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Spanking is a form of discipline that stirs up strong feelings from both sides of the issue. Lots of parents and experts are convinced that spanking is hitting, and hitting is abuse, and point to research that supports their stance. However, there are also lots of parents and experts who believe deeply that spanking, when administered correctly, is what a defiant child needs most, and may even want from his parents.
In so many anti-spanking circles I've seen parents who choose to spank painted as raging control freaks. As totally indifferent to their child's emotional needs. As heavy-handed dictators.
Undoubtedly those parents exist, but it's not a fair stereotype, as there are just as many parents who spank from a place of love, and desire to help their child.
Spanking by appointment
California mom Olivia says she's seen the best and the worst of spanking. "I was spanked as a child and it was done both poorly and very, very well. Early on, spanking was done in the heat of the moment. It was a slightly scary experience." But after taking the advice of some more mature parents, "they began using the method of an appointment for spanking. They predetermined on the number of swats, and we each had our own handmade stick with our name on it that was similar to a wooden spoon in the amount of sting it left on the bottom. After they began this when I was around eight, I only needed two more spankings. They were very effective, and they definitely left me feeling cared about."
Olivia said this method is what they use with their 2-1/2 year old, but only when his behavior is clearly willful and repetitive. After the spanking, they pray and restore the bond by letting the boy choose an activity for the family.
Not in charge
Rena, mom of three, says, "We spanked our three kids, but especially the strongest willed one when 2 years old and no other form of punishment seemed to make an iota of difference to the back talking, mouthy, defiant child. It took many spankings for her to remember that she was not in charge of everything and everyone all the time!"
Some parenting experts agree that spanking might be helpful in certain situations.
"Spanking accomplishes getting a kid's attention and letting them know you mean business," says Laura Huber, author of The ABC's of Homeschooling. "When children are young (3 and under) you really cannot explain things such as danger to them." But Laura hastens to add that after age 5, her kids rarely were spanked.
Where I stand
I've previously written about the research that has shown negative effects of spanking in the long run, and in light of these findings, I personally can't say I'm "for" spanking. But neither am I "for" flame retardants in crib mattresses. Or artificial colors in our kids' food. Or letting kids watch/play violent video games. All of these things have been proven to have some really nasty repercussions, especially when they're experienced to the excess.
I do not believe spanking is good for kids. However, I do know for a fact that spanking is not always a "parent tantrum." I know from experience with my own mom and dad that there are plenty of parents with the self-control to never spank when angry.
Those parents often view spanking in the same light as vaccines: "I'm going to put you through something briefly painful to prevent you from enduring a world of pain later in life."
Bottom line, parents spank because they believe that's what their child needs.
No matter what your stance on corporal punishment, remember that the parents on the other side of the issue are doing what they believe is best for their child… just like you.