Controversies of Spanking Children
        Is spanking detrimental to children? Spanking also known as corporal punishment is a highly controversial topic with parents, researchers and family practitioners, due to its developmental effects, however there are safe alternatives.  Many people feel that spanking is a form of punishment that needs to be used to correct a child’s behavior.  Others feel that spanking can cause children to become violent and other ways of discipline can be used.  
        An adult’s responsibility is to raise their children as an honorable being.  Child-rearing has become increasingly difficult recently and one of the factors that have made it so difficult is the topic of corporal punishment.  Corporal punishment is defined and otherwise associated with the punishment inflicted on a person’s body.  To some, it is the title to a list of things such as the death penalty, whipping, and imprisonment.  To others, corporal punishment is a means of disciplining your child to prevent violence or antisocial behavior.
        Some parents view spanking as a good way to discipline their children early. Spanking and corporal punishment are used interchangeably however many recognize and use alternatives.  The supporters of spanking refer to the Bible for such an old method of parenting control.  The Bible has passages that suggest corporal punishment using a rod. This view states that the spanking will not leave you with completely undisciplined children and that it is proper to do so early.  Spanking then is a form of control and, when not used in rage, can be a very good tool in parenting.  In some cultures, this religious reasoning, contributes to the controversy because of the two very different settings of the biblical times and the present-day issues.
        The opposite view of this issue has many claims.  One claim is that spanking promotes violence and aggressive behavior which the child will imitate.  Also, this side claims that spanking your child can result in depression and low self-esteem.  This view takes the negative approaches to spanking and displays the harmful effects spanking takes on children.  To these non-supporters, spanking is seen as hitting and in no way will parents support hitting.  Spanking, to some, is dangerously close to child abuse and can rear terrible developmental problems.  This reasoning is controversial because in no way do most parents want to harm their children purposely, but how does one keep a child in line without permanently scarring their child?  Spanking can possibly be effective in keeping your child in line, but in terms of the future, will your child be affectionate with you?
        Spanking can lead into a tangent of many harmful effects on children.  For instance, if a child is spanked they might first change from defiant to introverted.  After which the child becomes less affectionate and warm to his or her parents.  Soon enough, the child could start lying to his or her parents to avoid getting hit again.  The child may misbehave more often at home then and later act out more in school.  Grades might decline and your child will be in grave danger of a terrible future.  Some look to past experiences of their own childhood disciplining and many seek to find answers in case studies and child psychologists.  In which case, there are still several sides to spanking.
        Corporal punishment to most sounds wrong in that it is physically punishing your child. No one can say that hitting is “good.”  That is often what confuses your child.  The parents’ motives behind the spanking, when it is not done out of rage but out of care to discipline, are not known to child and sometimes confuses him or her into thinking that behavior of hitting is okay to do.  The children’s mimicking the behavior is what some say will cause the chain of violence to continue to grow.  Advocates of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi support the nonviolence that they promoted and do not condone the ideals of spanking.
        Many case studies have been done to prove the relationship between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior.  In spanking the child we may confuse him or her into thinking hitting is alright and then even cause them to be more aggressive or antisocial. Out of the many case studies that have been done, almost all have been successful in finding some relation between the two.  Often times when spanking or corporal punishment is used to prevent antisocial behavior, the long-term effects are reversed in that the parent who aimed to prevent negative behavior actually ends up causing behavior such as depression and low self-esteem.  The results are devastating and does a parent really want to toy with their child to the point where discipline has become just plain damage?  Spanking them sends a signal that he or she can hit others, or that he or she has a parent who does not love them and is willing to hit them, or can lessen the respect a child has for his or her parents because of the corporal punishment.  In any case, as Murray Straus wrote, founder and director of the University of New Hampshire's Family Research Lab, "Hitting a child is wrong and a child never, ever, under any circumstances, except literal physical self-defense, should be hit."
        Over the years spanking has gone from being an acceptable means of punishing a child to being seen as a form of cruelty or abuse on children and only recently are parents again using spanking as a way to control their children.  This topic has become so controversial over time because of parents who have taken spanking to the extreme where it no longer is used to support rules but instead is a way for parents to release their daily aggressions out on their children.   When used properly, spanking does not hurt a child.  It is only when spanking is taken to the excessive that it can damage a child or create a false sense of an acceptable way to release anger towards another individual.
        In the late 1940’s after World War II parents began to take in the notion that their children were to fragile to be spanked.  This idea was put into the minds of parents by Dr. Benjamin Spock, an advocate against spanking, who warned that spanking can cause trauma and trigger more aggressive behavior.  More recent research by Diana Baumrind determined that light spanking and positive encouragement yielded children full of self-worth and personal achievements.
        Another reason that the issue has been seen as controversial is that some feel that spanking a child will make the child more likely to be a bully at school and pick fights with other children when the child becomes upset or irritated.  However there is not one study that can find a link between a children that have been non-obsessively spanked and those children who become bullies at school or tend to be more aggressive towards other children.    
        Spanking is a way in which parents can enforce to their children the hierarchical consensus that the parent is at the top and the children are below them.  If a child understands this hierarchical system then spanking is justified in the child’s eye, but if spanking is not used to reinforce these principals then children will see spanking as a form of interpersonal aggression released from his or her parents down on to the child.  
        Spanking should only be done to children between the ages of two-eleven.  Before the age of two the child does not understand why he or she is being spanked and after the age of eleven the child will no longer view spanking as a reinforcement to the hierarchical system in the family but instead will view it as an acceptable way to release aggression when someone makes them mad.  Also as a child reaches adolescence they begin to view themselves more as adults rather then children.  The hierarchical system in a family also begins to shift because these children begin to have a voice in family decisions.  When a child reaches the age of eleven there are other measures that can be used to discipline the adolescent besides physical punishment.
        While many find spanking to be harmful to children research is proving more and more that children who are spanked occasionally and at the proper age live non-aggressive lives and no lasting effects occur that compromise their development.     
            The Effects of Spanking on Development
        As defined by dictionary.com, “to spank is to slap on the buttocks with a flat object or with the open hand, as for punishment.”  With this exact definition many points of views will emerge, most on the opposite sides of the spectrum.  With the information provided regarding the effects spanking has on development, one will be competent enough to conclude for themselves whether spanking is detrimental or necessary.
            Theoretically, the modeling theory is the most valuable theory to keep in mind when questioning the dangers of spanking.  The modeling theory suggests that all behavior is learned by watching others. (Hyman, 1997)  Some years ago an experiment was conducted by Albert Bandura in support of the modeling theory.  Bandura used young children and placed them each in different scenarios with an adult and a doll.  In the first part of the experiment conducted, the children viewed an adult spanking the doll as well as yelling at it and tossing it.  In the second part of the experiment, the children viewed non-violent play between the adult and the doll.  The last experimental group of children didn’t view any sort of abuse or play, they viewed nothing.  The outcome of this experimentation showed that only the children who viewed aggression towards the doll became aggressive themselves; which leads us to our next point.  Parents who excessively spank their children were most likely spanked by their parents as children, simply put, when spanking becomes habitual a trend is set and a cycle is started.
         A recognized example of the modeling theory is evident in the life lead by Adolph Hitler.  Growing up, Hitler’s father treated him with pure cruelty as he kept himself distant with no emotional attachments with his son.  Although his mother was more warmhearted she was unable to prevent the incessant spanking Hitler would receive.  Through his father, Hitler learned the traits necessary to become the legendary dictator he became.  Regrettably, his brutality harmed the world in a more powerful and unforgettable way. 
            Aggressive behavior will evidently leave the boundaries of the home.  The more aggressively children are punished, the more aggression they show towards their peers.  Furthermore, frequent and harsh spanking can cause young children to bottle up their feelings of fear, anger, and hostility.  In later life these children are usually prone to suicidal thoughts, suicide, and depression (Hyman 1997).  Lowered self-esteem is a common side effect experienced by spanked children.  The children will think down upon themselves after having been spanked and thoughts such as, I am stupid, My mother hates me, and I hate myself will emerge.  Stress symptoms also become evidently clear in spanked children and soon feelings of humiliation, defenselessness and bitterness.      Sexism may also emerge as a result of spanking since boys are often times hit more than girls; leading to the next factor of social status effecting children.  Statistically proven is the fact that the children of minorities and lower class families get corporal punishment more frequently than white middle class or upper class children.  These affects, as a result, will affect any child at any stage of development. 
        Spanking a child will impact their physical and cognitive development in rare and severe occasions; however, spanking of any sort is prone to be detrimental for social-emotional development.  At the developmental stage of infancy, spanking is bound to affect social-emotional development.  Playing side-by-side with peers and also interacting at times will become an issue due to aggressiveness and lowered self-esteem.  Since a child who has been spanked will not feel as proud of him/herself this will negatively influence their developing sense of power and will.  During early childhood, spanking is detrimental to cognitive development.  It will damage the child’s ability to begin to recount familiar stories and events because those memories will be upsetting and humiliating.  During middle childhood physical and cognitive development will be damaged due to spanking.  The child’s aggression will prevent him/her form joining an organized sports group to enhance physical development.  Furthermore, the development of academic subject areas will be problematic due to at home issues of getting spanked as a form of punishment.  During early adolescents, a child who has experienced spanking will have difficulty with the emergence of sexual interest due to sexist biased formed.  In addition, instead of emerging into occasional challenges to parents, teacher, and authorities, they will surpass the occasional and go beyond.
        On the other hand, there are many arguments that declare that spanking a child will not have any short-term, long-term, or devastating effects on a child. For example, according to Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, the most obvious, positive, short-term effect of spanking is the advantage of immediate compliance and observance ("A New Look," 2002). In other words, spanking is a quick way for parents to get their children to obey them. Instead of threatening to put them on a "time out" or instead of not punishing them at all, spanking is a direct and fast way for a parent to get his or her disciplinary point across.
        Some might argue that spanking could cause harmful and damaging effects on a child in the long run. Some might argue that children who are spanked can often wind up being unstable and insecure adults. But according to Diana Baumrind, a psychologist from the University of California Berkeley, sporadic or sometimes even regular spankings do not lead to precariousness or instability in a child (Elias, 2001). Her research has shown that the children who did end up with some emotional damage were the children who were punished and spanked frequently and with objects other than just their parents' hands. Her research has also shown that children who were spanked as a form of discipline (that they were not spanked just to be inflicted pain by their parents) tended to develop the same way other children did who were not spanked. Baumrind goes on to add that spankings that are not in a frequent manner will not lead to any negative or long term effects on the child. It has been shown that spankings that occur every once and a while, do not hamper the way a child develops…that neither the child's social or emotional development will be affected (Kicklighter, 2001).
          Many parents who spank their children use it as a disciplinary last resort. On certain occasions, after they spank their children once, they never have to do it again. This is evident in the case of 39-year-old Sara Curtis. Curtis was out to dinner with a date and she had decided to take her three-year-old daughter with her. The child had been acting up throughout the entire meal, but Curtis tried to ignore the child's untamed behavior because she didn't want to have to disciple her daughter in a public restaurant. But then, Curtis realized that something had to be done. So, she took her daughter into the ladies room and hit her on the thigh. The little girl let out a sharp screech, but Curtis was not remorseful at all for having spanked her child. After they returned to the table, her daughter did not act up once and Curtis never had to spank her again (Hampel, 1999). In other words, children will not repeat their bad behavior because they want to avoid being spanked again.
        In other cases, children actually learn a lesson from physically being punished. This was the case for a man named Donald. When Donald was a young boy, he used to love going over to his grandfather's farm during his summer vacation. He used to love spending time with his grandfather and with his friend that he had met there, who was the son of a black man who worked for Donald's grandfather. These two children always had the best time together. They would play, roughhouse, and call each other names. When the wrestling would become too rough, Donald's grandfather would separate the two boys and have them reflect on why fighting was bad. And that is how far the punishment would go. But one day, the grandfather overheard Donald calling his friend a nigger. Without a warning, the grandfather walked over to Donald, hit him hard across the face, and then walked away. The hit seemed to be apparently hard because it made Donald fall to the ground "leaving [him] more shocked than hurt. The message was violent, and it came with no verbal explanation at all […] but Donald got the message his grandfather was trying to send, and it wasn't a message about the acceptability of violence. It was a message about the utter unacceptability of bigotry, and it had a powerful effect" (Lerner, 1998). Donald never said that word again and not once after that, did his grandfather have to hit him.
           In summary, spanking and corporal punishment are two things that have many opponents. But many argue that spanking will and can do more good than harm. According to some researchers, spanking does not cause any negative effects on children. Some researchers even like to say that children are better off if they are spanked because they are disciplined in such a shocking way that they either learn their lesson or behave in a more appropriate manner to avoid being spanked again.
            Suggestions When Dealing with Spanking
        Spanking is such a controversial issue that it is hard to take an unbiased approach.  It is also hard to tell parents how their children should be disciplined or how a practitioner should handle children because different cultures have different beliefs, however a few suggestions can be made.  The only thing that can really be done is to make sure that the discipline is not taken too far and that abuse is not occurring.  The reason for some parents using spanking while others do not may have something to do with the way that children are thought of.  Some people see children as being basically good and are willing to use rational persuasion, positive reinforcement, and limited punishment.  However, other people think of children as selfish and having uncontrolled behavior that must be punished immediately, which can be brought about through pain.  Many parents today do have a somewhere in-between view of children and could go either way with punishment (Hyman, 1997).  
        In America today children have way more rights and laws to protect them than before. Corporal punishment has been taken out of many schools, and there are now laws against child labor, child neglect, and child abuse.  All of these have come about to help protect our children.  However, some people don’t agree where to draw the line in how much say the government should have in the raising of children.
        For example in Brookline, Massachusetts a proposed measure to encourage alternative disciplinary methods to spanking was rejected.  Massachusetts is one of 27 states that forbid the use of corporal punishment in public schools.  However, no states regulates the use of spanking by parents.  This measure would have been the first regulation of spanking by parents in the nation, if it had passed.  Many people voted against this because they stated that they would like the option of whether to be able to spank their children or not.  Even parents that didn’t spank their children voted against it because they felt that they would be giving too much control to our government in how their children should be raised.
          Spanking is a form of punishment that is a personal and cultural decision that parents have to make.  Spanking children for every small thing can build up resentment and violence in them.  However, there is a form of loving spanking, in which parents spank to teach lessons to their children and help keep them safe. Spanking should be used as a last resort punishment and children should know what the consequences will be ahead of time.  It has been thought that having family meetings and discussing punishments with your children will help them understand that there are consequences for their actions and that the punishment should fit the crime.  If children understand what they have done wrong and that they are getting a reasonable punishment for their wrong doing, then they are less likely to build up resentment toward their parent and feel like their parent is a dictator. 
        It has been recognized that for children to develop into mature, responsible adults they must be disciplined positively.  In many cultures it is thought that in order to raise a good child, they must be spanked, however this is not always the case.  There are ways to bring up good children without resorting to hitting.  It is important to set boundaries ahead of time with children, help them understand wrong from right, and remember that children are naturally curious and like to get into things or experiment.  Not all children are the same and different methods may have to be used on an individual basis.  It is the parents or practitioner’s job to make sure that children are safe and must watch over them.  If a bad behavior is seen take it as an opportunity to explain to a child why this is wrong and if the behavior continues there will be consequences.
        In many cases people punish children’s bad behavior without explaining to the child why they are doing so.  Some parents think that they don’t have to explain themselves because they are the authority, which will lead to their children feeling that they don’t have to tell their parents everything because it is their life and none of their parents business.  This is the wrong approach to take because it will just turn into a vicious circle of disrespect between both the parent and the child.  Instead mutual respect should be taught through taking time to explain things and by giving the child time to explain their behavior and why they did it.  Sometimes there are good or underline reasons for bad behavior, and it may even be for attention because their parents are lacking in the social part of the relationship. 
        Children’s mistakes and experiments are what help form them into the people they will be.  If a child does something wrong, have a discussion with them about it and they will be likely not to do it again.  If a child is only spanked for what they did, they may not be able to understand why and could repeat the behavior again.  It is better to teach children right from wrong then try to scare them into doing the right thing (Nelson, 1981). Just spanking your kid won’t teach them a lesson because there is no real connection.  The only lesson that spanking could be making is to realize that hitting can control people or don’t make the parents mad, which could lead to secretiveness and lies.
          Not all children, however, are old enough to understand what adults are telling them and this is when parents and practitioners should be more patient than ever.  Starting from birth children can be given boundaries.  We have all seen a baby try to touch a stove, walk into the street, or stick something in an outlet.  Instead of spanking your child, take them out of the dangerous situation and watch them more closely when they are near danger.  Many parents spank their children to keep them safe and because it gets immediate results.  However try to explain things to your child by using words that they can associate with pain or danger, such as  “hot” or “owee”, while you are taking them away from the danger.  Even babies brains can begin to make connections to things and don’t need to be spanked to be safe.
        If spanking is a method that you would like to use, probably because you were spanked as a child, make sure that you do it within good taste.  Don’t spank your child for every bad thing that they do.  There should be different levels of punishment and when those don’t seem to work then maybe spanking is the only way to get through to them.  Another suggestion for a spanker would be to not use a belt, paddle, coat hanger, or anything else that can be used as a type of weapon.  Not only is this teaching the use of objects as weapons, but also can really harm your child because you may not realize the force you are using when you are upset.  By using your hand you are less likely to case severe pain since your skin is also in contact.
        One last suggestion to help reduce spanking, would be to walk away and take a time out.  Not only are time outs effective for children in many cases, but can be effective for adults as well.  If your child has made you so angry that you are afraid of the pain you may cause them or feel that you want to harm them, walk away by putting your child and yourself on a time out.  Maybe have someone come over to watch your child so that you may calm down and deal with the situation with a more open and rational mind.
        However your culture may have taught you to discipline your child, just remember that you are doing it out of love and to teach them a life lesson.  No matter what style you find effective, keep in mind that explanations, whether you are spanking or not, will help your child better understand and will be better for your relationship.  Also remember the next time your child has done something wrong to try to find the best punishment to fit your child’s wrong doing and the best for their development.  Shaping your child into a good person is a hard job and no one is perfect, but if it is done with nurturing love and care it will yield good results.