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How To Raise a Grateful Child


When they're behaving badly or refusing to listen, kids can be really difficult! Faced with repeated outbursts and misbehavior, a frustrated parent might begin to feel like a gentle swat on the bottom is a completely justified method of discipline. But in today's world, with our myriad of research on child rearing and development all pointing to a distaste of corporal punishment, is it ever justified to spank a child?

Should You Spank?

The short answer is no. A review of 88 studies evaluating the effects of spanking on children determined the punishment could be associated with increased emotional and behavioral issues in children. In general, kids who were spanked were more likely to display aggressive behaviors and antisocial behaviors.

The only positive result of corporal punishment was, you guessed it, to stop the misbehavior from the child. Which is precisely why most parents would ever consider spanking their child, of course: to bring an end to a behavior when nothing else they've tried has worked.

Which brings us to the long answer, which is probably not.

Factors To Consider

As the researchers evaluating the studies noted, a great many factors come into play when considering this issue, including how frequently spanking is used as discipline, the existing relationship between the parent and child, the intensity of the punishment, and the emotional state of the parent in general and when applying the spanking.

A calm and loving parent who administered a very infrequent and mild spanking is unlikely to cause long-term emotional or physical distress to their child, the researchers agreed. So if you spanked your child once when s/he was at their most obnoxious? That doesn’t automatically set your child up to be aggressive, angry, and a sure bet for years of counseling. But you’re the adult, and a major role model for your child. If you spank, you’re signalling that it’s ok to hit another person. And because spanking does not teach right from wrong, you’re not using a discipline that might prevent your child from using the behavior when you (and the threat of being spanked) aren’t around.

Unlike some European countries, where it is always illegal to spank a child, the practice is permitted in the United States. But should you ever spank your child? The final answer: Just don’t.

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