Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Speaking Out About Spanking!
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
The ways to discipline one’s child has changed a lot over the years. And, it has become a more individualistic approach. However, for many, the good old methods still work, or at least they presume it does.
Today, we are about to discuss about a sensitive topic in parenting and discipline- whether it is okay to spank your child or not?
For generations, spanking was “the right thing.” Though, its popularity is on the decline, but many parents still resort to this as a disciplinary or punishment measure at home.
According to a recent report by UNICEF, Indian parents still stick to the traditional form of punishments to discipline their children from shouting, pinching, denying food, hitting or practising physical abuse.
In the study, UNICEF employed on-ground workers in several Indian states like Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh where it was observed that parents used a variety of ways to discipline their children or even bearing their parents frustration.
How spanking affects a child?
It was found that the children were also at a greater risk for suffering emotional abuse and trauma when they happen to witness some form of violence or altercation take place between their parents, siblings or in and around their immediate surroundings.
In another survey it was found that 77% of parents across India spank their children at home. Almost 69% parents also knew about the effects spanking has on children, but found themselves losing their temper often. Also, almost 72% of surveyed parents revealed that they felt guilty almost immediately after raising their hands on their kids, and another 19% parents also believed this to be the only way to discipline their children.
We all know that discipling a child through methods of corporal punishment might have worked in the short term, but mostly have resulted in adverse effects in the long term.
A new research shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.
“Preschool and school age children — and even adults — [who have been] spanked are more likely to develop anxiety and depression disorders or have more difficulties engaging positively in schools and skills of regulation, which we know are necessary to be successful in educational settings."
Why parents spank their child?
“76.4% parents said they chose to raise their hands as the child ‘irritates’ them, and they eventually lose their cool… Most parents agreed that they ended up raising their hands on children either during meals or during bedtime.”
Probably the reasons for spanking are similar at a fundamental level that might be related to the stress and frustration levels of adults. In many cases, it gets aggravated in a certain situation.
Why you should not spank your child?
a) No absolute outcome: It has been found that not only did spanking not affect obedience, the punishment contributed to “increased anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.”
b) Only short term: As mentioned earlier, it might just be a short-term resolution. Unless the child understands why he/she is being spanked and where is the problem, the solution cannot be ultimate. The learning has to come from within and not by only external force.
c) Can lead to a violent streak: In 2011, a study published in Child Abuse and Neglect concludes that spanking may result in an “intergenerational cycle of violence in homes” where physical punishment occurred. Basically, with this method, parents may be creating a perpetual cycle of physical violence. Analysis of the research concludes that children who are physically punished are more likely to embrace physical violence as a means of resolving conflicts with peers.
Regular spanking can lead to aggressive behaviour that encourages continued conflict between you and your child.
What can you do instead of spanking?
There can be other methods to effectively discipline your child, like:
a) Establishing a positive and supportive parent-child relationship that gives your child a reason to demonstrate good behaviour
b) Using positive reinforcement to encourage your child to behave like appreciation, rewards, trust and care, etc.
c) Using other disciplinary methods such as time outs or taking away your child’s favourite privileges for a period of time
d) Communicating with your child as much as possible
e) Consulting an expert like a child counsellor, if you feel things are out of your hand or you ate not able to manage