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Spanking Versus Beating - A Form Of Discipline or Punishment?

Spear the rod and spoil the child....

Spear the rod and spoil the child....

To Spank or Not to Spank?

Spanking versus whipping or beating as a form of discipline is a much debated topic when it comes to raising children. The debate tends to set out to defend one's beliefs or define what is acceptable and what are the boundaries when it comes to giving feedback to children about negative behaviours that we'd like them to change.

Some proponents of spanking argue that it does no harm but rather helps to strongly send a message to a wayward child that you are serious and that negative behaviour has to stop.

Those who are against spanking argue that it is a form of physical abuse and violence against children. They argue that it is teaching children to be bullies and that the only way to resolve an issue is with violence.

Then there are those who are on the fence; maybe because they were spanked as a child and perhaps have on occasions spanked their children. They believe that as parents they have the right to utilize all measures to ensure positive behaviour in their children. They may argue that they were spanked as children and grew up to be decent, contributing members of society, therefore no harm was done. They see no problem with continuing the same form of discipline.

Finally, there are those who lack the patience or the parenting skills necessary to raise children and they use severe forms of punishment on their children, causing physical and emotional harm. This latter form of punishment is most likely defined as a beating and is described as child abuse.

The difference between a spanking and a beating is not always very clear and the difference is often a contentious issue in the debate about punishment and discipline of children. The online Dictionary defines a spanking as:

  • the act of slapping on the buttocks;
  • Spanking is a form of corporal punishment that generally consists of striking the buttocks. The recipient is most often a child or teenager.
  • A form of physical punishment in which a beating is applied to the buttocks;
  • An incident of such punishment, or such physical act in a non-punitive context, such as a birthday spanking; Relating to spanking(s); e.g. inclined to punishment by spanking;
  • An intensifier; Fast and energetic; Brisk
  • by today's definition, consists of striking the buttocks, with either an open hand or various implements including a cane, a belt, or

I am so surprise that there are so many definitions to the word, spanking.

Now for some definitions for beat or beating:

  • the act of inflicting corporal punishment with repeated blows.
  • to strike repeatedly; to lay repeated blows upon; as, to beat one's breast; to beat iron so as to shape it; to beat grain, in order to force out the seeds; to beat eggs and sugar; to beat a drum. [1913 Webster]
  • to overcome in a battle, contest, strife, race, game, etc.; to vanquish, defeat, or conquer; to surpass or be superior to. [1913 Webster]

    1. The act of striking or giving blows; punishment or chastisement by blows. [1913 Webster]

Wow! I suppose that I've never really thought about the meaning of these words. The definitions seem to identify a spanking and a beating as both being a form of corporal punishment where hurt is administered to another person, usually a smaller, weaker person. Even though the definitions of the word beating highlight the notion of "repeated" actions, thus making it more severe than spanking, I believe that the difference can be subtle. For instance, we have heard of instances where only one blow has caused major injury to another. I suppose then that spanking may differ from a beating by the force that is applied, so a spanking is then a light slap to an area of the body that will not cause harm.

Lets hear what the experts say, so to Google I go:

Surprisingly, when I Googled the question, "What do child psychologists say about spanking versus beating?" The first result was from Hubpages. It was Princessa's question: "There are many parents who believe that corporal punishment is necessary for successful child rearing. Is that true? Or is spanking another form of child abuse? "

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised about the responses to Princessa's question. The result of the responses showed that 7 of 10 respondents agreed with spanking; 2 of 10 were on the fence about spanking and 1 of 10 was against spanking.

Respondents from Hubpages question about Spanking as a form of discipline:

When I read Princessa's question, I immediately thought that all the responses were going to be against spanking. I was very surprised about the honesty and openness of the respondents. I want to say that I repsect the opinions of all the respondents and I appreciate their great feedback to this question.

The response that stood out to me was from 14 otra. This person said "Many parents know their children well enough to know which forms of discipline their children respond to. If it takes spanking to bring a lesson to light, it should be the parents right to make that decision. " That is profound. I strongly agree with this logic. This is what I wanted to hear to justify my belief in spanking. This belief influenced the way I discipline my children, for instance, my daughter was gentle soul, she was calm and she was so obedient. I didn't have to tell her anything twice. Even though she was no angel, she was fairly well behaved. My son on the other hand, has a dominant personality; he wants what he wants. He challenges my authority as a parent. A swift slap on the arm gets his attention and he realizes that I'm serious then he'll listen and respond.

Bornagain also made a very valid point, in answering Princessa's question. He said "Do not spank in anger" I absolutely agree with him. Even though sometimes when a child is doing something dangerous, and your adult mind conceptualize the possible consequences of that action, you get really angry. It is difficult to exercise some restraint, or give the child a time out. I agree that if you spank a child in anger, you run the risk of child abuse.

The response from childbehavior indicates "spanking can be used as a form of discipline, as with other methods, however, I think it should be used in extreme circumstances. If used frequently, a child is likely to conclude that physical violence as an acceptable way of dealing with situations." This is true because children model what they see around them, so they will be more likely to use violence as a way to resolve conflicts.

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Username Amanda argues that prior to having children she vowed never to spank her children, but has since concluded that spanking occasionally is warranted. I believe that most people do not really plan to spank their children; we all think that we would be the most patient parent, then life takes over. Time is also limited, so as parent we seek the quickest way to resolve a challenge with our toddlers. Then there is the child that no amount of talking or time out seem to work, what do you do in such case?

Kimanesha's argument against spanking was based on her being spanked as a child. She argued that spanking made her angry and resentful and so had only spanked her four children 3 times in their life. Many people are torn about the decision to spank based on their childhood experience with spanking. While they are well aware of the pain that spanking can cause, they do not feel that they have the skills or time to discipline a defiant toddler.

alexd181, in a hub titled Spanking as a form of Punishment, presents a very convincing argument against spanking. He argues that spanking is a punishment, therefore no learning takes place. He states that spanking can cause as much pain to your children similar to being fired from work, being beaten up by a gang or a cheating partner. He suggests using positive and negative reinforcement correctly, such as taking away privileges and rewarding positive behaviours. This hub has forced me to think about my initial beliefs of spanking in a new light; it reminded me of a very painful time in my life which was caused as a result of being spanked at school.

What About Punishment at School?

As a child I was spanked, whipped, flogged, strapped or beaten, mostly at school. I can only remember my mom spanking me once and I can't even remember why. School, on the other hand, was a place of fear. It did not help that I was a good student. I remember getting flogged for almost everything; from being 10 minutes late for school, to wearing the wrong shoes; whispering in assemble; forgetting my 7 times table (you know 7*1=7; 7*2=14). To this day I have anxiety over 7 times table. My grade four experience was the worst of my schooling. My teacher, who I will call Mrs M, would beat us if we breathe too hard, it seemed. I remember getting a whipping at least three to four times a week in this class, and I was a well behaved child. All of the children in her class were afraid of her. Every day we would check before class to see if she looked angry; if she did, that day we had hell to pay. One day she beat the whole class. Everyone was crying.

My attitude about attending school changed from being a child who loved going to school to one who wanted to skip school. I didn't participate in class out of fear of saying the wrong thing and getting a beating. I became anxious and somewhat withdrawn. My confidence was diminished. Not to mention I did not trust such a person who would cause so much hurt. Imagine a teacher standing behind you with a strap in their hand, waiting for you to make a mistake. This made me nervous and I more likely to make a mistake as a result, which would cause a beating. This was a vicious cycle. Imagine the embarrassment, shame and guilt; guilt because some times the teacher would beat the whole class if one person, especially a child who was considered bright, didn't know the answer. This was a nightmare. Maybe some day I will write a hub about The Horrors of Grade Four.

Corporal punishment in the form of spanking, flogging, strapping, caning or beating is no longer permitted in schools in most countries. Caning is still a form of punishment in schools in some countries, such as Zimbabwe and Singapore. Child psychologists, educators and social workers have argued successfully for the abolishing of such useless form of punishment in schools in North America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, The Caribbean and South Africa.

The Effects of Spanking

Many experts have argued that children who are spanked are likely to be more aggressive and may have sexual problems later in life. (Newsweek Web Exclusive, Feb. 28, 2008) Penn State University, 2008 reports on a study conducted by Murray Straus which shows that spanking hinders the development of empathy, remorse or compassion in toddlers. The study also shows that toddlers who are spanked do not develop a conscience of what is right or wrong, but rather will stop the negative behaviour for a short time to prevent getting spanked. The study argues that spanking chips away at the bond between parent and child. I believe that children who are spanked will develop trust issues, more likely to become anxious or depressed, more likely to have lower self esteem and are more likely to victimize or become victims of violence later in life.

Many people will argue that they survived being spanked and will even argue that they are better adults as a result. They argue that they turn out to be law abiding citizens, staying out of trouble and contributing to improve our world. While this may be true, I strongly believe that the negative effects of spanking cannot be discounted. Some people who were spanked as children say that they have a trust issue with authority figures (bosses or supervisors, police officers) because of the mistrust developed as a result of a beating from a parent or teacher.

A Change of Perspective

When I started to write this hub, my rationale was to clarify, if only to self, the issue of spanking as oppose to beating as a form of discipline. I had accepted the belief that spanking was acceptable as opposed to a beating. I was hoping to justify spanking my child and to argue that beating has negative results, but not spanking. After researching the topic on the opinions of the experts and recalling my personal experience on spanking, I have re-evaluated my belief. I am convinced that children learn what they see and experience and that as a parent I need to become more responsible to find alternative means of discipline for my child's negative behaviours. I must change my attitude and belief or else I'll be teaching my child that being a bully is acceptable.


anonymous on February 23, 2014:

Perhaps because the pharmaceutical industry has rather successfully promoted a profitable panacea for every purpose, much of the American public has managed to convince itself that it is entitled to an effortless and pain free existence. The anti-spanking crusade of the late 20th century was just one manifestation of that curious phenomenon. It is also interesting to note that there are many parallels between the early 20th century efforts of outlaw alcohol consumption and the late 20th century efforts to ban spanking. In the end, it no-spank will fail for much the same reason Prohibition and the war on drugs fell apart.

Anyone willing to take the time to seriously research the American scheme of public education is likely to discover that it originated in 18th century Prussia. It was subsequently imported into the United States during the 19th century. Because of its origins, its ideological underpinnings have far less to do with education than with instilling blind obedience. As a result, bullying - which has been recognized as a contributory factor in may school shootings for well over a decade - is a widely accepted managerial practice in both education and employment.

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on May 27, 2011:

Debby, thanks for your visit and for sharing your experience with punishment at school. A learning environment should be safe and comfortable to make mistake, it is after all a place of learning.

Like you i had a negative grade four experience which still impact me to this day. I'm not as trusting as I could be of authority; I sometimes have difficulties speaking upfor myself especially when I feel bullied by a supervisor.

No child should have to deal with fear in any classroom.

Debby on May 21, 2011:

I attended Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, Nevada in the mid - late 70's. I was a well behaved student, a bit of a slacker, but still, someone who didn't cause a disturbance in class, that was done by other students. I actually did not particularly enjoy other children because I felt I was much more mature than them.

I also didn't enjoy the teachers either because I thought they were disrespectful and bullies. I witnessed severe paddling in the classroom, which made for a hostile learning environment. This is my reason for have decided not to bring children into the world. I do NOT want to deal with all of that again, only now things are even worse. Maybe its my generation who told their kids about our school experiences, and those kids have rebelled for the parents? I don't know? But I do think I support online schooling. At least the sarcasm and bulling don't exist there.

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on September 24, 2009:

alexd181, thanks for stopping by and for your infomative comment. I will check out the link because I would like to learn some techniques to be more effective with my child. Spanking is the lazy way to change behaviours. I look forward to read more of your hubs on the subject as well.

Thanks a million!

alexd181 on September 23, 2009:

This is a very clear and well-thought out hub, DynamicS. Definitely worth bookmarking. It's worth remembering that when spanking isn't done out of the parent's own anger, it's still one of the most primitive methods of behavioral change, and it assumes that children won't understand any other way.

Thank you as well for mentioning my article, parents may find the 'Talking To Toddlers' download I mentioned in the discussion section of my hub may offer some more humane approaches for collaborating with their children.

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