By Melisa Valenzuela
Disciplining children by spanking them remains a controversial topic and most people in the United States believe that no one should get involved with how parents choose to discipline their children.
Americans have used corporal punishment to keep their children in line for decades and assume that this is the only effective way of teaching them how to behave.
Studies have suggested, however, that spanking a child results in many unfavorable consequences such as lifelong trauma and depression.
According to analysis conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, evidence suggests corporal punishment causes cognitive impairment and long-term developmental difficulties by reducing the amount of the brain’s gray matter.
Gray matter is the connective tissue between the brain cells and is an integral part of the central nervous system.
It influences intelligence testing, learning abilities, sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions and memory.
Not only can spanking/physical punishment affect all of those things, it can also increase aggression in children and contributes to higher levels of acting out at school.
Elizabeth Gershoff, associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, has been studying child corporal punishment and its effects for 15 years and is the leading researcher on spanking in the United States.
According to her, spanking is just a euphemism for hitting children.
She said studies show that striking them does not model or teach the behavior that the parents are looking for.
Instead, it damages trust between a parent and child.
Sweden was the first country to completely ban all forms of child corporal punishment both in public and in private in the 1970s.
Swedes say that if parents are hitting, it means they’ve lost control and might need to learn about other options.
These options include giving “time-outs” and taking toys and privileges away.
The initiative is called the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. Since then, 30 other countries have banned spanking.
No North American countries are part of the initiative and researchers believe that the United States is nowhere near implementing such a ban.
Some researchers believe that a ban would be ineffective. Robert Larzelere, professor of Human Development and Family Science at Oklahoma State University, believes that it is OK to spank children but with some conditions.
He said that the physical punishment should not be rooted in a parent’s anger or frustration, it should not be used too severely, and should be used in a manner that reduces the need to use it in the future.
Parents must ensure that their children know the spanking is motivated by love and concern for their well-being.
He recommends that parents take classes to learn about different methods to discipline their children and also mentioned a “non-abusive spank” for children ages two through six.
“If we’re going to go down this route and impose rules or recommend parents not spank, we need to help them find alternatives that work as well,” said Larzelere.
Even though Gershoff agrees that small slaps on the wrist and inconsistent spanking would probably not produce any long-term effects, she asks, “Why do it at all?”
There are zero studies that have found any positive effects of any type of spanking, no matter how light.
People in America should let go of the excuse “I got spanked and I turned out fine” The idea is for our children to become better than just “fine.”
Children are our future, and if we are traumatizing them now then we are putting our future in jeopardy.