Summer Frustration: To Spank or Not to Spank.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


One month into summer (aka, kids tearing through the house seven day a week, enjoying unstructured time, driving us caregivers crazy) seems a natural moment to tackle one of the modern dilemmas of parenthood no one likes to discuss honestly: to spank or not to spank.


Now of course most parents – especially mature, well-educated adults like us -- KNOW spanking is barbaric, ineffective, old-fashioned or at least unnecessary. But you can stop holding your breath: I have met few parents who have never spanked a child. And 100% of those have only one child.





First, let’s define terms: spanking means a light swat on a child’s clothed bottom, an area of the body without much feeling that is in fact designed to cushion blows. The goal of a spank is twofold: to get a young child’s attention, and to communicate that they have done something dangerous, destructive or disrespectful that should never be repeated. As a victim of family violence myself, I need to underscore the dramatic difference between a spank and physical abuse. There is no comparison between the two.


In principle, spanking sounds logical and reasonable. After all, part of our responsibility as parents is to teach children not to act destructively or recklessly. Not to run into the street. Not to put the new kitten headfirst in the toilet. Not to use Mommy’s fuschia toenail polish to color the living room walls. If a light swat on the tush works, it works.

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Thank you to all of you -- really interesting discussion with lots of viewpoints. I wish all the parents I know could talk this openly about discipline and other tough issues. I'd leave my kids with any of you happily -- and I hope they'd behave well!



I have waited tables for 15 years, therefore I have seen A LOT of families. I have seen kids that run crazy around the rest. while the parents sit and enjoy themselves, I have seen kids that are so well behaved it is amazing... I have asked lots of them how they get their kids to behave.. guess what the answer was from the ones that had good kids.. they spanked. the ones whose kids ran around crazy... timeout. I spank my kids and they are VERY well behaved. So to all of you that say you do not spank your kids... I hope you aren't the ones whose kids are showing up in my kitchen in the middle of dinner rush or jumping up and down in the booth. Because if so.. that is NOT behaving.


Spanking works, when done properly and other methods fail.


Okay.. interesting topic, nice suggestions.. but not always stuff that works. My wife and I stand firm on discipline, and both come from households where spanking was common. Well to be more correct it was common in hers and preferred in mine. I know full well how physical punishment can get out of hand, but does that stop me from swatting my boy's butt when he needs it? NO. Here is why: the other methods didn't work. Time outs resulted in him behaving until he was allowed up, taking things away as punishment resulted in him hiding stuff from me and his mom, sitting and talking resulted in being ignored. A swift swat on his rear end however, THAT got his attention, and when the reason for his spanking was made apparent it became easier to get him to stop.

It's not 'bullying' or 'losing control' unless you are too weak to keep yourself under control. Here are a few tips: 1) DON'T EVER SWAT THE CHILD WHEN ANGRY. Calm yourself down first, then discipline the child. 2) DON'T USE SPANKING AS A FIRST RESPONSE. Children pick up on your behavior and if you want them to grow up into adults that are worth the planet having rather than another of the mass of useless people you need to teach them that 'hitting' for any reason should be a last resort.

Follow this advice if other methods of punishment fail and you have to spank the child. I've seen plenty of punk teens who's parents have never spanked them and now they are dealing drugs, doing drugs, and causing trouble because they have no respect for rules or authority. Why? Because they were kids who needed a swat to get their attention and never received it. Some kids will listen without being spanked, some won't. It's the parent's job to determine what methods work for their children and USE those methods.

In parting, a hint to those like my stepfather: Fists, boards, pipes, and knives aren't tools for punishment. That is just stupid, barbaric, and only makes a child hate you.


I totally agree Julie by spanking your teaching your child in a way 'hitting is ok"And as one that has been hit as a child it is a form of abuse to me when I think of my folks it was like "my parents are here to protect me from harm,why they hit me I'm I no good,etc..."Even can result to thearpy it has in my case.When my daughter misbehaves I take away her privleges,fun things activies we might do ,things of that nature,talk sternly to her,It does work she has ADHD and slight Autism(not 100% sure)but has signs of it.


This is the biggest bunch of crap i have ever read. I agree there is a difference between spanking and abuse. My mother spanked me and everytime she did i knew i had deserved it. She was never angry when she did,she was never out of control. She would always tell me to go to my room and think about what i had done. she would take about 5 min to cool down then she would come in and pop me a few time on the behind. I knew what my punishment was going to be for my actions. I knew my mother loved me. I didnt grow up to be depressed or anxious or anti-social or in therapy. I have three wonderful kids. I couldnt have asked for better but they know momma will spank them if they need it. Its not about control or being dominant. It about teaching children consequenses of there actions. That is what being a parent is all about...


I have four kids and I grew up with some spankings that mosltly crossed the line by my mother and with a father that wasent in the picture I have the most well behaved and polite children and I do spank my children. Now just because I do spank my children and use corner time doesnt mean at all that I am unfit or out of control as julie cole explaines. My spanking occurs when my seven year old drops my one year old on her head when he knows hes not supposed to be carrying her around at all, or when my two year old says no im not gonna to a mother who is just concerned about her safty and manners or when my one year old takes her baby doll and throws it at her sisters head or smacks me in the face when she doesnt get her way she gets a tap on the behind. Yes i have juggled the issue on when your telling your child not to hit someone and you turn around and tap their hand or behind but it seems to be working for me because I am all the time told or asked how do you keep your children so well behaved. Or when my babysitters dont mind watching my children because you hardly notice they are there because they play so quietly. Now I am only 22 years old with a job of daycare 24 7 and I love my job and wouldnt have it anyother way because whether I spank or not I have the 4 most beautiful loved and loving children that I could have ever dreamed of and more so I dont think that spanking should be moot because just because its a spanking doesnt mean its abuse because I know the differnce and its not gonna change because if my children are as the are as adults then I know that they will be wonderful parents and accomplished in society. signing out melissa ann hite


i have three kids. i was spanked as a child and it did not hurt me. i was a well behaved child for it. my kids the same. i spank them when they are wrong. i have seen kids who are not spanked and they are the worst in public. now thats not to say that there is not an exception to every rule. i am greatful for the way i was raised and i know my kids will be beter for it. and iont know about some peoles kids but i spank my kids when they would hit and they dont hit any more. i have a 5yr old and a 3yr old. my kids dont bite, they are not rude, and they say please and thank u for everything. my way of thinking is do as i say not as i do. i know when my kids are older they will have the discipline to make it in the real world. cuz in the real world they dont get a time out.

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

Hi Julie -- I agree that few good parents actually WANT to spank their children. I think you deserve a large medal for being such a good, thoughtful, and patient mother and I'm not being snarky -- my observation is that people who choose to have very large families like yours are especially well-suited to raise children. But I need to stand up for moms who aren't as mature and patient as you are (like me). Parenthood doesn't come with a handout of patience or instructions on how to be a perfect role model all the time. Guilt or judgment of other parents who don't have your same skill set or personality just makes us feel terrible, ashamed of our mistakes, when in reality we may love our children just as much as you do, and we may also be trying our absolute best to be good parents. I believe shaming, condescending to or judging other parents in turn makes bad parents even worse parents, because then who can we turn to for support and advice? Probably not you, even though you have a lot of good advice and strategies to offer.


I was disappointed to read this post on this otherwise savvy blog. A tounge-in-cheek spin doesn't make spanking excusable. No matter what the 'crazy' situation is, hitting or swatting or spanking are all just euphemisms for taking your anger out on your child. So sad.

Although I was belted regularly by my mother as a child, I've never hit any of my kids. Ever. It's a terrible legacy to perpetuate. I'm very proud of my kids' behavior, and I highly recommend Jane Nelsen's "Positive Discipline" to any parents out there interested in caring, effective discipline methods.