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Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

Were you spanked as a child? Many of us were. A proponent of nonviolent discipline, Mayim Bialik shares the repercussions of hitting children and argues against three common reasons why some parents spank their kids. From her book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.

1. “I have wild/hyper/crazy kids.” Gentle discipline and using methods other than violence against your child are appropriate for every kind of child, no matter their temperament. There is no such thing as a child who deserves to be hit, or who cannot be parented without being hit. In some cases, an assessment by a child psychiatrist may be helpful, but hitting does not help children whom you already deem as difficult; in fact, it may make things worse.

2. “I am too overwhelmed to do it any other way.” The commitment not to hit your children works if you have one child or if you have ten. If you cannot handle the stress of having a large family without using physical violence to keep it all together and running smoothly, perhaps a larger family than what you presently have is not the best option for you, and a skilled therapist, midwife, obstetrician, or clergyperson can help you work through it if limiting your desire for a larger family is problematic for you. An adult’s lack of resources and support is not the fault of a child, and children do not deserve to be hit because we are stressed out. The times when I have felt the most like I might hit my children have been times when they were not doing anything “bad” or “evil.” Rather, I was exhausted, I was at the end of my rope in terms of patience and resources, and I needed to get anger and frustration out of my body. These are precisely the times not to hit a child. These are the times to realize that we need help so that we do not use our children as essentially a punching bag.

3. “It’s how I was raised and I turned out fine.” Many people you know were hit as children and many turned out seemingly fine. Some believe they deserved to be hit and don’t know why others can’t just “get over it.” As a neuroscientist trained in cognitive neuropsychology, I have come to the conclusion that, to put it simply, every child reacts differently to being hit. Some grow up and don’t think much about it, and they lead perfectly fine lives. Critics of harsh discipline might purport that the internal psyche of a hit child will show indications of distress, but to the outside world, many such people function well. However, there are some children whose neurochemical makeup and psychological profile does not respond this way to being hit. These children are deeply wounded and often traumatized by experiences at the hands of parents, and they can never quite shake off the feelings those experiences aroused.

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