Spanking as Discipline - Feedback Friday

Okay, I had a really benign post all set for today. It was all happy and fun and called for you to answer an easy question. But all that has changed after following a discussion on Twitter then following it to the source blog: Her Bad Mother and her recent post A Spanking a Day. Every once in awhile I like to stir it up, like I did with our infamous Child Leash Debate.

In sharing her own experiences with spanking her own child, that was spawned by an article suggesting that spanking may actually be good for kids, this mommy blogger opened a firestorm of opinions and judgments from readers (including threats to call the police, and comparing spanking to slavery, racism, witch burning, and wife beating).

I followed this debate for a few days before commenting. I wanted to gather my thoughts properly and try to get down exactly what I meant before I wrote it. Most of my feelings and opinions here reflect the many comments this blogger received after posting this story. Now, 72 comments later, I finally contributed my own two cents:

There are many things that we do as parents that we wish we could have handled differently. Raising my three sons, there have been times when I’ve spanked and wished I’d handled it differently and there are times I’ve spanked and understood that though it wasn’t nice, I would have done it again.

I do know that with age and experience, I’ve learned that the spanking I do relates directly to the amount of physical aggression my kids show toward their own brothers and other children. I've learned that it isn’t a solution for me in most circumstances. Almost never, in fact. Calmer methods often yield calmer results. But still don't believe that all spanking is abuse.

I really can’t remember the last time I spanked one of my children, but I know it has happened. I also can forgive myself, as they forgive me, because we are all finding our way here. We are all learning from our mistakes and finding out what works and what doesn’t.

We are all trying to separate compulsively repeating what happened to us as children with what we choose to do as parents. All of this comes with age and experience...and I'm still learning.

I’m glad I didn’t have anyone threatening to call the police on me as I stumbled down this path of parenthood trying to learn what works best for us. I’m glad I was surrounded by people who listened and offered some insights and advice without judging or condemning me for my actions. I’m also glad I can admit I made mistakes and learn from them as I continue the journey.

Will I ever spank (spanking around here is one swat on the tush, not a repeated beating of the bum) again? I can’t answer that question, but I know how to evaluate the situation differently now, after 11 years of motherhood, and I will come up with the right solution for our family. But if I do spank, the intent and degree will not be that of abuse, and will not be equivalent to witch burning, wife beating, or slavery. It is "a tool in my box" quoting this commenter.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not agreeing with the the article, nor am I promoting spanking as a method of discipline, but I am defending my right to use it (or not) as a discipline tool depending on the circumstances.

Thoughts? Let's keep it civilized - no name calling or rudeness. We are all bound to disagree on this issue so let's hear each other out and begin a constructive conversation.



  1. oooh boy! lol well, i was spanked as a kid. not often, but some. i'm not an angry person or anything like that! not sure if i'll spank my kids or not, i think right now they are too young to get into any kind of trouble that would require a swat. however, i've been watching enough nanny 911 and super nanny to use alt. meathods of discipline.

    good luck with this post! haha

  2. Wow! You are brave! This is always a hot topic. And this is another time when I get to say "I'm glad I don't have kids", because now I get to speak my mind and just have parents totally dismiss everything I say because "you don't have kids. You don't know what it's like."

    But I am with you. I don't think that someone is a child abuser just because they may occasionally spank their children. However I do think that the majority of the time spanking is the "easy way out" to get a quick result, and that most of the time there is a better way. I have spanked, and I may do it again in the future, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been wrong in doing so and that I was just being a lazy disciplinarian looking for a quick fix.

    Ditto what Princess says: Very well written.

  3. I agree with you, it certainly is a rash decision when it happens for the most part. I, too, have learned there are often better ways to deal with kids.

  4. I have done it and I will do it again if the need arises. I agree that sometimes there are other methods that work better, but then sometimes a good ole spanking is just what is called for. To me, a spanking is done out of love and is a way to teach a child that there is a consquence for every action. Every time it has been done she knows why and she knew if she did a particular thing what was going to happen.

  5. Like I said, I've done it when I felt completely justified. Trust me, I've experienced abuse in my life and spanking isn't on that list.

  6. spanking is not abuse--if it is done rationally and calmly.
    It doesn't always get done when I'm calm enough, however--I'm not perfect. However neither are my children, hence the requirement of spanking.
    My children are well aware of when a spanking will happen.Guidelines have been firmly drawn.
    I use it only for BLATANT DISOBEDIENCE. Period.
    and it happens after we talk about it first.
    This is effective.
    We also pray afterwards and hug.
    If my child spills milk. We do not spank.
    If my child takes the milk out of the fridge directly after being told not to, and it spills, we clean up the milk, I count to ten,
    we have a chat and then a spanking.
    We hug, we pray and we go on with life.
    this, I believe, is a tool for our children to learn about consequences, much like time outs or going to your room is a consequence.
    Some consequences are worse than other because some crimes require a graver consequence. This is true in real life.

  7. Wow - Great post! I was spanked as a child, and my husband was whipped with a switch (on a regular basis). I have spanked my own children in the manner you described (a swat on the bottom), and I could probably count the number of times I've done it over the past 6 years on one hand. However, like you, I feel like it is a choice I can make for myself, as a parent, if needed. I kind of view spanking the same way I view yelling at my children - - when I have spanked, or when I have yelled, it is basically a sign to myself that I am losing control - - a Mom temper tantrum if you will - - and I need to take a time out and regroup. That being said, I firmly believe that the way that my husband and I choose to guide and train our children is our business. Society is so judgemental anymore and it is almost laughable -- on any given morning I will drop my small child off at school and see countless children arriving, in 18 degree weather, with no coats, wearing shorts, etc. Or kids who's parents allow them to spend every waking moment in front of the television, never playing outside. AND...here I am, being judgemental! Ack!! Parenting is hard. Very hard.
    Thank you for this thought-provoking post, Jennifer! I'm all riled up and I'm only on my first cup of coffee! :)

  8. Excellent points...I don't have any kids so I am not an expert, but I think that different things work for different people and that not all spanking is abuse.

    I am the mom of two dogs and even though I know that all the experts say hitting a dog doesn't work because then he doesn't respect you....I have been mad enough to smack them on the behind.

    It usually comes out of anger or frustration and I am sure that being the mom of an actual human child would also cause anger and frustration at times.

    The difference with humans is that they remember and have the ability to greater impact the world. That being said, I hope that when I have a child, I can make the right decisions most of the time.

  9. my husband (as a officer of the law) would say that a parent has every right to spank. so if the cops are called, now worries! as long as it is just spanking. as a parent, i don't think he has ever spanked one of our kids. me? i believe in it... as long as it is not a temper tantrum on a parent's end. my kids each had one "problem" each when spanking was the only solution. we calmly sat down adn laid the rules- that if this behavior was exhibited again, a spanking would be the result. and let me tell you, when it happened... it broke my heart and theirs. but a reminder of the rule and consequence had us hanging our heads and carrying on. and the behavior only occured maybe once or twice ever again.
    so that is my story... and i am really glad that i am past worrying about it :)

  10. Wow, talk about rattling the tiger cage ;)

    Hmmmm...I'm not a proponent of abuse, but I think as a society we've raised a huge group of kids who believe if they walk off a cliff, the ground will rise to meet them. We have no consequences, everyone wins, everyone passes, nobody dies. Our circle of friends is a weird mix of parents of teens/college, our kids, babies, preggers and no kids. I see high school seniors blow everything off and then expect parents to pay for a private 4 year collage (that's a huge shhhhhyaaa!in my book). I see toddlers being told "no, no johnny...joooohnny, no, no" (all done in a sing songy high pitched voice). Hello!?! Tell him NO! Swat that little diaper butt! Not beating, just let him know he's crossed a line. Now that our boys are older, its pretty rare that we spank...but when we do its very deliberate, not out of anger and done in private. If they did something wrong, a warning is given..next time you'll get a spanking (or no tv, grounded, extra chores...whatever is needed). I think I can count on one hand the times I've had to "Spank" all 3 of our boys....but its left an impression and they know I mean business. You can't effectively spank a teenager, but am I the only one whose looked at a smartalecky kid and thought "boy, that kid needed a good spanking!" Our kids know where the lines are, as they grow in maturity so will those boundaries. But still, crossing them means trouble...they've been raised to know that as a fact...not a threat.

  11. I wasn't spanked but my husband's mom spanked him - at first with her hands (until they hurt too badly) and then she'd switch to wooden spoons. She'd hit him hard enough to break the handles - nearly every time. And even with that, he doesn't hold any hard feelings and doesn't feel like it was a abuse (I have a differing opinion!)

    Nonetheless, if spanking is done when the adult has had a chance to rationally make the decision - for the sake of discipline - that's one thing...but how often have we all seen the out-of-control parent in the store spanking their child on the spot, in the heat of anger?! And I can almost never see a reason why one would choose to use an object such as a switch or paddle. If a child has gotten so ornery that an object is needed to beat them into submission, I'd venture things are seriously out of control.

    But overall I'd say USE COMMON SENSE. Some kids are more difficult than others, some don't respond to time outs, revoked privileges, groundings...different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    Excellent post and very tactfully written!

  12. It's true what many of you say, Judy is right, we must all use common sense and be careful not to cross that line into the crazy lady spanking her kids in the store.

    I can't imagine spanking my 11 year old, he's old enough to reason and understand consequences. But, when he was 5 and very defiant and willful, I felt it was the only way to drive a point home in a clear way on a handful of occasions. Usually, it involved him putting himself or others in danger.

    I have to say, though I haven't spanked often, it happened most with my oldest child when he was 3-5. I was a young inexperienced mom and have since found ways to deal with him and his brothers.

    My youngest was spanked the least, if at all, was I exhausted? Did I determine other methods worked better? Was he not as willful? I honestly can't say, but I feel like I've done my best with all three kids, spanking or not.

  13. ....ok, my 2 cents....this question is very much the same as "do you use sex toys?"....it is NO ONE's business how you choose to discipline your child. There is no right or wrong way - if there were, then the bookstores would only have 2 books on their shelves under parenting.
    This topic is by far one of the more controversial, but why?
    One of my 5 sisters was raising a child on her own and used "spanking" as discipline (not often, but sometimes). Some of my family members blew it out of proportion and thought this was horrible and actually called the authorities to investigate...of course an almost 13 yr. old is going to say her mom is ABUSIVE (because she got caught shoplifting or smoking), but HONESTLY I feel it was my sister's decision to handle it the way she saw fit - NEVER TO HURT the child, which I know she did not do. LONG LONG LONG story cut short.....IT IS NOT A PRETTY ENDING! My niece (31 yrs. old now) is still roaming the streets somewhere out there "using" and doing whatever....my sister has put everything behind her and after YEARS of therapy is living the good life.
    MORAL of the story - it is NO ONE"S business what is done behind closed doors unless there is TRUELY ABUSE that can be PROVEN!

  14. Well said! Sometimes I spanked my oldest with a switch, which wasn't really a spanking, but a "stinging" because that switch off of a tree would sting rather than hurt. It was a discipline though, which kids definitely need in some way or another.

  15. This is lovely. If I was smarter and maybe less of a hothead, this is what I would have written.

    So thank you for writing this. Thank you for standing up and saying, "I spanked. Look at me, I'm not a drooling, crazed, child-beating maniac who will spank her kids for the slightest infractions." I truly believe there are certain situations that a spanking is called for. What HBM spanked her daughter for, freaking out and running away into a parking lot, is entirely appropriate. Should you try reasoning with a child in full-on Nuclear Meltdown Mode in a dangerous situation? It is my opinion that no, you shouldn't. If it turns out I'm wrong, I'll have a child who is still alive to tell me that.

    Even though I have spanked, and would do so again should I feel it is necessary and appropriate, I have learned some lessons similar to what you have. Spanking doesn't always work, and for some kids, it doesn't work at all. Spanking leads to more aggression. Spanking will get the behaviour to stop immediately, but there is no learning in the spanking itself.

    We're all doing what we believe to be the best for our kids. Most of them will grow up and be really great human beings, whether or not we yelled or spanked or bottle fed or let them wear makeup before 16 or the million other little things that add up to parenting.

  16. My kids were spanked...not beat but spanked. I think they think it over before they do something a second time after being spanked for it the first time.

  17. A topic I'm not brave enough to tackle ESPECIALLY as a foster/adoptive mother. I plead the 5th :)

  18. Very well worded post! My husband and I only use spanking (a swat on the thigh) as a consequence of direct disobedience. I hope to train our kids in obedience early, and not have to spank very long. Even though it's effective and I believe a good form of discipline, I really *hate* spanking my kid.

    P.S. My husband is a police officer, and frequently reminds parents whose kids are out of control that they are within their rights as parents to spank. Spanking (when defined as you described) is not abuse.

  19. We haven't spanked our daughter. She's five. Of course there have been times we've thought about it, but decided before she was born that it was our personal preference not to.

    But here's something to think about. I was paddled in the first grade for something I didn't do, and I have never forgot it. A bozo Principal bullied and practically beat several of us into confessing to being a distraction in class. And then we got one paddle each. My parents flipped out and then yelled at me for getting paddled. I was seven years old, I'm sorry for caving to a dickhead Principal. But to this day, it bothers me that I was basically assaulted at school.

  20. We spank in our house; not excessively, but we do spank. Usually when it is complete disobedience and nothing else has worked or if danger were involved.

    The spanking is never done out of anger and never immediately unless danger is involved. The offender is sent to their room first, which allows the parent to cool down. Then the parent goes to the room, tells them why they are getting a spank and then they are given one, open-handed swat on the bum and made to stay in their room a couple of more minutes.

    I too agree, that it is just another "tool in the box."

  21. We all learn at some point that our actions will bring upon consequences. If as parents we do not discipline our children, someone else will, and they will do it with a lot less love and harsher consequences, and more longlasting consequences.
    That being said, spanking is not my favorite punishment, but there have been times and situations that it has been called for. Every child is different, every situation is different, so to me there is no clear cut answer as to spanking or not. That is why we are stewards of these children so that we can hopefully be righteous judges in issuing consequences. (whether these involve spanking or sitting down with the child for a chat, or sending them to the corner)

  22. I can remember being spanked once as a child and a threatened spanking one other time.

    As a parent, I tried spanking my daughter once and got no results from it. I also was trying the naughty step per the Super Nanny. Nothing was working. She was just in a bad tantrum stage of her life.

    I think as we continue on, spanking isn't an option because she just blew it off and I felt terrible about doing it.

  23. I do think problems in the classroom with undiscipline children creates a problem for disciplined children. We have varying types of discipline. However, spanking has a place - when all the other choices fail. They end of paying attention. I've never seen more aggression because of spanking - I admit it has not been frequently necessary.

    You might enjoy some of my other alternatives as a mother of 3 sons:


  24. wow...I am amazed at how many mom's out there approve of spanking as an effective way to get your child to behave. I am a mom of two wonderful son's (29&27 years) I have never spanked my guys for discipline...ever. I noticed a few comments by wives of police officers who stated they did not have a problem with spanking...well my husband has been an officer of the law for 32 years, both local and federal and would NEVER hit his children. The comment"if the cops are called, no worries" not sure I would count on that being true. As a child I witnessed my dad spanking my brothers and not really getting any results. I vowed to myself then I would never hit my children. I have used lots of discipline tactics through the years and am very happy I never had to resort to physical punishment. There are way too many proven methods that do not leave marks on a childs body. I believe also that using an object to spank with is the ultimate no-no. Once you remove the human contact of hand to body you are in danger of loosing awareness of how much pain you may be inflicting. That to me is abuse. Think about it...you spank your child for behaving in a way you do not approve of.....they strike another child because that child is behaving in a way THEY do not approve of....how do you explain to him you can hit him, but he can't hit others while using your reasoning. ...OK...I'll get off my soapbox now ;-)
    PS...one more thing...if spanking really worked, then how come most parents have to do it more than once? You would think once would be enough...food for thought.

    thank you all for being so well spoken...great thread

  25. OK I lied...one more thing and then I'm done. I know you define spanking as a swat to the tush, however everyones definition of spanking is so different and there lies a big part of the problem.
    I promise I am really done now ;-) Have a great weekend!

  26. I think one of the problems lies in the definition of perceived spanking versus abuse. There is a difference in my mind. Abuse is when you lose control and go crazy and it is also a control issue. Spanking is a slight swat or two on the butt to make a statement.
    I grew up with my brother and I abused. Emotionally and physically. We were told to "go get ready for your whipping" How does one do that. Then we were beat with a belt for no less than 10 whips - enough so that you could not breathe from crying so hard and enough that you could not sit down afterwards. That is abuse and I swore that would never happen to my kids.

    I have swatted their butt with my hand on occassion- but for me it has been when they have done something bad that could have caused them harm and I wanted the point made quickly. Such as running into the street when they were 3 - I did it to reinforce that it was wrong, it scared mom and it would hurt them. I have smacked my teen in the mouth at least 3 times in the past 2 years for talking smack to me.

    But I have found from my own childhood that there are other ways that "hurt" them more and make a better point. My kids love video games - man when they get grounded from that it makes a bigger impression than anything on them.

    I just remember when I was small. I was so used to getting whippings that when dad calmed down with the later children if I got in trouble he let us choose- whipping or grounding. I always took the whipping as it was over in 10 minutes and I was out the door playing again..What kind of impression did that leave on me? None.

    Every parent does what they think is best and as said we learn along the way. A few spankings wil never harm a child believe me- it takes beatings to harm a child.

    Just my two cents worth as we are all entitled.

  27. I've spanked my son MAYBE twice. He had been going through a lying stage and I had tried EVERYTHING before resorting to the "spank". He got two little thumps on the bottom that I knew stung enough to catch his attention...I walked from the room and cried. He never lied again, and honestly, I don't remember having to spank him ever again. From that point on, holding his wrist sternly and tone was enough to make sure he knew I meant business. Do I "regret" the spank? No. It honestly needed to be done. Sadly that was all that would get through to him at that point.

    There was obviously the little thump on a fully diapered bottom from time to time...and honestly that got more of a laugh from him than anything. I find nothing more amusing than some stranger seeing an tiny little snapshot of your life, and passing judgment. While I understand that there is need for people to speak up in some situations, there are far too many that don't look at the entire picture before they attack.

    Sometimes spanking works for parents...If I would offer any advice, it would be to NEVER spank while you are angry. It SHOULD hurt you just as much as it hurts them. If this isn't happening, maybe you should rethink the situation...
    Just my 2 cents.

  28. I've had to spank before, but now I rarely do. Now, all I have to do is threaten a spanking, and the behavior stops almost immediately. That's proof to me that spanking brought about the desired effect -- cessation of the undesired behavior.

    I've seen enough of kids who don't get spanked to know I never want my kids to act like that. Granted, their parents decision not to spank often goes hand in hand with a decision to not provide any real, consequential discipline at all, so it's hard to judge.

    But judge I won't. They can do what they want to do. I can can choose to do the opposite so that my kids don't grow up to be petulant, entitled, manipulative little shits.

    It's all about what works for your family.

  29. My children are grown.
    Next time you decide to take a swat...look at that little face when your done and see if it was worth that lasting impression.

  30. Good post - I see a lot of parents on here saying the same thing I am. I spanked in moderation when my kids were young and I don't see a thing wrong with it. They are really great kids now and I'm sure that was a small part of the reason. My son and his wife do not, but their children are beautifully behaved, so I think it's more about good consistent parenting than spank vs. don't spank.

  31. Im 13 (boy) in Europe and get often spanked. 2-3 times / month with a belt or cane. It hurts a lot because I get the punishment on my bare bottom and also on my bare legs. But I don't have any trauma of it and I have to say that I deserve 99% of the beatings. My biggest problem is that none of my classmates and friends are spanked (except one) or just by hand. So I am practically the only one who goes to school and to play in the afternoon with colourful marks on my legs. I get a lot of teasing - they even call me zebra because of the belt-marks on my thighs.
    So you should not be much stricter than the other childrens parents.

  32. Anonymous,

    My goodness, those "spankings" must be very hard to leave marks on your legs. Honey, I would never support that sort of discipline. I'm sorry you have to go to school with those marks and bruises. I would never hit my children that hard or with an object like a belt or cane.

    Thank you so much for commenting on this post.

    Jennifer Juniper

  33. Same as january 20 PM 5:38

    Thanks for your feelings and I am happy that you don't support such discipline that my parents use.
    I don't find the spankings really to harsh (just a little bit), I get 60-70 with the belt or 20-25 with the cane. I think half of it would also punish me enough.
    Yes, the worst is to be in school and on bus showing the marks on my legs, because I always wear shorts (even now in winter) so they can be seen easily.


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