I grew up in the Caribbean in an era where you were strange if you weren’t spanked.
Recently I was chatting to a family member about my decision not to spank my kids.He said, “I was spanked and I’m okay”.
I decided to look into the effects of spanking to determine what, if any, were the long term effects on our lives.
While soul searching is great, my goal here is a parenting one.
Does research show are any long-term effects of spanking, and are these in line with what we want for our kids? Research on spanking has been varied and sometimes blurred because it’s been wrapped up with research on excessive force or abuse.
However, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa combined 20 years of published research on spanking to shed some light on this topic. This evidence is instrumental in moving the debate on spanking from an ethical one—do I have the right to spank my kids?—into a medical one.
Here’s what they found:
Spanking reduces grey matter – Grey matter is a major component of your nervous system. It includes areas of the brain involved in sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions, and memory, and influences your learning capability.So spanking can actually be impacting our kids’ ability to learn.
Emotional difficulties: Spanking teaches kids that we learn through pain. This affects their desire and eagerness to learn. Who wants to learn if it means a painful process?
- It undermines trust between parent and child and breeds hostility toward authority figures.Kids learn to mistrust authority figures as spanking teaches them that someone who says they care or love you, will happily hurt you in an attempt to “teach” you a lesson.
- It is a strong predictor of vulnerability to depression, typically in girls. This is because kids internalise that they are bad or naughty, and this forms the basis of their self image. It also teaches girls that it’s acceptable for someone who loves them to hurt them.
- Spanking is also a predictor of antisocial tendencies, which usually manifest in boys.
Additional research shows that:
Hitting devalues children – Self-Esteem is a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. This view of oneself is created early in childhood and is heavily influenced by how your kids think you perceive them.Kids that are spanked get the message that they are bad and naughty.
- They also learn that they are weak and defenseless. Spanking can make your kids feel smaller and weaker, overpowered by people bigger than them.
- The simple fact is spanking doesn’t improve behaviour. The truth is, if spanking worked, you would only have to be spanked once. A child who is hit feels wrong inside. When kids’ self-perception is that they are wrong, bad, or naughty,they act out to make these perceptions true.
- Most kids are spanked when parents get angry. This teaches the wrong message about anger. Spanking teaches kids that hitting is an acceptable response to anger.
Like all of the articles I write, this isn’t about parental guilt. It is about recognising that if you’ve used this method in the past and want to stop doing so, there are a few things to consider:
- Explain to your kids that this was wrong and you will not do it again. Apologise to them. It emulates how they should behave when they’ve done something wrong.
- Know that kids still need structure. You need to explore other skills and tools to help you connect and guide your kids to become the type of adults you’d like them to be. The Guidance Method is a great approach.
The next time you get into a heated situation, tell your kids you are taking a time-out. Go to a different room if you can and cool off. Try doing a small task; working with your hands helps to calm you down. Then once you’re calm, talk to your kids about the boundaries you’d like to set. Your discipline will be much more valuable and effective.
I’m sure there are plenty of strong views on this one, but I want to hear from you.
Were you spanked as a child? Have you ever looked into the long term effects on your life?Do you think this type of control affects the relationship we have with our children?
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