No, Spanking Your Son Is Not Necessary

By on Sep 13, 2014 in Parenting | 5 comments

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On the heels of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal, another NFL player has landed in hot water after TMZ Sports published photos of bruises and cuts Minnesota Vikings superstar Adrian Peterson allegedly inflicted on his 4-year-old-son.


The New York Times gives more details about the incident:

CBS Houston, citing law enforcement sources and police reports, said Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a tree branch in Spring, Tex., in May, causing cuts and bruises in several areas of the boy’s body, including his back, ankles and legs. Peterson told the police that the punishment was a “whooping” administered after the boy pushed another of Peterson’s children.

After the news broke, Peterson’s lawyer released a statement reiterating the player’s love for his son: “Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. Adrian has never hidden from what happened.”

Despite his lawyer’s statement that Peterson relied on his parental judgment, the NFL star allegedly “felt bad” about beating his son and sent the child’s mother several text messages about the incident.

“Got him in the nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!” the message said, according to TMZ.


Pictures of Peterson’s son’s injuries via TMZ

While it’s clear Peterson crossed the line and abused his son, the incident once again ignited a debate over whether or not parents should use corporal punishment as a valid form of discipline for their children.

Let me just put it out there: I do not agree with spanking, whooping, or beating children. I think there are other more effective, soul-affirming ways to discipline children than by hitting them.

When it comes to disciplining Le Kid, I’ve chosen to keep my hands to myself because, as I found out early on, spanking him didn’t foster any longterm results, but it did make him incredibly angry and resentful.

My decision to parent without violence–because make no mistake about it, hitting your child is violent–is a huge departure from how I was raised. Growing up, my mother was quick to turn to “Mr. Leather” when my older brother and I got out of line, but it didn’t teach me not to talk back or  not to lie. Instead, getting spanked made me sneakier and afraid to be open with my parents. To this day there are certain things I won’t or don’t tell my parents about, and while I have never talked to my parents crazy, it’s more a function of having basic respect for people than being hit as a kid.

The research on spanking is also clear.  Scientists have not only found that harsh corporal punishments can alter a child’s brain, but there’s also a link between spanking and increased violence. Moreover, after a studying parents around the world, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded spanking is just straight up “bad for all kids.”

The APA reports:

Physical punishment can work momentarily to stop problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hit, but it doesn’t work in the long term and can make children more aggressive.

A study published last year in Child Abuse and Neglect revealed an intergenerational cycle of violence in homes where physical punishment was used. Researchers interviewed parents and children age 3 to 7 from more than 100 families. Children who were physically punished were more likely to endorse hitting as a means of resolving their conflicts with peers and siblings. Parents who had experienced frequent physical punishment during their childhood were more likely to believe it was acceptable, and they frequently spanked their children. Their children, in turn, often believed spanking was an appropriate disciplinary method.

The negative effects of physical punishment may not become apparent for some time, Gershoff says. “A child doesn’t get spanked and then run out and rob a store,” she says. “There are indirect changes in how the child thinks about things and feels about things.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence that spanking can do more harm than good and is an ineffective way to discipline kids, many folks are quick to proclaim: “I was spanked as a child and I turned out fine!”

And my response is always, “So what?”

We did a lot of things as children that we wouldn’t do to our kids today (uh, hello bike helmets), that still doesn’t make hitting your child right. For instance, I used to ride on my dad’s armrest in his Camaro while he drove around town. A few times, my dad got into minor accidents and I ended up hitting my head on the dashboard and getting a black eye. I’m still here and I survived, but that doesn’t mean I’ll let Le Kid ride on my armrest when we’re in the car. Why? It’s not safe. And neither is spanking.

Far too many parents think they’re doing what’s best for their children when they hit them, but end up crossing the line like Peterson. Furthermore, many parents don’t spank because they feel it will help correct their child’s behavior, they spank because they’re frustrated, angry, or embarrassed their kid acted out in public.

Another reason many give as to why they spank their children, especially their boys, is the notion that hitting them now will prevent them from getting beat by police later.

I can’t tell you how many time I’ve heard parents of color say something to the effect of, “I’d rather beat them than let the police beat them!” Unfortunately, nothing–not spanking, time outs, grounding,  or raising our sons “right”–can protect them from being racially profiled, and perhaps killed, by the police.

When it comes to disciplining children we should always choose methods that build our children’s self-esteem and worthiness, not destroy it. And for me, that means keeping my hands to myself.

Where do you come down on the spanking debate? 

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  1. terry

    September 14, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Thank you thank you, I am not a parent and I am black. Lately I have been having this exact conversation with my black friends and they made me feel like I was insane for thinking you can raise a kid without physical. I now know I’m not crazy and it can and should be done another way

      • Gwen

        September 14, 2014

        Post a Reply

        I have seen it go both ways. I have seen some kids without discipline (spanking) act like total asses in public. I have seen some with spanking still act like asses anyway….that doesn’t motivate them. Spanking when necessary can stop the behaviors as long as it is followed up by something else but after a certain age it doesn’t matter. There is a difference in spanking and a total beat down. Short term discipline – yes but follow up with explanations, information what ever else is needed. If a child shows signs that a spanking doesn’t matter then you need to find what “motivates that kid”. That’s the hard part. Yes, I was spanked – it worked for me but I am not everyone.

        • Britni

          September 14, 2014

          Post a Reply

          If spanking doesn’t work for some & parents should follow-up with other things….wouldn’t that mean you can skip spanking all together and just use “other things”?

          • Michelle

            September 15, 2014

            I have 3 children. Ages 22, 15 &12.. I used the method of spanking my oldest. It made her an angry person and she would run away periodically over a two year period. My 15 year old would get spanked periodically but then I began putting him in time outs and taking things that meant a lot to him away for periods of time. I found that my time outs and taking things away were more effective for my children. I recognize that with each child comes a different personality and you may have to parent differently in certain situations however the one constant that I chose to practice is no beatings. My 22 year old always says I favor the boys because they don’t get beatings and its not fair. My response is parenting is trial and error. Beating her made me realize that that’s not the answer and there are other ways to get my point across without laying a hand on anyone. I tell her she was the experimental child.

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