Toddler Spanking

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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

A toddler is any child from age two to three who is starting to walk and speak a few words. My grandson, now almost 14 months old, is a toddler. He crawls with great speed and walks like a drunken sailor until he plops on the floor and laughs. He says things like, “Hi, Dada, Bot (bottle), woof (for doggies) and Roar (for pictures of lions.”

A study was completed at Tulane University and published in Pediatrics that shows parents continuing to use spanking and corporal punishment despite warning against such behavior from both the medical and psychiatric communities. This article refers to corporal punishment in the United States. If you wish to read the original the reference for the article is:


 “Use of Spanking for 3-Year-Old Children and Associated Intimate Partner Aggression or Violence”
         Catherine A. Taylor, PhD, MSW, MPH, Shawna J. Lee, PhD, MSW, MPP, Neil B. Guterman, PhD, Janet C. Rice, PhD
         Pediatrics August 23rd, pp. 2010-0314

Interestingly, the findings showed that the highest percentages of toddler spanking occurred in families with lots of inter couple conflict, both verbal and physical.

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Corporal punishment has lasting negative effects on the psychological well being of children throughout their lives. It leads to depression, low self esteem, lack of self confidence and impaired ability to trust others.

According to the article, corporal punishment is defined as, “the use of physical force intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort for discipline, correction, and control, changing behavior or in the belief of educating/bringing up the child.”


What I wish to make clear is that, from my point of view corporal punishment includes one or both parents yelling or screaming at the toddler in the supposed interests of child rearing.

In addition, I have known of horrible situations in parents spanked toddlers as young as one to two years of age.

As I look at my grandson and remember our two children when they were growing up, it is hard to imagine any adult using anger, rage and physical punishment on those young and infantile bodies.

For sure it can be difficult to deal with children because, as they grow, they become more curious, independent and mischievous. I believe that there are those who do not know of any other way to raise children than to use spanking because that is the way they were raised.

The fact is that toddlers are easily distracted from activities that may get them into trouble. It is much easier for adults to simply substitute a better activity for them than the one that is problematical.

It should not need to be stated that adult use of physical force with children of all ages can be dangerous and result in harm and even death. One example is “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”

If parents are going to be honest with themselves and others, they will have to admit that the spanking and scolding happens because they lose control of their tempers and act in impulsive rather than sensible ways.

What are your experiences with infants, toddlers and children?

What would you do if you became aware that parents were abusing their child?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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