The Spanking Debate

Four families weigh in on the subject of spanking.

The Bottom Line

No parenting issue sparks more debate than spanking. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages all corporal punishment, an estimated 90 percent of parents have spanked. Yet most of those parents are not pro-spanking. According to a study from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, 85 percent of those who spank would rather not. While some parents advocate spanking and others shun it, most Americans fall somewhere in between. Here, experts respond to four families' stances on this emotional issue.

No-Spanking Policy

We have never spanked our children, and we never will.

Dave Taylor and his wife, Linda, of Boulder, Colorado, have never raised a hand to their children, Ashley, 10, Gareth, 6, and Kiana, 2. "We're both very concerned about how violent our society is. We don't want to have that come into our home," Taylor says. But he is careful to point out that no spanking doesn't mean no discipline. The Taylors use time-outs and logical consequences when their kids misbehave. For instance, after their son deliberately broke a chair, he had to use his allowance to replace it. "I bet that's a more impressive lesson than me pulling him over my knee and spanking him," Taylor says.

The experts respond: According to the AAP, taking away privileges and issuing time-outs yields better results than spanking. "The AAP doesn't endorse spanking, because it is not effective in the long term, can hurt a child's self-esteem, and can cause physical harm," says pediatrician William Coleman, MD, of the Center for Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, and chair of the AAP's committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health.

"Parents who don't spank their children still discipline; they just do it in ways that don't involve hitting," says Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Although some parents may equate spanking with discipline, Gershoff says the two are not synonymous: "Discipline is teaching; spanking is punishment."

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