By Shirley King
“You know, I have to spank her over and over again for the same thing. But it just doesn’t seem to work. The next day she’s back at it again.” Does this sound familiar? This is the lament of many parents. Not only does spanking not work, it can also create many unintentional harmful effects in our children.
In his booklet Plain Talk About Spanking, Jordan Riak writes: “the act of spanking a child erodes the bond of trust between the child and the parent. The spanked child is less able to regard the parent as a source of care, protection and comfort which are vital to every child’s healthy development.” Without a sense of trust of his parent, the child’s ability to grow up and be an emotionally healthy adult who is able to trust and love others is severely hindered.
Children’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem suffer greatly when they are spanked. Children who are given corporal punishment view themselves
not as lovable, confident and worthy, but as undeserving and inadequate. This sets hem up to become the “neighborhood bully who terrorized smaller children” Riak writes. These children learn to believe that might makes right and that it OK to use violence to solve their problems.
Children who are spanked – or even threatened with spanking – become rebellious, revengeful and resentful toward their parents. They do not become more trustworthy and responsible, with an inner control of their behavior, after receiving a spanking. In my classes, many parents can remember being punished, but rarely remember why they were treated punitively. Spanking children fails to teach them how to be responsible and to behave properly, acceptably and appropriately.
One of the most damaging effects of spanking is to block communication between the parent and child. The spanked child is resistant to hearing what the parent wants to say and is not open to sharing his feelings or problems with the parent. The spanking creates a relationship filled with fear, anger and avoidance, rather than honest, emotional closeness, sharing and love.
Dr. Katherine Kersey writes that spanking sends a confusing message to children — that love involves hitting, hurting and making up, an idea that is believed by wife beaters and their victims. Finally, there is the very real danger that the spanking could escalate into child abuse.
Many parents wonder, “If I don’t punish her for being bad, how will she ever learn to be good?” Parents need to let go of the idea of controlling their children. They can control the situation and use consequences instead of punishment. Instead of being punitive, parents need to adopt an attitude of decent, respectful, nonviolent educational discipline toward their children.
Parents can become inspiring, guiding, leading, encouragers of their children to help them learn how to behave properly in different situations. This begins with the parent and is something all parents can learn to do for the sake of our children in our own city, across America and ultimately making a difference throughout the world.