National Spank Out Day: 10 Answers to common reasons parents give for spanking their children

Today is National Spank Out Day, a day created by the Center for Effective Discipline that  recognizes and promotes discipline alternatives that exclude spanking children and dishing out to them other forms of corporal punishment for misbehavior. The day launched in 1998 to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. 

Today, all parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools.

To commemorate the day, as promised last week, author Crystal Lutton whose new book Grace-Based Livingaddresses spanking, responds to 10 common concerns, questions, issues, myths and reasons parents spank their children. 

Lutton offers alternatives for parents who are considering halting spanking their kids and going with another route for discipline.

1. How can you say it’s bad if so many people are doing it? Isn’t it a tried and true method?Just because a lot of people do it doesn’t make it a good idea. There are many things lots of people do (i.e. eating fast food, drinking too much), but the number of people doing it doesn’t change that they’re still not a good or healthy idea. Ultimately, spanking is an approach to parenting that is rooted in “behavioral modification” techniques that are even being contested in animal training. A recent statistic showed that 100% of people in prison were spanked. Those who spank also have to recognize that they can’t just spank one time for something and trust that it will never happen again. Ultimately, spanking is not the “most effective” approach to teaching children. It’s not a relationship building approach and therefore, I would argue it’s not a “good” approach.
 2. Since you can’t reason with a child, don’t you need to spank to keep them safe (like touching hot stoves or running into the road)?
You can’t spank a child and then think you can leave them safely to play near a hot stove or near a road. Even when you spank, you must go to the child, get the child, spank them AND remove them from the dangerous spot. I’m suggesting that the spanking not only fails to keep the child safe, but it also distracts from the lesson you’re trying to teach. I don’t want my children to avoid the stove because I might hit them. I want them to avoid the stove because it is dangerous and hot. To do this, I begin by teaching my children what hot means and make sure I’m present to stop them every time they might be at risk for touching something hot (or running in the road). My children aren’t left to play alone near hot things or where they might run into the road. Spankings don’t stop a child from being the age they are and doing what all children that age do — spankings cannot alter young children so that they don’t need adult supervision.

3. It’s important for children to know who’s boss. How else do you teach authority?

You teach authority by accepting and believing that you really are the authority and then you behave in a way that keeps them safe and makes “your words have meaning”. For instance, when my children are young I speak instructions while making them happen. I say, “Feet stay on the floor” AS I remove them from the couch and put them on the floor. I teach them the rules and make sure they develop the habit of doing what I’m saying. I also model the behavior that I want so that they see the lessons I’m trying to teach them. Ultimately they came from us and we’re bigger than them – they rely on us for their very existence. If we remain calm, confident and meeting those needs, they grow up continue. If we remain calm, confident and meet their needs, they grow up continuing to trust us and understanding our authority. When we lose control, strike them, or work hard to prove to them that we’re in control, we actually look weak to them — our authority is undermined and called into question.

4. When I tried not spanking my child’s behavior got worse. Why was that?

Often when parents stop spanking, they lack the tools of what TO DO instead. That can leave a child feeling unsure about the boundaries and rules. It is human nature that when someone feels unsafe, they push the boundaries until they are firm enough to help them feel safe. So, children who feel unsafe push the boundaries, and when parents don’t know how to set, defend and enforce boundaries, the child is left feeling more unsafe and pushes harder. Yes, they do back off and behave again if they are spanked, BUT it’s because a boundary was set, NOT because they were spanked. There are better and more effective ways to set that boundary. Let’s go back to the example of jumping on the couch. You could tell your child that feet are for the floor, take them off the couch, and spank them, OR you could tell your child that feet are for the floor, take them off the couch, and *not* spank them. Both methods teach the child the rule of feet staying on the floor. Why spank when you don’t have to?

5. I never spank in anger. Doesn’t that make it okay?

First of all, several parents have admitted to me that they didn’t think they were spanking in anger until they attempted to remove the option of spanking. In reality, they were just directing their anger into spankings and never had to acknowledge or deal with their anger. Secondly, if you really aren’t angry, then you should be able to come up with something more reasonable as a response to your child’s behavior.

6. I needed every spanking I got. I was spanked and I turned out fine. Why should I do different than my parents did?
It’s sad to me that people think they deserved to be hit by their parents. I know that most parents are doing the best they know to do, but no one deserves to be hit by another person. We all have the ability to start with what our parents taught us and grow to learn more. Most parents want better for their children than they got in every area – better options, better education, better start in life – why not better discipline? Many parents who stop spanking and embrace a more grace-based approach to parenting come to find that they do have issues that go back to the spankings they received. I would suggest that the belief that they deserved to be hit for anything they did is evidence they aren’t as fine as they think they are. Parenting their children is a beautiful opportunity to heal from those things and re-parent.
7. Doesn’t the Bible say to “spare the rod, spoil the child?”
No, it doesn’t. That is a line from a poem called Hudibras by Samuel Butler. It’s actually talking about something called Domestic Discipline, or spankings between men and women in the bedroom.

8. Aren’t children who aren’t spanked totally out of control?

Children who aren’t parented can be out of control, but life isn’t always about extremes. This idea suggests that parents who don’t spank do nothing. Because there are so many better ways to deal with behavior problems, there are many great and well-behaved children out there who aren’t spanked. I find I am actually more strict than the average spanking parent I know and I get complimented all the time for my children’s behavior. In our home, not doing what mommy says isn’t an option — I am willing to move myself to make things happen so my children learn that resistance is futile. If I say that no one is allowed to jump on the couch, that is something I can be in charge of and I’ll make sure that the rule is followed.
9. I need to make sure my lessons stick. Other stuff I’ve tried just doesn’t seem to phase him enough for it to be an actual punishment.

Author Crystal Lutton

This is based on the common misconception that children need to experience pain in order to learn a lesson. Reality, however, argues against this, because children learn all sorts of things without pain being the motivating factor. They learn to crawl, walk, speak, do math, build legos, all without being motivated by pain. Our children are born social and they want to fit into their family and their world. When we focus first on teaching them how, we gain their trust and cooperation. As they get older, not only are there fewer behavior issues, but when there are, you have a foundation for correcting them that is not rooted in blame, shame and/or fear.

10. If I don’t spank, what will I do?
Check out Grace-Based Livingat for suggestions. Once you stop spanking and actually address the behaviors of your child by teaching them what to do, stopping them from misbehaving, and speaking to them at their level, you will find you are a much more effective and involved parent than you ever were when you spanked.

post signature