To Spank or Not to Spank? Maybe. Sometimes.

Under certain circumstances, parents may need to use a hand

Should parents use spanking as a disciplinary measure? Noted pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker weighs in on the controversy.

Spanking has become a hot button issue today for good reason. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that children should not be spanked. Here’s why: Many parents spank their children in anger, in an abusive manner, use it as a means to vent their own anger and cannot control their anger. If you are one of these parents, you have NO business spanking your children.

Let’s back up and look at why we discipline our children. Is it to make them do what we say or become who we want them to be? Not really. We discipline our children to teach them to have self-control. We know that a person cannot be successful in his or her profession, at school or in relationships, if they don’t have self -control. Good discipline teaches children and teens this.

We teach self-control by placing boundaries for children that they are not allowed to cross. At first, we must impose control until they learn to take control responsibly. If a child crosses those boundaries, those actions must have consequences. If he sees you roll your eyes or wring your hands when he disobeys, he learns that he really can’t get in control. This makes his self esteem go down and it weakens your relationship with him.

Every child has an Achilles heel and you must find it. It is different in every child. Your child must learn that if he disobeys, life stings. Something is taken away. When you do this repeatedly over time, most children learn to obey because crossing boundaries isn’t worth the consequence. The question is: What if nothing works when you tell your child not to do something and he does?

First, many parents say they have “tried everything.” But they really mean they tried many things but didn’t make consequences stick because the child made them miserable when if they did. So the first thing to do is get some backbone and make consequences stick.

Most children don’t need spanking and their Achilles heel is one of a thousand things. But there are children (and I have seen them) who will stare right into the face of a parent and say, “No! I won’t do that! You can take anything away and I don’t care.” And they mean it.

If this is the case and you have tried every imaginable consequence, you may need to try spanking. But here’s the catch: You need to put rules in place for yourself. Here they are: 

  • Wait 10 minutes between the time you say you will spank and doing it.
  • Only spank on the buttocks.
  • Use your hand, not an instrument.
  • Swat one or two times, tops.
  • Shortly after the spank, talk with your child about the importance of obeying you.

Most children don’t get to this point, but here’s what is more important than the actual consequence: Every one of your children must know that YOU are in charge, not him or her. This is critical to children’s sense of security and to learning self- control.

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Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.”

meet the author

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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