Convincing children to behave themselves is challenging and exhausting business. Everyone seems to have a different method that they swear by, and none of them seem to be truly, one hundred percent effective. Every child is different, after all, and responds in a unique way to each type of punishment.
Spanking is the most divisive and controversial form of discipline used today.
Some mothers consider it child abuse, while others consider it a necessary tool in teaching right from wrong. The latest research study from UT-Austin supports the former group’s point of view. Their research concluded that spanking fails to provide any of the positive short-term or long-term results that parents hope for, such as increased obedience, self-discipline, and strength of character. Even more troubling, it was found to cause a myriad of unintended negative consequences.
This study examined the results of spanking over fifty years of research involving over 160,000 children. For their analysis, spanking was limited to an “open-handed hit on the behind or extremities”. In the parenting community, this would be considered firmly in the “discipline” category, far from abuse. Yet, it resulted in an increased risk of anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties. Surprisingly, it also resulted in children being more likely to defy their parents than those who had not been spanked.
According to previous studies, spanking reduces the grey matter in the brain, which can cause cognitive impairment and long-term developmental difficulties. Furthermore, when you strike a child, you are teaching them by example that physical violence is a valid way to solve problems.
Unlike spanking, teaching by example has been shown to be tremendously effective.
You are also showing them that someone they love (you) may hurt them physically, and on purpose. You are breaking the trust they had in you, and shattering their belief that you will always protect them from harm – even if you believe you are doing just that. This, coupled with the inherently violent nature of spanking, could explain why spanking has long been found to promote aggressive behavior.
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“This is a wide swath of children and the findings are incredibly consistent,” study author Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff told CBS News. “This shows there is a correlation between spanking and negative outcomes and absolutely no correlation between spanking and positive outcomes…People think if you don’t spank you’re a pushover, but you can be a firm parent with high expectations for your children. You don’t have to hit them to show you have power.”
Each parent is entitled to make their own decisions regarding discipline. However, the next time you find yourself saying “this hurts me more than it hurts you,” I would urge you to think twice about that statement. This research suggests that it just might not be true.