Despite all the experts' warnings that spanking kids lead to more harm than good, a very high percentage of parents still do it. The issue of whether or not to spank has led to a lot of argument both on the internet and offline. But no matter how hard some of us try to justify it, studies continue to insist that spanking is wrong.
A new study that was published in the American Journal of Family Psychology which was based on research done over five decades and involving 160,000 children, found that spanking is bad for our kids.
The researchers at the University of Austin, Texas and the University of Michigan discovered that spanked children are the ones that are more likely to defy their parents and as they grow up, the effect could manifest itself in anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.
This study also specified what was considered spanking which is defined as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.” It also made sure to focus on the effect of spanking alone unlike previous ones that considered spanking in addition to other punishment or abusive behaviors.
The study also found that, for parents who want an immediate outcome, spanking does not help. Compared to other methods of getting through to kids, spanking is the least effective if you want to make them listen in the short term.
In a lot of cases, spanking makes the child's behavior even worse. Researcher Elizabeth Gersoff explained that this form of discipline is actually quite damaging. The study examined adults who were spanked as children and the results were worrying.
The more these adults were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit anti-social behavior or suffer mental health problems. They were also more likely to have anxiety and depression.
Most importantly, the researchers claim that spanking also leads to the same detrimental outcome in children as physical abuse. Gershoff said:
We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors. Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.
As for the argument most people often make about how spanking cannot be that bad since they were spanked and they turn out okay, Gershoff said, "we turned out OK in spite of spanking, not because of it."
We imagine that this will be a tough pill to swallow especially for societies where spanking is considered the main (and sometimes only) form of discipline. But being a parent is all about being open to making changes wherever possible to better your child. And if this means exploring other ways to get through to your child, then it's something that needs to be done.
10 things you can do instead of spanking
There are always ways to get through to your child that does not involve physical assault.
- Try to keep calm. Spanking often happen as a result of you feeling overwhelmed. This is why you're less likely to spank if you're in a good mood. So, when you feel upset about something your child did, take deep breaths and get control. You will find yourself feeling much better and more competent to handle the situation.
- Teach the child: Children are fast learners. So, instead of losing your cool, work on staying patent and teach them what they need to learn.
- Be specific: Kids learn better when the adults are more specific. Stop yelling about the things you don't want them to do. Instead, let them know what to actually do. They respond well to direct instructions.
- Take things away: If your toddler refuses to listen to you, then take away the problem. If he keeps throwing his toys, collect them from him. This makes her understand that there are consequences if he does not listen.
- Practice what you preach: You can't tell a child not to do something then turn around and do the same. They learn better by what you show them than by what you say. So, always model good behavior.
- Take them away: If it calls for it, remove the child from whatever situation he's causing a mischief in. Give them a timeout, so to speak.
- You can say 'no': Don't be afraid to say no to your child when they are not being well-behaved. It may feel like you are saying it too much but you have to get okay with that. At some point, they will begin to associate the word with wrongdoing.
- Keep at it: You're a parent and part of the deal is that you have to continue to train your kids. You cannot give up once it gets hard. They rely on you to teach them how to be great adults.
- Be consistent: Stick with the rules. They will not learn if you allow them to break it every once in a while. They won't even take you seriously if you do that. Consistency, though frustrating, is the best way to ensure your kids permanently understand.
- Take yourself out of the situation: If you are getting too frustrated with what's going on, you can leave. Call a sitter and give yourself an hour or two to gain your composure. Sometimes, all you need is a little perspective.
The important thing to remember is that these are kids. The things you consider bad behaviors are just them exploring the world the way they know how. You cannot expect them to be perfect. Lower your expectation and leave room for errors.