Smacking your child's hand or butt. How do you feel about it?

Dusty - posted on 01/17/2012 ( 18 moms have responded )




Okay, so I have a 2 (almost 3) year old son, who I have used "smacking" or "spanking" on his hand or butt for punishment before. I have never smacked or spanked him hard, in fact, he usually thinks it's more funny than anything, & he's never cried when I've done it, but lately, he's been hitting me in the face, or smacking his little brother. I was wondering if any other moms have had this problem? I would like to stop the smacking & spanking as punishments, but I'm not sure what else to use. We have tried time out, & usually he just ends up climbing down, which is the time I usually resort to spanking. Like I said, he's only 2, so alot of the times "talking" to him doesn't work that well. Any advice?


Deborah - posted on 01/19/2012




I'll be honest. When I was a kid, and I was bad, I got spanked. I turned out JUST FINE. Before she turned 2, the only time I spanked my daughter was if she did something dangerous (Crawled behind the tv for instance, where she could have tripped/choked on the wires).

After my son was born she shoved him off of an upturned basket he was 'cruising' on, she was about 2 1/2, and she got her first 'real' spanking.

If you want to use time outs, don't give up/give in. Keep putting him back there and repeatedly explaining to him why he is there. You could always put him in a playpen for a time out. When my son deserves one, he gets put in his crib for a few minutes.

My son is turning 2 in March, and he's very physical. I'm not really sure how to handle it, because he is only just now really beginning to communicate. but when he had his 'biting' phase, biting him back worked REALLY well. The response has to be immediate, and sad to say, harder than he did it. Without that, I am not sure how to make a child understand their actions are unacceptable. There is a HUGE difference between discipline and abuse. Just because you smack hands or spank butts does not mean you are abusive. it's discipline. Don't let other people tell you otherwise.


[deleted account]

I find positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement. Lots of praise for using "gentle touch," gentle reminders, and ignoring negative behaviour (when you can).

[deleted account]

Here is a very good paper written by Dr. Elizebeth Gershoff about the effects of Physical Punishment on Children.

Here are some excerpts. The actual studies she is referring to are cited in the article. I did not cite them here in an effort to curb the length.

Short Term Effectivness:

A meta-analysis (which is a method of research synthesis that statistically combines existing data to discern the average strength of the findings) of five studies examining children's immediate compliance with physical punishment found a positive effect on average. However, the findings were highly inconsistent in that one of the studies found no effect and another found that children were less likely to comply when physically punished. In one of these studies, the authors concluded that “there was no support for the necessity of the physical punishment” to change children's behavior.

Long Term Effectiveness:

The research to date also indicates that physical punishment does not promote long-term, internalized compliance. Most (85 percent) of the studies included in a meta-analysis found physical punishment to be associated with less moral internalization of norms for appropriate behavior and long-term compliance. Similarly, the more children receive physical punishment, the more defiant they are and the less likely they are to empathize with others.

Aggressive Behaviors:

In a meta-analysis of 27 studies, every study found physical punishment was associated with more, not less, child aggression. A separate meta-analysis of 13 studies found that 12 of them documented a link between physical punishment and more child antisocial behavior.

[Similarly] physical punishment has been associated with more physical aggression, verbal aggression, physical fighting and bullying.

the findings from these research studies support a causal link between parents' use of physical punishment and increases in children's future aggression, over and above the propensity for disobedient and aggressive child behavior to elicit parental physical punishment.

Effect On Mental Health:

A meta-analysis of 12 studies found that the frequency or severity with which children experienced physical punishment was associated with increased mental health problems in children in every study. Subsequent studies, not included in the meta-analysis, have confirmed the association of physical punishment with impairments in children's mental health, such as anxiety and depression, alcohol and drug use, and general psychological maladjustment.

There is also evidence that the association of physical punishment with impaired mental health persists

into adulthood. Physical punishment was associated with a high rate of mental health problems in all eight studies included in a meta-analysis.

Effect On Parent Child Relationships:

If children try to avoid painful experiences, and if they see their parents as sources of pain (inflicted via physical punishment), they may attempt to avoid their parents, which in turn will interfere with the development of trust and closeness between parent and child. 13 out of 13 studies [found] physical punishment to be associated with poorer quality of parent-child relationships.

A recent longitudinal study of adolescents found that those who were physically punished by their parents were less warm toward, open with, and close with their parents.

Again, all sources are cited within the paper, see the link for more in depth info.

Kate CP - posted on 01/24/2012




*shakes head* Sherri, stopping a behavior because of the fear of being hit by your mom or dad doesn't teach a child right from wrong.

[deleted account]

Putting him in time out isn't going to be any more effective than smacking him unless you identify the reason he is hitting and address that directly.

Look at his temperament when he hits you--is he smiling? laughing? If so, he wants to play with you and he knows you will play back if he hits you (you've taught him this by hitting him back before, so you can't get mad at him). Instead of sending him away, say "Not a fun game." Put him on the floor where he cannot reach your face, then say "Let's [do this] instead." and find a fun, quick game that you can play with him. No more than 2-3 minutes. Also, make sure you give him plenty of one on one attention when he is seeking it in a positive manor or not seeking it at all. Eventually, he will learn to seek your attention in a more positive manor.

Is he angry when he hits? Find out what is making him angry--perhaps frustration with a toy, or with some decision you've made (like no candy, etc.). Show him a more constructive way to work through the anger. If it is frustration with a toy, you can show him how to ask for help nicely, then help him. If he is angry with you, say for a decision that cannot be changed, show him a harmless way to get out his anger--rip up paper, draw an angry picture. If he is angry about a punishment, you can show him how to change his behavior next time so that he doesn't get punished. Show him how to be extra nice--he will learn what he IS supposed to do, instead of just what he is NOT supposed to do. Too often we only tell kids what NOT to do, and expect them to figure out what they are to do on their own.


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Stifler's - posted on 01/24/2012




I agree with Kate fear of authority isn't knowing right from wrong.

Kate CP - posted on 01/24/2012




I used to spank but I don't any more. Sorry, but it just doesn't work. And I don't see the point in hurting my kids.

Vicki - posted on 01/24/2012




How do I feel about it? I like to turn it around and ask how I would feel if my hand or butt was smacked... humiliated, shamed, angry I'm guessing.

I love Kelly's suggestions above about looking at why he is hitting. Today my son and I were on my bed. He doesn't nap these days but we usually have a lie down at some point, quiet time, then a bit of a play then get up. We were playing around being silly on the bed and he started kicking me. It was a game, laughing, seeing what my reaction would be. I told him to stop or I'm leaving the room. He didn't stop, I let the room, playtime over. He was upset for a brief moment then came out and we did something else. Which, conveniently enough, is how I'd like him to deal with someone who is hurting him (and then come and tell me of course) so there's more than one lesson going on. I don't want to teach him that hitting back is the way to deal with things.

He's a two year old, so obviously he's testing boundaries and new things come up here and there. He doesn't tend to keep at difficult behaviours for long though, just tests out how far he can go occasionally.

Alessia - posted on 01/24/2012




If we teach our children that hitting is wrong, then turn around and hit them to discipline them, what mixed messages are we sending?

Positive reinforcement is key. Violence never solves a problem.

Deborah - posted on 01/20/2012




Jodi, that's also against the law now. Just saying.

Positive reinforcement is great, and for some behaviors, it works WONDERS. My daughter is a picky eater, and it's a battle to get her to finish her dinner. I don't spank her for it, but when she eats it in a timely manner without having to be told or encouraged, she gets dessert and praised.

When she outright defies me when I tell her to do something, or does the exact opposite, and the behavior has been going on for days, then yes, she's going to get a spanking. Once it reaches that point, and she has been disciplined, she stops doing it.

Both methods can be effective if you do them properly.

Jodi - posted on 01/20/2012




"When I was a kid, and I was bad, I got spanked. I turned out JUST FINE."

Yeah, when I was a kid, my mother carried me home from the hospital in her lap in the car, and I turned out just fine too. But I wouldn't do it to my kid. Why? Because research has led to much more effective ways of carrying your children safely in the car.

Just saying.

I agree with those using positive reinforcement. At that age, redirect the behaviour you don't want and reward the behaviour you want to encourage. Be consistent and they eventually get the message. It's not going to happen overnight.

Tracey - posted on 01/19/2012




Could you try sticker charts with a treat when chart is completed for good behaviour and take away a sticker for bad behaviour. The visual reminder that he was losing something and getting further away from the treat worked well with my son.

Amy - posted on 01/17/2012




If he thinks it's funny then you aren't getting the desired effect from him and it could potentially become a game. He's 2 almost 3 so he's going to try and get out of time out you're going to have to keep putting him back, you may have to put him back 100 times but if you do that everytime then eventually he's going to learn he has to stay there.

You could also try ignoring the behavior if he's doing it for attention. For example if he hits say firmly we don't hit and turn your back and walk away from him and ignore him We did this with my now 22 month old daughter when she was hitting her 5 year old brother. He would say "ow don't hit me" and then he would walk away from her and ignore her for a couple of minutes. She stopped getting the attention she wanted so she moved onto something else. We also over exaggerated praise when she did something like pet the dog, or give her brother a hug that way she got the attention she wanted and we got the behavior we wanted.

Bernie - posted on 01/17/2012




If you type 'smacking' into the search button, I bet you'll get a ton of responses probably from earliest when COM originated. This question is probably asked at least maybe twice a day.

Shaz - posted on 01/17/2012




i use quiet time and then timeout.... however for things that are dangerous i have smacked hands or tapped their but

[deleted account]

My daughter used to get out of time out too, so I put her in a corner and then stand right next to her with my back against the corner - effectively trapping her in time out. After a while, she understood that she doesn't get out of time out until I say so and now she stays by herself. She's almost 3 now, but she was about 2ish when I started doing that.

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