell you that I have never raised my own hand to mine (nor have my siblings who were spanked as routinely as I). We grew up knowing that actions had consequences and some consequences could be unpleasant. By today's standards my parents would most likely be behind bars but I can only thank them for the discipline. From what I observe in restaurants, stores, doctor's offices, etc., I'd say there are a few too many children around who could benefit from some.
I'm going to state the study conclusions one more time before going home with my non-spanked but definitely consistently managed kidlet.

The authors are not saying that spanking absolutely and directly increases aggressive behavior without question. What they did find was a slightly greater odds of aggressive behavior (OR 1.49 w/ confidence interval of 1.2 to 1.8) in those in their study population who were spanked a couple of times a month when compared to those who were not spanked (other factors controlled for).

This odds ratio is not a slam dunk indicating causality. But it is statistically significant enough to indicate that there may be some contribution of spanking to aggressive behavior in the preschool years. The degree of contribution is not known and cannot be concluded from this study.

Please do not go any further than that in reporting/discussing the study's findings and conclusions.


As a person who does this type of research, I beseech you to avoid ascribing all or none conclusions when the authors did not do so. "May contribute to" is a far cry from saying "causes."

If you want this pediatrician's take on why you see more little monsters running around ruining your Sunday brunch, we can talk about a lot (snowflake syndrome, anyone?) but it doesn't have anything to do with spanking.
Regardless as to what form of "discipline" you choose to use in your home if it is acted upon out of frustration it in turn becomes abuse. Correction given to a child ought to be provided before the blood rises, the voice shakes, and the battle begins. If corrected in love (not blind love, rather "I want to be proud of you and not embarrassed by you in public" love) then it will be received in love. Period.
I'm a bit demoralized at all the anecdotal conclusions that commenters are bringing to this post. It reminds me of people who say, "My grandfather smoked a pack a day every day of his life and he lived till 90!" as though that means diddly squat in the big picture.
I'm glad they proved it because if it made kids more likely to become pacifists, I'd be scratching my noggin. WTF! Isn't that a no-brainer? We still have to debate this obvious bit of causality in human development? Silly me. I thought it was settled.
I'm reminded of the Phi Beta Kappa female I argued with at a party for over an hour about the evils of corporal punishment for child behavior. Finally she threw down her napkin and stormed off saying.."Who ever heard of executing children for bad behavior?" I was dumbfounded. Her husband leaned over and whispered I think she thinks you mean 'capital punishment'. She has never forgiven me for her own embarassing misunderstanding, having refused to talk to me for over 10 years now. I'm not concerned. She's a Republicaness [?]. I think she beats her kids too.
Lary
spanking is just bad. I use time out, it works.
That being said...spanking is reserved for a serious situation like running accross a busy parking lot. Sometimes they really need to get a strong message, and while it sucks, sometimes spanking works for these kinds of situations. I would love to say that you could just explain to a child that they shouldn't do xyz, but they don't really get it some times. That being said, I am firmly against spanking, but will use it if a certain situation arises. I believe that parents know whats best for their own children(to a degree) and have the right to chose how they want to parent.
after I commented I went back and read the other comments, it seems I am repeating what others said,
but I also wanted to agree with robin sneed, who made a really great point. I have also worked in a classroom and there is never any smacking or yelling, and the kids all behave.
The best discipline model is one that prevents misbehavior, that means having a routine, keeping kids fed and comfortable(if not kids get grumpy and thats when they act up), cutting out sugar and caffeine, and having a set of consequences that children understand. When my five year old threw something at the cat yesterday, we calmly put her in time out in her timeout spot for five minutes, and after talked about why it was wrong. But with my one yearold, when she pulls the books off the shelf 10 times a day, there is no discipline, it doesn't work, so it's all about redirecting her to be interested in something else. It's not really that hard once you look at the big picture.