Sparing the Rod Definitely Spoils the Child

Sandra Beauregard, ParentWISE

The debate on whether or not spanking produces the desired results (in other words a better behaved child) has been raging forever, but has really ratcheted up over the past 35 years with the increased protection accorded children due to the child protection laws. Many complained that child violence can be blamed on the decreased use or lack of corporal punishment in homes because of the changes in the laws. They complain, “You can’t punish kids anymore because they will accuse you of child abuse. I was spanked and I turned out just fine. I think that’s what’s wrong with kids today.”

Several years ago a prominent family magazine did a survey asking parents at what age their children were spanked and the overwhelming majority said they spanked children three years of age and younger more frequently than any other age group. This isn’t surprising when you consider what is going on developmentally with children in that age group.

By age three children are physically developed enough to become quite mobile and their brain is wiring pathways to enhance learning at a terrific rate. Since they haven’t quite mastered reasoning skills, they learn primarily through “hands on” experiences that are repeated over and over again. One of the biggest parenting myths that has perpetuated for generations is the idea that children this age should be stopped from exploration and hands should be smacked each time the child tries to learn through using the sense of touch. Parents who are successful in stopping this exploration process through repeated “hand whacking” are not only hindering their child’s learning capacity, but may be risking doing nerve damage to their child’s dominant hand. Rather than to teach children not to touch by smacking hands, parents should encourage their child to learn through using all their senses and should provide a childproof environment to allow exploration. Putting Aunt Harriet’s antique teapot away for a few years until the child is old enough to understand it is okay to look but not play with it will not only preserve the teapot, but will help your child’s early developmental years to be more pleasant, not to mention less stressful for you. Of course parents will still need to watch the child and redirect her if she is about to touch something harmful that cannot be put away until later.

In examining differences between children who were corporally punished versus children who have been disciplined for misbehaviors using time-out, removal of privileges, reward charts, grounding, and reprimands, the following facts have been found:
  • Children who were born with a more difficult temperament to begin with and who are corporally punished behave more aggressively toward others. Hitting them makes them more defiant, sneaky and unruly.
  • Children who were born with a more even temperament who are corporally punished tend to turn the negative feelings inward and be more depressed, introverted and are less confident.
  • Most children who are consistently corporally punished like themselves less and have more difficulty making friends. They tend to feel that they are unlikable.
  • Children who are corporally punished learn that it is okay to physically hurt someone when he displeases you.
  • Children who are corporally punished feel they are responsible for the adult’s anger even when the adult is the one losing control. In other words, they feel they deserve to be hit.
If one accepts these observations to be correct, then sparing the rod does indeed spoil the child when you consider raising a child who is happier, likes himself, has more positive relationships with others and is able to resolve conflict and differences without resorting to violence or aggression to be “spoiled”.