On December 22, 2016, France passed an “Equality and Citizenship” bill that outlaws “cruel, degrading, and/or humiliating treatment of children by their parents.” The French bill makes spanking a civil offense and not a criminal one, but effectively bans corporal punishment from the parenting oeuvre.
Yes, France is a country where government makes laws that tell parents how to run their families, a point that does not sit well with my American sensibilities. That said, I kind of love this bill because if you ask me, spanking is wrong. Parents should not resort to physical violence in order to get their kids to obey.
Up until recently, I didn’t have an opinion on the hot topic of spanking. Everyone I knew from childhood, it seemed, was spanked. We all turned out OK, right? Although, everyone I knew from childhood also ended up with different levels of anxiety and depression later on in adulthood. It wasn’t until I became a parent and struggled with the “spank or not to spank” question that I turned to other moms for advice. I read parenting books and articles online, I talked to my child’s pediatrician. Everywhere I turned the evidence was clear to me: spanking is not OK.
One of the most used arguments that I hear in favor of spanking is that if we young and guileless parents don’t spank our kids once in a while then we’ll end up with spoiled brats. This argument is generally followed up with some absurd statement about how everything that is wrong with the world and kids today can be boiled down to parents’ not smacking their kids into submission. We’re wussies, they say. We are creating self-centered, snot-nosed monsters who want everything given to them, they lament. “I was spanked and turned out just fine!” they brag.
The other pro-spanking argument I hear all the time is “there is a difference between spanking your kids and child abuse.” Oh, really? Do you think a three-year-old can tell that difference when he is being threatened by his own parents with physical violence? Yeah, no. Here is the thing with that argument, if an adult “spanked” another adult it would be called assault and it would come with a criminal penalty. So how does hitting become right if the person being struck is a child?
While Americans loathe being told what to do when it comes to personal rights and private business, we do in fact have laws on the books about spanking kids. In Maine, it is disturbingly legal to deliver physical punishment as long as “the physical force applied to the child may result in no more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks on that child.”
If parents want their kids to be well-behaved, follow rules and grow up to be well-rounded, productive, law-abiding citizens, then they need to learn how to parent effectively. I hate to be the millionth person to point this out, but spanking teaches kids absolutely nothing about how to be respectful. In fact, study after study has shown that spanking has more negative results than positive ones. According to a study reported on by the Scientific American, researchers “evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids” and found that,
“spanking was associated with 13 out of a total of 17 negative outcomes they assessed, including increased aggression and behavioral and mental health problems as well as reduced cognitive ability and self-esteem.”
We see studies and reports come out every year by well-respected researchers, think tanks, and universities that all say the same thing: Spanking your kids won’t teach them how to be respectful of rules.
What parents truly need are better support systems in place to teach them effective ways to train their kids to be well-behaved. Yelling and hitting do not work. Patience, listening, and consistency do work and have been shown to be effective teaching tools for parents and other caregivers.
Parents also need to have a basic understanding of childhood development. For example, no toddler has a full grasp on impulse control and is, therefore, not likely to be able to control his or her behavior. Adding spanking to that mix only creates a dangerous relationship between a care provider and child that basically says, “Hitting is OK when you don’t get your way.”
Nearly half of Americans parents believe that spanking is a legit tool for parenting. That means nearly half of all American kids are being taught that hitting is OK and disrespecting basic human rights is no big deal. To the parents who think spanking is acceptable, here are 5 great resources that teach the basics of discipline without resorting to spanking:
And finally, this: