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Parenting, Spanking and Later Aggression

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Have you ever had the experience of seeing a parent in a supermarket correcting her crying child by spanking him? In fact, in this scenario, the irate parent scolds the kid to stop crying and, at the same time, is spanking the youngster which can only cause the child to cry even more. This is not unusual because vast numbers of parents continue to use hitting and yelling as ways to discipline their young children.

New studies support research done in the past: Spanking children is not good for them and results in discipline problems and aggression in elementary school and beyond. Yet, spanking is a tactic mothers and fathers continue to use. Why is this so?

Exasperated parents probably find it easier to resort to spanking rather than seasoning with their children as a way to discipline their children. Studies show that 33% of fathers and 52% of mothers spanked their children at age five. These numbers are high despite the fact that this is an ineffective way to correct behavior. It probably continues because this was the way parents were raised and that it temporarily results in compliance. Later, the same behavior occurs, this time in school and in play with other kids.

It is understandable that children would become more aggressive when consideration is given to the fact that parents are role models for their kids. If parents use spanking then children learn that hitting rather than talking and negotiating are preferred ways to try to solve problems. In addition, parents are big and strong compared to 5 year old kids. At that age it’s not possible to hit back. Therefore, what better reaction than to take out frustrations and anger at school rather than at home? Besides, in a child’s mind, if mom and dad hit, and then it must be the right way to do things.

Studies also found that children who were spanked were found to have lower vocabularies as compared to other kids. It is not that spanked children are less intelligent than others but that less time is spent on talking about problems. That’s probably because it seems easier to use spanking instead of reasoning. In addition, it is possible that youngsters who were spanked might be distracted and less able to learn at school.

Of course it can be difficult to raise little kids. Pressured for time to make breakfast, get the kids dressed, get to work, get the kids to elementary school, and see to many other chores, parents become overwhelmed and their patience stretched very thin. Despite this it’s healthier to avoid yelling and spanking especially considering the implications for future behavior and development. In fact, it is fair to say that parents need to learn better strategies than hitting to handle their anger.

In a world where we read about war and violence everyday, there have to be better ways to raise our children and there are. It’s alway sobering to remember that our little kids will become teenagers. By that time it might be too late to impress upon them the values having to do with talking rather than fighting. As the age old saying goes, “What goes around comes around.”

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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