As a psychologist, I’ve never been a fan of the thought of using spanking to modify behaviors. To be honest, even though I’m not a fan of the thought of spanking, I tried it a few times with my daughter. In particular, I used it to try to help my daughter stop hitting. It didn’t help. For her, it was best if I talked to her about how we don’t hit others, because it hurts. Many families have used spanking, however, the research shows it’s not effective.
Parents model aggression as a way to handle conflict and stress when they spank a child. Thus, children may be more likely to use hitting as a strategy for handling frustration and conflict with their peers. Spanking may also be related to aggression later in life (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/16/harmful-effects-spanking-toddler-can-trigger-bad-behavior-even-10-years-later/562203001/).
2.Expectations for behaviors
Spanking does not teach the child what is expected of them (or what good behavior is expected of them), as it only teaches what is undesired. For example, if I spanked my daughter for hitting, this doesn’t tell her what she should do instead. I found that she would hit me when I wasn’t understanding what she wanted. So, I would tell her we don’t hit, but we should use words (she wouldn’t use a lot of words, sometimes she’d even just say “this” and point randomly.
3.Fear of parent
Spanking isn’t helpful for building a warm, close, and respectful emotional bond with the parent. It can be confusing for a child, because they seek parents for safety, yet this person inflicts physical pain and possibly causes fear. When spanking crosses into abuse, this can be very detrimental to the brain. When stressed (such as when we are spanked), our body releases cortisol, and in excessive amounts, this can be toxic to the brain. In turn, this can actually damage the brain and result in the loss of brain cells. Generally, our brain is processing the spanking as a threat and goes into the “fight or flight” response.
4.Shifts attention away from the child’s behavior
When a parent spanks a child, the child’s attention shifts towards the parent’s behavior. When this happens, children don’t focus on their own behavior and what can be changed. Rather, they are going to turn their attention towards how mean the parent was and how scary that moment might have been.
As parents, we should focus on discipline, which involves teaching our children what is expected of them. Thus, we should teach them appropriate behaviors, as well as appropriate ways to regulate their emotions. Spanking as a main form of discipline are missed opportunities for developing strong, emotional connections with our children.