The Dangers of Spanking, and of Not Spanking

We could endlessly debate some things:
  • Krispy Kreme vs Dunkin Donuts
  • Clemson vs South Carolina
  • Allendale vs Greenville. (OK, maybe I'm the only one who will make that last argument.)
But nothing gets parents (or even non-parents) in a more heated discussion than whether or not children should be spanked. It's a common debate among that many parents want to chime in on.

For the record, I believe that a spanking can be an effective consequence for a young child, if done correctly. Most of the pushback from the culture has been due to when spanking mistakenly is equated with abuse (as with the case of Kevin & Elizabeth Schatz).

While studies have concluded that spanking as a disciplinary tool has negative effects on a child, these studies fail to differentiate among the different contexts and processes that the spanking is given in. Many of these categorize spanking with all forms of hitting (and even kicking!).

Physical abuse of a child is a terrible thing. But to say that all spankings are physical abuse is akin to saying that all verbal corrections are forms of verbal abuse. Yes, they can be abuse, but they are not necessarily so.

A dad once told me that he didn't spank because in the past he had gotten angry and felt he had taken it too far. I admired his awareness of that danger. But I also pressed him to deal with that issue of anger. Avoiding spankings for fear of abuse is not much different than avoiding confrontation for fear of hurting someone emotionally. There are dangers, but that is all the more reason to examine our hearts and motives, and to continually trust God in the matter.

What might you miss out on by not spanking? Well, I know for my kids (especially at a young age), nothing gets there attention like a spanking applied in a context of love. Three-year-olds are not meant to be reasoned with. 

Is a spanking warranted for every negative behavior? No. In fact, I think this is one way that spankings get abused. We parents can get very lazy (at least I do), wanting one uniform way to deal with all issues. Some situations may warrant more conversation and time-outs. But in some cases (like rebellion and slow-bedience), a physical spanking -- coupled with love and gospel-centered conversation -- is the best way to address the issue.

What are your thoughts? I know you have some!

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**image courtesy of chetbox via flickr


  1. Karoline WilliamsonMarch 12, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Being an adoptive parent or for those even considering adoption you agree to sign a piece a paper saying that you will not spank aka no corporal punishment. I feel very strongly about spanking especially for children who are already coming from abusive situation. For us we've found that reinforcing time outs is quite effective. Often when KG is acting out at her very worse drawing her into us, holding her, reassuring her is the most effective course of action. She doesn't need punishment she needs love and guidance.

  2. Ahh... Good point. Context (such as past experience) does count for a lot.

  3. Spanking is lazy parenting, at the very least.

    1. Not if you are doing it right. Using this technique takes a lot of my social, emotional, & spiritual energy.