148: Is spanking a child really so bad?

I’ve been thinking about producing this episode for several years now, and I always wished I wouldn’t need to do it.  Then every few months I’d see a post in an online community saying something like “Is spanking really that bad? I was spanked and I turned out fine” and I knew that one day I’d have to do an episode on it – so here it is.


My guest, Professor Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, has studied and written extensively about physical punishment of children, and believes spanking should be considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (which is a marker of severe trauma).  I mean, if you think about it, we are actually talking about physical abuse here: hitting another human being.  We only call it spanking because it’s supposed to be controlled and as punishment for an infraction.  But if my husband were to hit me in a controlled way as punishment for something I’d done wrong, would we still call it spanking?  (And as Dr. Grogan-Kaylor notes, if we’re spanking our child we’re almost by definition not doing it in a completely controlled way, since we’re doing it because we’re frustrated and/or angry.)


In the episode we also discuss how, due to the way that a quirk in one researcher’s agenda aligned with changes in ethical rules governing experiments, that there’s actually scientific evidence from randomized controlled trials to support the efficacy of spanking at changing children’s behavior to make it acceptable to their parents!  Now the rules have changed and wouldn’t permit spanking during an experiment, it isn’t possible to generate evidence against spanking.  So advocates of spanking (and yes, there are some!) can honestly say that there is evidence of the highest quality in favor of spanking, and no evidence of that quality against it.


And of course we have to ask ourselves: is compliance what we really want?  Our instinctive response to that question might be “Yes!  I do want flipping compliance – and I want it now!” But I know many parents listening to the show have a goal to raise children who speak up when they see injustice, and who are internally motivated to do the right thing…and unfortunately focusing on making children’s behavior comply with our wishes works against that.


But that doesn’t mean the alternative is letting our child rule the roost.  There are ways to get your needs met and also meet your child’s needs, without spanking, threatening to spank, punishing, giving Time Outs, withholding privileges, or any other tools like this.  


If you’re reacting in big ways (spanking, yelling, frustration, etc….) to your child’s difficult behavior right now, I invite you to join my Taming Your Triggers workshop.  We’ll help you learn the real reasons why you’re feeling triggered (which aren’t really about your child’s behavior!), and what you can do to meet your needs – and your child’s needs as well.  Enrollment will open on Wednesday February 23rd 2022, and sliding scale pricing is available.  Click here to learn more about the 10-week Taming Your Triggers workshop.  (Shhhhh…if you sign up for the waitlist, I’ll send you a coupon when we open enrollment next week.)


If you’d like to learn more in the meantime, I’ll host a FREE masterclass: How to tame your triggers around your child’s difficult behavior (without stuffing down your feelings and pretending you aren’t angry!) on Saturday February 12th 2022 from 10-11:30am Pacific (if you register, we’ll send a replay in case you can’t join live but you will miss the in-person Q&A, coaching of one lucky parent, and a giveaway…).


We’ll look at the real reasons why you feel triggered by your child’s behavior, how to navigate these situations more effectively, and how to repair your relationship with your child on the fewer occasions when you are still triggered.  


Just click the image below to learn more and sign up.




About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

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