The Spanking Debate

Regretful Spankers

We spank but wish we didn't.

Ken and Molly Crandall, of Nassau, New York, parents of Julia, 5, and Jackson, 3, never thought they would spank. "We knew we didn't want to raise an aggressive or bullying child," says Ken Crandall. So why do they resort to spanking? "We've used it when we're at the end of our ropes," he says. But spanking hasn't worked for them. "It gets Julia to respond out of fear, and we just don't feel right about doing it. Plus we feel guilty when we punish her." Although they'd like to stop spanking, "to say that we won't resort to it again -- we probably can't say that."

The experts respond: Gershoff has seen similar scenarios with other parents who spank and later regret it. "They realize the contradiction between what they're saying and what they're doing. Children begin to fear their parents. And when parents see that, some of them decide not to hit anymore."

"Almost all of us lose it," says Linda Pearson, RN, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, in Lakewood, Colorado, and author of The Discipline Miracle (Amacom). "But instead of swatting, why don't we substitute consequences?" She advocates using time-outs, withdrawing a child's privileges for misbehavior, and rewarding good behavior with "goodies." When parents lament about their disrespectful kids, Pearson asks why they continue to allow their children to watch favorite television shows and have their friends over to play. "Parents forget that a child has to earn these special treats." And rewarding good behavior yields far better results than spanking, she says.

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