Spanking Gets Results: But All the Wrong Kinds

mrdad - spanking - wikicommonsDear Mr. Dad: I was over at a friend’s house and was surprised to see her spanking her 4-year old. I’ve never hit any of my kids and don’t have any plans to do so. But after taking an informal poll of other parents I know, I was surprised to find that I’m actually in the minority. Should I rethink my no-spanking policy?

 A: Please don’t. There’s some debate about whether an actual majority of parents spank their children. For example, one study found that while 62 percent of parents in the South admit to having spanked their children, only 41 percent of parents in the rest of the country have. And according to a recent study done by researchers at Columbia University, 57 percent of moms and 40 percent of dads engaged in spanking when their children were three years old, and 52 percent of moms and 33 percent of dads were still spanking when their kids were five. But let’s not quibble over semantics. The point is that way, way too many parents are hitting their children—and it needs to stop.

I know I’m going to hear from a lot of readers who will swear up and down that spanking works. And they’re right. Spanking definitely gets the child’s attention and will usually get him or her to immediately do what you say. That’s great in the moment, but what about future moments?

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Corporal Punishment in Schools? Spare the Rod. Period.

Dear Mr. Dad: My 9-year old son has been complaining a lot recently about how much he hates school. We had a long talk about it and he completely stunned me when he told me that the principal of his school has paddled his behind several times. I know my son can be challenging sometimes, but I thought corporal punishment in schools had been outlawed long ago. How is this even possible?

A: And just when I’d thought I’d put all those unpleasant grade-school memories to rest… Nationwide, more than 60 percent of American parents approve of spanking children—and half admit that they actually do it (that’s the average—the percentages are higher in the South, and lower in the rest of the country). However, more than 70 percent of parents (65 percent in the South)—and 80 percent of parents of grade-schoolers—say it shouldn’t be happening in schools at all. But it is.
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Hit me, school principal, one more time…

When I was in elementary school, I was not the easiest of kids. I had (and still do have) some serious authority problems, interrupted my teachers, was rude and disrespectful. And that was on my good days. On my less-than-good days I was throwing paper airplanes (that I’d specially modified with a pin sticking out of the nose). All of that made me a regular fixture in Mr. Tague’s office. And it always seemed to me that when he saw me coming, Mr. Tague, the principal, got a gleam in his eye. And why not? He was about to paddle my butt with a large wooden racquet of some kind. (Where did anyone come up with the “the principal is your pal” as a way to remember how to spell principal?)

I used to tell my kids about my butt paddling experiences—partly to impress them with how difficult my childhood had been, partly to emphasize how lucky they were not to be living in more barbaric times. So you can imagine how shocked I was when I read that spanking by school administrators is still allowed by law in 19 states. In Georgia alone, more than 28,000 students were spanked (usually with a Tague-like paddle)

It’s against the law for prison guards to hit prisoners unless it’s in self-defense. And it’s against regulations for a drill instructor to hit a recruit in boot camp. So why on earth is it okay for some school principal or teacher to smack our kids around?

Personally, I’m against spanking (no sense rehashing the whole spanking debate here—another example of a topic where it’s nearly impossible to change anyone’s mind). But I can imagine that even if I thought it was okay, I wouldn’t want someone else deciding how, when, what for, and how long to hit my child.

According to the Center for Effective Discipline, here are the states that allow corporal punishment in schools: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. If you’re in one of those states, please write your congressperson or senator and ask them to help drag your state out of the dark ages.

Just when you thought the spanking controversy was over…

A few years ago I read a study–in Parenting magazine, I think–that found that 25 percent of parents spanked their kids. Those were just the people who admitted it. My guess is that it’s closer to 50 percent. If you were to factor in the parents who think  about giving their kids a whack once in a while, you’d probably be up in the high 90s.

So when I read about a study in Germany (where corporal punishment was actually outlawed in 2000) that more than 50 percent of parents admitted that they hit their kids, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the real numbers are insanely high. Here’s what the study found:
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