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Spanking: Criminal behavior or parenting tool?

Posted by Sandra On January - 17 - 2010


A new study out this month about the benefits of spanking toddlers has come smack (no pun intended) in the middle of what is quickly becoming a discipline crisis in our home.

As our daughter hits the 3-year-old mark all those nasty toddler behaviors we thought we had escaped during the notorious “terrible two’s” have started popping up regularly.

Climbing on top of anything and everything, and then leaping to her near-certain death, has become Ava’s new favorite pastime. The time-outs that previously kept her from doing such things, or at least limited them to a one-time only event, no longer have much of an impact, nor do taking away toys or other previously successful methods.

Nonetheless, we keep plodding away with those supposedly tried-and-true methods. We also praise her when she plays nicely, like those top-selling parenting books urge. And we’ve tried some techniques the parenting gurus don’t encourage, like bribery.

Still, the climbing, the yelling, the tantrums when she doesn’t get her way, continue. Last night, she told her daddy he was getting on her nerves. When I put her in time-out and stood there to make her stay in place, she waved me away and told me to, “go back to work.”

She’s on a regular schedule, gets plenty of rest and eats healthy, with little to no sugar in her diet. When I spend 20 hours or so working from home, Ava isn’t in day care, she’s downstairs with her grandmother. She stays active — playing soccer, going to dance class, children’s church and having playdates with friends. We get on the floor and play with her every day; at home she has her choice of educational and pure fun activities, from musical instruments and dolls to computers and movies, in a large, designated playroom and in areas throughout our home.

But wrapping herself in the living room curtains, bypassing the child-proof locks and tossing food out of the pantry and jumping on the couch seem to be far more entertaining. And when she’s disciplined for the bad behavior she practically laughs in our faces.

What on earth is a parent to do?

My husband and I were spanked, infrequently, as children, and it seemed to do the trick. I’m not suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and my husband is a gentle soul. Maybe our parents and the generations before them knew what they were doing after all.

Today, however, spanking is practically considered child abuse. In fact, it’s banned in dozens of countries — including Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden — that claim it creates aggressive, violent children who are confused when their parents insist they not hit and then turn around and spank them. And it looks likely we’ll see similar bans in the United States. In 2007, California proposed an anti-spanking bill that sparked a national debate, but ultimately failed to pass.

When I first experienced this non-spanking theory nearly 20 years ago I was fresh out of college with no kids of my own. After a friend explained that when her unruly toddler threw herself on the grocery store floor she would “reason” with her and, if that failed, walk a safe distance away until the tantrum passed, I nearly choked on my own laughter. The idea of reasoning with an irrational toddler in a public place seemed ridiculous.

By the time Ava was born, though, my thoughts on the subject were less clear. There was something to be said for not hitting a child, and as we held our sweet baby girl in our arms we decided spanking wouldn’t be on our discipline menu.

That is until a few months ago when Ava wrestled away from me at the playground and nearly ran into traffic. I didn’t take time to think about politically-correct discipline. I grabbed her by the arm and swatted her bottom. The spanking certainly grabbed her attention. And it made me rethink everything I thought I had known.

I don’t relish the thought of spanking, but to be honest it seems to be an effective tool when used in certain circumstances. I don’t believe it should be used often, or in anger, but I’m not so sure it shouldn’t be on the menu at all.

A new report out this month gives credence to that idea.

The report, by a Calvin College psychology professor who has spent a decade researching spanking, says corporal punishment forms more well-adjusted people later in life.

Marjorie Gunnoe says the study finds children who remember being spanked on the backside with an open hand do better in school, perform more volunteer work and are more optimistic than others who were not physically disciplined.

Spanking seems to be most effective when used sparingly on children ages 2-6. Those who were spanked at ages 7-11 did seem to be more aggressive.

Presenting her findings at a conference of the Society for Research in Child Development, Gunnoe said, “This in no way should be thought of as a green light for spanking.” Instead, the practice should be considered when lawmakers consider banning spanking, Gunnoe said, adding, “I don’t promote spanking, but there’s not evidence to outlaw it.”

As we struggle to find effective discipline techniques in our home, I’d love to hear from you. Is spanking a yes or no in your household? What discipline methods work best with your own children?

By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.

Educate Yourself -- Learn the Facts
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DREAMCATCHERS FOR ABUSED CHILDREN, INC. is an official non-profit 501(c)3 child abuse & neglect organization. Our mission is to educate the public on all aspects of child abuse such as symptoms, intervention, prevention, statistics, reporting, and helping victims locate the proper resources necessary to achieve a full recovery. We also cover areas such as bullying, teen suicide & prevention, children\'s rights, child trafficking, missing & exploited children, online safety, and pedophiles/sex offenders.

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