A study performed recently suggests that spanking and other forms of corporal punishment may lower your child’s IQ.
The study said this could be a result of two factors, first, that spanking puts extra stress on a child causing their IQ to develop differently, or second, that people who refrain from spanking tend to come from richer families and/or societies, where education is better and more strongly valued.
This is interesting for me, who chooses not to spank. I choose not to spank for different reasons, though.
First, I have read other studies that suggest that spanking is not effective for most children. Physical pain just doesn’t last long enough to be a deterrent to misbehavior. If you cause pain that lasts a long time, you’ve crossed the line into abuse (and depending on where you live, that line can be a fine one, and an easy one to cross, why risk it?). Spanking is more likely to cause children to do more outrageous things to cover up their misbehavior, and to make them feel isolated from and angry at their parents, giving them more of a motive to misbehave in order to get revenge, so to speak.
For those for whom it does work, its not working in the way you want it to. Spanking causes them to have a strong and irrational fear of authority figures. Fear is not respect, mind you. We want to teach our children to respect authority figures, and at the same time, to stand up to injustice directed at them or anyone else by corrupt authority figures. Spanking simply teaches children to fear authority figures and to do whatever they say, whether it is right for them to do that or not. They don’t learn to differentiate right from wrong, they only learn that people will punish them if they don’t do as they are told. These children grow up to be weak pushovers.
Second, I feel that spanking creates an environment of violence that I don’t care for. How am I supposed to teach my son, for example, that hitting and biting is not a way to settle disputes or to get what he wants, if I hit him whenever he’s not doing what I want him to do? That makes about as much sense as a drug addict telling his kids not to do drugs as he’s doing drugs. Furthermore, I’m just afraid that if I run a household in which violence of any kind is acceptable, that my child will grow up to either inflict violence on others, or to accept violence inflicted on him. Not cool. Violence is not the norm.
Finally, I don’t think spanking teaches children accurate consequences for their actions. When they grow up, if they do something wrong, they’re not going to get spanked by the police, or their boss, or their spouse (hopefully). I believe punishment should create a consequence that directly relates to the misbehavior. If a Elijah is throwing, I take the toy away. If Elijah is throwing a fit, we go sit in a corner until he can stop and use words to tell me what he wants. Etc., etc.
In the adult world, there are better ways to resolve conflict and to get what you want than buy going around hitting people. Most adults find that approach to be less than productive. I don’t think its ever too early to begin teaching children the more productive ways of handling their emotions and needs.
That being said, I don’t think a very occasional, well thought out and un-emotional spanking is child abuse. Its just not what’s right for me and my child. I think if you’re going to spank, it should be very infrequent (because the same punishment over and over loses it’s value) and should be done only after you’re no longer angry about the misbehavior (this way you’re less likely to let your emotions get the better of you and cross that line into abuse).