|“||When advising parents on child discipline, pediatricians should emphasize the importance of balancing correction with encouragement. The parent-child relationship is pivotal in determining the success of any disciplinary measure. The selective use of disciplinary spanking with young children can be useful component of the disciplinary process.||”|
|— Den A. Trumbull, MD, FCP, December 2007 American College of Pediatricians|
Pro-spanking is a term used to refer to the point of view that spanking is an acceptable form of punishment of children. The opposite is called anti-spanking: the view that children should never be spanked.
The pro-spanking philosophy, generally speaking, believes that children should be spanked for some offenses because:
- spanking is an effective way to bring an immediate end to misbehavior
- spanking connects the misbehavior with pain in the mind of the child, and pain is a natural aversive in nature
- spanking is physical, as opposed to forms of psychological punishment
- spanking is quick, and forgiveness can follow immediately
- spanking is known for millennia to be an effective parenting method
- spanking is safe when done correctly, i.e. given only on the buttocks where the risk of injury is very small
- spanking may work when other punishments don't
- there is not enough reason to be against spanking
Some people also argue for spanking from a religious point of view (e.g. with quotes on corporal punishment in the Bible). For example, in February 2015, Pope Francis I publicly endorsed parental spanking.
The pro-spanking point of view prevailed since known history (see the history of spanking), but was gradually replaced by the anti-spanking view in the course of the 20th century. This caused a revolution in parenting and education methods that led to the complete banning of corporal punishment in many European countries.
The pro-spanking position is expressed in scripture since antiquity (Greek philosophers, Roman authors, the Bible) and in most parenting books that were published before the 1960s, but only very few selected newer publications. Today there is a handful of pro-spanking websites that are run by people as a criticism of the anti-spanking movement. Europeans who express pro-spanking points of view today are in risk of harassment in their home countries, which is why pro-spankers, unlike their anti-spanking counterparts, often seek protection in anonymity and pseudonymity.
Responses to some common anti-spanking arguments
Research shows that spanking causes harm
Although there is some research that shows correlations with negative effects, that does not prove that spanking causes negative effects.
Parents who spank may be more likely to be cold, aggressive or to have an authoritarian parenting style (probably because kind people don't hurt children), which is what may cause to the effects, and/or it may only cause the effects when done 'wrong' (for example: without reasoning/explanation), or there may be some other confounding factor. As the saying goes, "correlation does not prove causation". However, this can be criticized as a "moving the goalposts" argument. "They proved spanking was bad but they were looking at all types of spanking instead of just one very specific form of spanking that only exists in theory" is not a good counterargument to decades worth of research, some of which followed the same subjects over the course of fifty years and showed that corporal punishment makes them more violent.
Furthermore, often further analysis of the research shows that the harm is close to nonexistent, having not much worse results than other forms of punishment (which doesn't mean that spanking isn't bad, just that other forms of punishment aren't much better), which is consistent with the idea that it may be caused by something correlated with spanking rather than spanking directly . While it may appear that the research uniformly shows the same result, this is not the case. In some cases, results are even positive. A few outlier articles, however, do not disprove a trend.
If children can understand reason, then they don't need to be spanked, and if children can't understand reason, then they won't understand being spanked
- This argument, although worded against spanking, applies to all forms of punishment. (This, however, does not mean that spanking isn't bad, just that other punishments aren't good. It can be argued that punishment itself is evil: the notions that people have to "pay" in suffering to be forgiven, and that pain improves a person's morals, only exist to justify revenge, and in the latter's case, unproven (the former is unprovable and unfalsifiable, but can be considered barbaric). There are those who would rather justice be about reforming people rather than punishing them, and as the anti-spanking page mentions, there are those who oppose all forms of punishment, but see physical violence as the worst kind.)
- Operant conditioning would still work even if they can't understand reasoning. (Not necessarily. If a child can't connect the pain to their behavior, it won't, and since pro-spanking advocates try to combat the accusation of spanking being done out of anger with saying it's only done ritually, that requires reasoning, so the previous argument of "spanking is only bad of it's not done right!" falls completely flat when the victim is someone who spanking cannot be done right against. A pro-spanking advocate must choose one argument or the other. If the child connects the pain to the attacker, which would make the most sense from survival standpoint, it will be even less effective, as the child will now fear and hate the parent, creating ambivalence and dysfunctional attachment, which are not at all uncommon in childhood relationships with parents, likely due to the prevalence of corporal punishment in them. Especially noticeable is how often these feelings come to light during adolescent years, when someone begins to rebel against their parents' control over them. It's likely that they're dealing with the frustration of being abused by the same people who seem to love them, and trying to fight back against the notion that the good times excuse the bad, though they often end up forced to forgive their parents due to societal pressure "stockholm syndrome", the phenomenon of loving one's captor or abuser. Infliction of pain during formative years contributes to stress and anxiety that do not leave in adulthood, and even if these side effects were worth it, it would not be humane. Corporal punishment creates an environment of fear, as is its purpose, and that is cruel. Additionally, modeling is a much more important and effective psychological technique, especially for raising children, than operant condition. Children are born imitators, striking models striking, and the stress makes them even more predisposed to hit.)
- The question shouldn't be if they can understand reason, but if they will listen to *and* understand reasoning.
- Children often suspend or skew reasoning - spanking would bring them out of such state. (This claim is doubtful. Children are naturally curious and love to learn, think and reason, so "suspending" reasoning is not going to happen unless something has been done to them to make them not like it--for example, if they have been taught by experience that no matter what they say, their parent will never admit defeat in a debate, even when objectively wrong, and that will be followed up with a punishment, especially a violent and painful one. Additionally, consider that parents, especially biological parents, especially authoritarian parents, especially parents who ignore scientific evidence to harm children however they want, are likely to be the type to refuse to acknowledge that they can ever be wrong, and thus will misconstrue any counterargument by a child as "skewing" the reasoning. Reasoning is not a one-way street, and parents are not always right.)
- Children may ignore reasoning. (Even as parents ignore evidence. A spanker is someone who cannot be reasoned with, and so naturally produces a child that cannot be reasoned with, whether that trait is genetic or learned. Still, the notion that reasoning is useless because children will ignore it is a "false dichotomy" logical fallacy argument, much like the false dichotomy of spanking=discipline and not spanking=no discipline that pro-spankers believe in. Reasoning can be combined with incentives other than the fear of pain, possibly with children only getting rewards if they show proper understanding of the reasoning.)
- Spanking may be combined with reasoning increase the chance of long-term compliance when reasoning alone may not reach that goal. (Or spanking may not affect or decrease the ability to reach that goal, hypotheses which have actual scientific support. The stress that corporal punishment brings may interfere with the brain's functioning, and frustration with an authority figure's insistence on punishing someone who has already agreed to a rule may lead to misbehavior out of spite, to punish the person who was unjust to them. Yes, that argument applies to non-corporal punishments too, but that simply means that other punishments aren't exempt from criticism either, not that spanking is.)
Pro-spanking parenting books
Pro-spanking parenting books are books on parenting that take a pro-spanking point of view, i.e. they recommend parents to use disciplinary spanking in certain ways and under certain conditions. Usually these books take the point of view that a spanking, given at the right time and in the right way, can be beneficial in raising up a child.
Today, these books have become rare, as the majority of modern parenting books takes an anti-spanking point of view and warns parents to avoid all forms of corporal punishment and use other punishment methods, such as time-outs, instead.
Another position is to present spanking and a non-spanking alternative, with the choice left to the reader. The author may also offer his or her individual preference.
Examples of pro-spanking parenting books:
- Back to Common Sense by Beatrice Reinhart, 1937
- Correction that Corrects by Mariam Fredrick, 1925
- Child Development: Parenting & Teaching by V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D and Corlice J. Petersen, Ph.D, 1986, 1990, ISBN 0-538-32200-4
- Christian Family Guide to Parenting a Toddler by Sybil A. Clark, 2004, ISBN 1592570496
- Christian Parenting and Child Care by Dr. William Sears, 1985, ISBN 0840754221
- Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, ISBN 978-0553255287
- Effective Parenting in a Defective World by Chip Ingram, for Christan parents (excerpts), 2007, ISBN 978-1414303840
- Growing Kids God's Way by Gary Ezzo, 1986
- Handbook of Parent Training: Parents as Co-Therapists for Children's Behavior Problems by James M. Briesmeister, PhD and Charles E. Schaefer, PhD, 1989, 1998, ISBN 0471628743, ISBN 0471163430
- Lots Of Love And A Spanking by Jamie Pritchett, ISBN 978-0965608725
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy by Toni L. Hembree-Kigin, Ph.D and Cheryl Bodiford McNeil, Ph.D, 1995, ISBN 0306450240
- Spanking: A Loving Discipline by Roy Lessin, ISBN 978-0764225635
- Spanking: Why? When? How? by Roy Lessin, ISBN 978-0871234940
- Shepherding a Child's Heart by Dr. Tedd Tripp, 1995, ISBN 978-0966378603
- The benefit of school-discipline, 1741, London
- The Mother's Almanac by Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons, 1975, ISBN 0385468776
- The New Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, ISBN 978-0842305068
- The New Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson, ISBN 978-1414313634
- The Plain Truth about Child Rearing by Garner Ted Armstrong, 1963
- The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson, ISBN 978-0842359245
- To Train Up A Child by Michael Pearl, ISBN 978-1892112002
- What The Bible Says About Child Training by J. Richard Fugate, ISBN 978-1889700137
- Withhold Not Correction by Bruce Ray, ISBN 978-0875524009
- Matthew Zarzeczny, "The Most Controversial Public Remarks (and Photographs) of the Past Week," History and Headlines, http://www.historyandheadlines.com/the-most-controversial-public-remarks-and-photographs-of-the-past-week-feb-1-7-2015/ (accessed February 9, 2015).
- Larzelere, Robert E., et al. “Improving Causal Inferences in Meta‐Analyses of Longitudinal Studies: Spanking as an Illustration.” The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Wiley-Blackwell, 24 May 2018, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.13097.
- Larzelere, Robert E, et al. “Do Nonphysical Punishments Reduce Antisocial Behavior More than Spanking? a Comparison Using the Strongest Previous Causal Evidence against Spanking.” SpringerLink, Springer, 22 Feb. 2010, link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1471-2431-10-10.
- Gunnoe, Marjorie Lindner. “Associations between Parenting Style, Physical Discipline, and Adjustment in Adolescents' Reports.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31 Aug. 2016, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/15.10.49.PR0.112.3.933-975.
- Discipline Your Kids... Please!, an example of a pro-spanking article by Dr. Dale A. Robbins
- Disciplinary Spanking: Analysis of Corporal Punishment by Parents American College of Pediatricians.
- 'Spank me': Catholic schoolboys rally in SUPPORT of paddling as corporal punishment is debated (news from 5 March 2011)
- Learning to Obey Your Heavenly Father (audio file of Pastor Joel H. Linton preaching, 47 mins)