Is It Okay to Spank?
• 94% of 3- and 4-year-olds have been spanked at least once during the past year, according to one study.
• 74% of mothers believe spanking is acceptable for kids ages 1 to 3, says another study.
• 61% of parents condone spanking as a "regular form of punishment" for young children, according to a different study.
Clearly, the majority of parents say they spank their kids. Various factors increase the likelihood, including geographic location (children in the South are spanked the most), family income (less money means more spanking), race (African-American mothers spank their children more than other ethnic groups), and religion (parents more fundamentalist in their religious beliefs spank more than those who are less so). But all in all, it's a pretty clear picture.
Meanwhile, for decades a long and distinguished list of experts has denounced spanking as ineffective, even dangerous. Ineffective, they say, because it only teaches a child to fear his parents, not to respect them, and dangerous because using force can injure a child and warp his understanding of how to interact with others: namely, that it's okay to hit someone to get your own way. And experts warn that children who have this antisocial lesson beaten into them are more likely to exhibit violent behavior later in life.
So why is there still a massive disconnect between what experts advise and what parents do? Are so many of us clamping our hands over our ears to "hear no evil," or do we know something that experts don't?
Kitty O'Callaghan is a contributing editor at Babytalk magazine.