Spanking – the traditional punishment that supposedly disciplined many ‘bad’ children. Does it actually work? In the past, we had used several different kinds of tools, including metal rods, to hit our kids so that they could be disciplined. Currently, we are becoming aware of the terrible effects of corporal punishment and doing away with it. But some of the small things remain – a bit of smacking your kid’s bottom with an open hand seems harmless. And supposedly, it can discipline your kids too. Or so we thought! Recent psychology says that spanking actually does the opposite.
Shocking? Well, if you think about it, it isn’t really so. An article “Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children” written by Elizabeth Gershoff breaks down the topic pretty well. If you are a psychology major then you will know that there are several branches of psychology and the behaviourist model is one of them. Here, the person is conditioned by immediate punishment or reward on the basis of a specific action. Spanking was built on this model – if a child did something wrong, they were punished by spanking.
While it might seem reasonable, it is actually not so. Firstly, there are many times when the child does something wrong and parents are not around. And even if they are, the punishment is not immediate. There’s a long process of finding out who the culprit was before meting out the punishment. So, it’s clear that the behaviorist attitude does not really work. But then, could there be any wrong outcome when a child is spanked?
Firstly, we need to understand why spanking does not correct undesirable actions nor effectively increase desirable behavior. The simple reason is that children do not follow the same thought processes as an adult does. They would rather learn positive actions through work. Children try to earn a sense of belonging and yet, they also have a highly competitive spirit. They would learn when they are working rather than being told something. And then, if you teach them through punishment, they would only be able to learn to act in a certain way when there is a threat of punishment around. Hence, there will not be any increase in desirable attitudes among children. But that is not all – children love their parents and trust them. If you engage in violent behavior then your children will not be able to trust you anymore. They will create a protective shield around themselves and their own parents would be outside that shield. As a result, they will become more secretive and might hold down any kind of depression or sadness, keeping it to themselves. According to Richard Reeves and Emily Cuddy of the Brookings Institution, they can also end up taking drugs.
And talking about correcting undesirable behavior, spanking can actually increase them. When you are violent with your kid, they will start to react to the threat in a certain way. Their entire approach towards life will be threat-reactive – they will be more afraid than proactive. And if you believe that they will be less aggressive then you are just lying to yourself. Children follow their parents and notice their actions. While you might teach them that they should not use violence to solve their problems, in turn, you are using violence to try and discipline your child. Ironic, isn’t it? They pick these small clues and integrate them within themselves. Spanking will destroy their mental health and also make them develop tendencies of delinquency. So much for disciplining your child, huh? Additionally, a Canadian study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal confirms that children who had been spanked have shown a decrease in I.Q, that is the grey matter area in their brain. So, spanking can make your child fail the class test too!
We have gone past the days of ignorance and now we know more about child behavior. It is time to develop our child development techniques and make it less corporal. Let us take proper steps towards talking and resolving issues like an adult. And with the present development, we should change the proverb into: “Spare the rod UNLESS you want you to spoil your child.”