smack slap behaviour behavior

5 Proven (and other) reasons AGAINST spanking kids

Not all spanking (or smacking as we say in the UK) is born equal.  Some parents say that they will just administer a tap, whilst others go a lot further.  But even so, there is NO spanking in our house and I hope to convince you that it does more harm than good:

1.  Why do you need to?

Parents of young children have complete power – we control absolutely everything about their lives.  Spending, access to entertainment, diet, who they play with, bed time.  Not spanking / smacking does not mean a lack of discipline.  Whilst I agree with pro- spankers that some parents let their little darlings get away with murder, we have a lot of tools at our disposal.  Here are several highly effective methods that I’ve already written about:

Over time there is a shift in every family power dynamic.  A parent who uses spanking would have to stop as the child becomes adult-sized (if not before).  What will replace spanking as their form of discipline at that point?  In contrast, by bringing a child up with effective non-violent alternati

ves they will naturally understand that their actions will have consequences – the nature of these consequences will age with them through to adulthood.  These children will be able to make judgments for themselves about the appropriate way to behave.

2.  The punishment should fit the crime

If a child misbehaves in any way other than hitting someone else, spanking does not fit their crime.  I would argue that this doesn’t really teach them anything.  Effective behaviour management of children comes from showing them the link between their actions and their “punishment”.  If you do X, the outcome will be Y.  That’s how the real world works.  If they don’t co-operate with having their hair washed, they will get soap in their eyes.  If they don’t want to wear a coat on a cold (but not freezing) day, then they will get cold.  Just hitting a child in response to all types of misbehaviour is disjointed thinking.

If a kid has hit someone else, hitting them in return makes no sense either.  It’s asking them to do as I say, not as I do.  If it’s acceptable for a parent to hit them, why isn’t it acceptable for them to hit?

3.  No good comes from spanking

Why do spanked children behave?  Because they fear their parent(s) and the possibility of being hit again.  What is the purpose of spanking?  Sure, a child will behave in the moment but what are the longer term impacts?  Is a parent who spanks likely to become a confidante of their child?  A safe person to turn to in times of difficulty?  Trust can be destroyed – and I say this with personal experience.

An Article in Scientific AmericanWhat Science Says—and Doesn’t—about Spanking attempts to make sense of the complex and often contradictory messages about spanking.  Please do read the full Scientific American article or the academic paper that it is based upon if you have the time, but in case you don’t here are 3 key passages:

In the meta-analysis, researchers Elizabeth Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, respectively, evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids. They found that spanking was associated with 13 out of a total of 17 negative outcomes they assessed, including increased aggression and behavioral and mental health problems as well as reduced cognitive ability and self-esteem…

… “What smacking teaches them is that when the parent is around, they should behave,

otherwise they will be hit,” she said. “The child does not learn how to manage themselves when the parent is not around.”…

… So Gershoff says that in spite of the lingering controversy, the safest approach parents can take is not to spank their kids. “Studies continue to find that spanking predicts negative behavior changes—there are no studies showing that kids improve,” she says. And although Ferguson is not convinced that spanking is categorically bad, he is “certainly not an advocate of spanking.” Furthermore, there is a worrying body of research suggesting that parents who spank will later use harsher forms of punishment. “If spanking is not working, and spanking is all the parents are doing, then they’re going to escalate,” Gershoff says.


4.  Spanking when angry

Children’s misbehaviour can make us annoyed at best and angry at worst.  Whatever our personal threshold for discipline, it’s at the angrier end of the scale.  In my post about managing behaviour with the tone of your voice, I discuss how overuse of shouting dulls its impact.  It’s the same with spanking.  A parent who spanks regularly would “need” to spank harder for more serious offenses.  Or when their kid is not reacting as desired, having become more used to the gentle end of the spanking spectrum.

A parent who absolutely can not be persuaded to stop spanking, should at least be mindful of their level of anger.  An angry adult is more likely to spank harder than they intended.  And, beyond a light tap…


5.  It’s abuse

Unless spanking is just a light tap every time (and I still don’t agree with that), it’s abuse.  In a

spanked child’s shoes, try out this Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire.  They would score a point on the first 2 questions.

Why does that matter?  Watch this:


According to data collected by Unicef,  close to 300 million children aged 2 to 4 worldwide (3 out of 4) experience violent discipline by their caregivers on a regular basis.  Their data focuses on the developing world, but the practice certainly isn’t limited to there.  Corporal Punishment is still legal in schools in 19 US states and the debate has been raised again recently in the UK due to changes in the law.  It is now illegal to smack a child in Scotland and Wales, but not in England.  I found these statistics from the Welsh government interesting:


Next steps?

Need some support on treading the line between being too soft and too hard in your parenting?  Check out my articles on Time out (for under 4s), Consequences (for over 4s), Positive parenting and using your tone of voice effectively for some non-violent alternatives.

Need more specific help?  Join my Goldilocks parenting group on Facebook or comment below and I’ll try my best to help you. #spanking #smacking #corporalpunishment

A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently.   With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT


  1. Thank you for posting this. The more violence children experience or witness in the home, the more likely they are to become involved with, and/or victims of, violence themselves.

    Thank you so much for sharing the science with us. With your permission,, I am going to add your post to the Blogging Carnival for Nonviolence.

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