Healthy in Every Way

A healthy child means more than just how well he performs on a physical examination. Of course we want our kids to be physically healthy, that’s a no brainer.  But mental and emotional health is just as important as making sure your child eats well, gets enough sleep and stays out of harms way.

Study after study after study has proven that spanking as a form of discipline produces negative effects on a child’s behavior as well as cognitive function.  One such study published resulted in these findings:

In the meta-analysis, researchers Elizabeth Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, respectively, evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids. They found that spanking was associated with 13 out of a total of 17 negative outcomes they assessed, including increased aggression and behavioral and mental health problems as well as reduced cognitive ability and self-esteem. *

In addition to the overwhelming number of studies that prove spanking is both ineffective and harmful, there is not a single study that proves the punishment improves behavior long term.  Whenever I ask a parent who spanks if they like spanking their child, the answer is always the same, a resounding no.  No loving parent wants to hit their child. So why, after a half century of studies proving how detrimental it is, are parents still using this method?

My personal thoughts are that most parents use it as a “last resort”. A lot of them will even use those words. They’ve tried other disciplinary measures that ultimately fail, so they resort to striking their child. It appears to have immediate results to the parent, so they view that as a sign that the spanking worked. Although it may appear to alter their behavior in the moment, the long term effects are that their behavior will get worse, resulting in more spankings. It’s a horribly vicious cycle that will cause more and more harm to the child’s emotional well-being.

Using the same study, the researchers outlined some of the possible outcomes of using spanking to correct behavior in children.

“Thus, among the 79 statistically significant effect sizes, 99 percent indicated an association between spanking and a detrimental child outcome,” the study reads. Those outcomes were: “low moral internalization, aggression, antisocial behavior, externalizing behavior problems, internalizing behavior problems, mental-health problems, negative parent–child relationships, impaired cognitive ability, low self-esteem, and risk of physical abuse from parents.” **

Given the tremendous amount of evidence against spanking as a healthy way to discipline children, I cannot understand why parents still deem it as acceptable.  As parents we are supposed to protect our children from all harm, not be a part of the harm. If there are better ways to discipline that don’t cause the harm that striking them does, why are parents not seeking out those answers? Why do parents who spank defend their actions so vehemently? If they don’t like hitting their children, why do they?

My goal at this stage in my life is to help guide parents to more effective, less damaging ways to produce the desired behavior in their kids. For those who choose to change their behavior in order to produce better behavior in their children, the rewards will be rich and the results phenomenal.


* Scientific American

** The Atlantic

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