Why Spanking Doesn't Work

When you’re a parent at the end of your rope with your kids, it can be a dangerous set of circumstances for everyone. In the midst of a discipline nightmare, the age-old question may arise: to spank or not to spank?

“Let me be real clear,” says Dr. Phil. “Spanking is one thing, and physically abusing your children is another. What we’re talking about here is just spanking.”

Watch as a couple turns to Dr. Phil for help with their 7-year-old, who swears, hits, kicks, spits and more. Dr. Phil explains why he believes spanking is the wrong choice. “What you have is a problem with violent, physical confrontation, and you’re trying to remedy that by being bigger and stronger,” he says. “You’re getting down to his level. The only difference is that you’re just bigger. You’re just creating more anger.”

According to Dr. Phil, “The idea of discipline is ultimately to create self-discipline.” In other words, “We try to put some boundaries out there for our kids at an age that they don’t have them on their own. But the goal is for them to learn our value system and internalize it, which means they have to learn something — but what do they learn by being hit? It suppresses the behavior because it hurts, but is it possible that there’s not enough learning that goes with the actual spanking itself?”

Spanking might escalate a situation because it creates more chaos for the child who is already in distress, and a child who is hit might also internalize it to his detriment down the road, thinking: “I’m obviously a bad boy because people I love hit me.”

Ask yourself these three questions before the next time you consider spanking your child:

1. Is spanking a calming interaction?
If your goal is to get your child to calm down, chances are hitting him doesn't help you reach that goal. When you spank, you introduce more chaos into your child's world. Instead of relaxing, your child will likely become more anxious, and then
return to his unruly behavior.

2. What does your child learn by being hit?
Spanking tells a child that violence is an acceptable reaction when you are angry. Once your child is subdued and has learned to think that hitting is appropriate in some circumstances, is the trade-off worth it?

3. Is it working for the long-term?
Ask yourself: If spanking works so well, why does your child continue to push you to the edge? Spanking may work to suppress bad behavior temporarily, but it isn't a learning type of discipline. The message they get from being spanked is "I'm a bad kid," which doesn't help your child figure out what he or she did wrong — or how to keep from doing it again!

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