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Spanking Kids Is Just Hitting Kids, and It Doesn't Work

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Peter Dazeley via Getty Images
Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

Spanking doesn't work.

I've gotten so tired of humouring so many of my pro-spanking friends that I have to be as blunt as possible.

On a recent episode of our daily SiriusXM radio show, "Ward and Al," my co-host and I answered phone calls and emails from parents who insisted that it's still necessary in the 21st century to hit their children as a means of discipline. Of course, they didn't use the word "hit." They always said "spanking."

Whatever you call it, it's ineffective. It doesn't work now, and it never really did. It's a short-term solution to a problem that will never be solved instantly or with a swing of the arm. It's dated, it's counterproductive, and it's time to stop claiming it is remotely as effective as people like to pretend it is.

Don't just take my word for it. Listen to what the experts say. Cornell University research found that not only is spanking not effective in the long term, but that it breeds distrust and aggression in children. I find it amazing that I have so many friends who will believe anything a scientist says about Gluten-free diets, but refuse to listen to one when told that hitting children is a bad idea.

Yet, here we are, in the 21st century, and I'm watching otherwise rational adults rally behind how children aren't getting their asses handed to them by parents and how that is somehow leading to the downfall of society. People don't just spank their kids; they proudly announce it as if it's an admirable achievement. As if there is someone handing a diploma to them at the end of a long day of smacking their kid on the behind.

People mock "time-outs or grounding their kids. As if the thought of having toys or luxuries or privileges taken away is soft or meaningless. In fact, when researchers studied it and asked them, most kids admitted that they hate this far worse than the temporary, (although humiliating) pain that comes with corporal punishment. Being spanked only tends to make kids angry and distrustful of the person administering the punishment. I can't say I blame them. I don't know if I'd trust a person whom I'm supposed to look up to who thinks the best way to teach me right from wrong is by smacking me across the thighs.

But now the idea of grounding kids or taking away privileges (TV, phone, Internet, car) is seen as "weak" or somewhat ineffective despite all evidence to the contrary. People tell me that such "wimpy" punishments won't work for their kids these days, to which I have to wonder what kind of negligent parents they've been up to that point. If the only effective thing you can do to punish a kid is to hit him, I have to wonder if the problem isn't the kid at all.

And that's the real problem, isn't it? Discipline is hard work. It takes time and effort and patience. It can be frustrating and seem nearly impossible. On the other hand, just swatting the kid numerous times across the buttocks? Well, that's easy. But that's also exactly the problem: Spanking is the easy way out. It's lazy.

I'm especially against spanking because it makes me out to be a liar. I can't tell a child that hitting people is wrong and then turn around and hit him because he didn't do what I demanded. How could I look at my daughter with a straight face and tell her that it's wrong to hit people at all -- let alone people smaller than she is -- only to then tell her that it's perfectly acceptable if I do it to her? The utter contradiction is appalling.

Don't think for a second that the kid who gets the belt at home is somehow humbled or more polite than others. Turns out that many kids who are spanked as kids also wind up bullying other kids. And why not? After all, they've just learned at home that hitting gets results.

What does that say about us as adults when we think it proves our authority when we raise a hand to our children? It'd be like being impressed that Mike Tyson slapped Jonah Hill.

Look at it this way: If you struck an annoying stranger in line at McDonald's with the back of your hand, you wouldn't be seen as a "real man" or someone who was just administering discipline. You'd be seen as a jerk -- and rightfully so -- and then charged with assault. When it's another adult being struck, we call the police. Yet, when it's our children, parents call it an effective learning tool. I'm calling BS.

Stop taking the easy way out. It's not about what's convenient for you; it's about what's best for the kid. That might just be exhausting and seem impossible, but it's better than the lazy alternative that is raising your hand to someone much, much smaller than you are; that same someone whom you're supposed to teach not to hit other people.

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