Spanking is an issue that has been widely debated over the last few decades.

In light of the new laws in France (which make spanking illegal) and the debate in our local news here in Perth a few months ago where a father was charged following spanking his child (which led to a poll asking the public whether spanking should be made illegal here) we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the issue of spanking and its relevance to parenting today.

There are many arguments for and against spanking.

I believe there is only 1 good argument for spanking, which is that it “stops behaviour immediately”.

So, if that’s what you’re trying to achieve, sure, you should spank your kids.

But, if you care enough to learn about the long-term effects and consequences to your child and our society in general, then it might be worth re-considering your view on this one.

First of all, I would like to know, are you one of those people who says things like “I was spanked as a kid and I turned out fine”?

If you are, well maybe you think you did, but what I want to know is did you actually turn out fine?

Are you telling me that you have never been aggressive towards another person or animal?

Do you think “hitting” is an acceptable way to control the behaviour of others?

Have you ever participated in any anti-social behaviours (e.g. particularly when you were younger: illegal activities like underage drinking, smoking, stealing, graffiti etc.)?

Have you ever had any mental health difficulties (e.g. anxiety, depression, feelings of “lack of life purpose”)?

When you were a kid, did you do things you knew you weren’t allowed to do, only if you knew you wouldn’t get caught (e.g. you knew it was the wrong thing to do, but you did it anyway. If mum or dad were close by there was no way in hell you would do it, for fear of copping a spanking)?

Have any of these things I’ve just mentioned carried over into your adult life?

Do you do things just to avoid a punishment (instead of doing things because “it’s the right thing to do”)?

For example, do you only follow the speed limit when you know there is a speed camera? You know the risks associated with speed (i.e. you are more likely to cause an accident) but you do it anyway, because you’ve been conditioned to only do the right thing when you’re avoiding a punishment (you still speed when you know you won’t get caught!)

I’m asking you this, because the likelihood that you were spanked as a kid and have experienced (or still do) one or more of these things I’ve just mentioned is really high.

So, if you want to increase the likelihood of these things continuing in our society, then spanking your kids is probably the right thing for you to do.

But, if you think there could be a better way, I want to reassure you that there is.

There is over 50 years of research demonstrating that hitting (and not just hitting) essentially, any form of punishment, is no where near as effective as alternative forms of discipline.

That’s not to say that children don’t need to learn about consequences, they absolutely do.

The consequences just need to be directly related to the behaviour, and (in most cases) hitting the child has nothing to do with their behaviour.

If you’re interested in learning about some alternative strategies, which will result in more positive outcomes for your children, head over to our “alternative strategies to punishment” section.

Just because we don’t believe in punishment, doesn’t mean we don’t believe in choosing appropriate behaviour and consequences for poor behaviour choices!

In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts…

  • Do you think spanking is OK?
  • Do you know what the long term consequences of spanking are for your children and for our society in general?
  • Do you know all this and think you will keep on spanking your kids anyway?

Let us know what you think!


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P.S. If you’re interested in some of the research I mentioned earlier in this article, you may wish to check out a few of these papers:

  • Durrant & Ensom (2012). Physical Punishment of Children: lessons from 20 Years of Research. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 184(12)
  • Gershoff, E. (2013). Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough to Stop Hitting Our Children. Child Development Perspective. 7(3)
  • Lansford et al. (2005). Physical Discipline and Children’s Adjustment: Cultural Normativeness as a Moderator. Child Development. 76(6)
  • Lansford et al. (2009). Trajectories of Physical Discipline: Early Childhood Antecedents and Developmental Outcomes. Child Development. 80(5)
  • Lansford et al (2012). Forms of Spanking and Children’s Externalising Behaviours. Family Relations 61(2)
  • Lynch (2006). A Genetically Informed Study of the Association Between Harsh Punishment and Offspring Behavioural Problems. Journal of Family Psychology 20(2)
  • Tomoda et al. (2009). Reduced Prefrontal Cortical Gray Matter Volume in Young Adults Exposed to Harsh Corporal Punishment. Neuroimage. 47(2)
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