Facts for Families

Facts for Families

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To Spank or Not to Spank?

By Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator


I recently read an article on Facebook about a famous celebrity who admitted that she spanked her child when necessary. Knowing how the act of spanking as discipline can be a controversial topic, I proceeded to look at the comments left by readers of the article. Sure enough, for every comment like "spanking is abuse" or "you should never strike a child", there was an equal amount of comments such as "I was spanked as a child, and I'm just fine" or "spanking is not beating!" Americans do seem to divided on this issue, and even professionals tend to differ in opinion. Where someone lives, childhood experiences, religious background, and culture can all play into the decision whether to spank a child.

The stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that they do not recommend spanking. They feel that after years of research, they have found that spanking seems to lose its impact after a while, increases aggression and anger, and can lead to physical struggles to the point of harming the child. AAP says that although parents intend to stay calm, they often do not and then regret their actions later. They also add that while many adults who were spanked as children may have grown up as well-adjusted and caring people - that compared with children who were not spanked, these adults are more likely to have issues like depression, increased anger, alcoholism, and commit domestic violence and engage in crimes and other violence.

So what can a frustrated parent of an unruly child do instead?

There are many great resources available on the Web, but some quick tips from the Illinois Early Learning Project include:

  • Ignore or overlook attention-seeking behaviors – especially if they are behaviors that will not harm your child or others. Sometimes whining, bad language or tantrums need to be ignored and not rewarded with our attention.
  • Use consequences related to the misbehavior – taking away toys/items that are being fought over or misused seems to make good sense. Having a child help pick up a mess he made will encourage him to be more careful. Consistency is important.
  • Encourage positive behaviors – give children things they can do instead of always telling them the things they shouldn't do. Arrange their environment to be one that is conducive for what they are allowed to do. Use the "when/then" rule – when the children pick up their toys, then they can watch TV or play their favorite game.
  • Use timeouts wisely – it is better to use a timeout in response to behaviors that could be dangerous or harmful like biting, hitting, etc. Timeouts are for a child to calm down and regain control.

There are many other suggestions for effective discipline out there. A article that is worth looking into is called "Disciplining Your Child" by the American Academy of Pediatrics and can be found online at www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Disciplining-Your-Child.aspx

Website that are also helpful are Parenting 24/7 found online at http://parenting247.org/ and Illinois Early Learning Project http://illinoisearlylearning.org/tips.htm

I would imagine that this topic will continue to be a highly debated one and regardless of research, parents will continue to make their own decision to spank or not to spank – based on very personal and emotional factors.

For more information on family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at University of Illinois Extension at 217-543-3755 or at cburcham@illinois.edu For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/

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