Caught on tape: Parents spanking for trivial reasons

[deleted account] ( 16 moms have responded )

This is why I don't believe in spanking.

Holden says that virtually all recorded cases of spanking were “highly inappropriate.” These weren’t kids misbehaving in a big way. These were kids being normal kids.

He gives examples, like the case of a mother reading a story to her little son. She hit him for trying to turn the page of a book before she’d finished reading it.


The kids in this study were in daycare, and the audio recordings were made at the end of the day, after the parents got off work. Evenings can be very stressful for parents with young children. For many of us, this is the time when we are most likely to get cross or lose our patience. It’s the time when we are least likely to reflect on the child’s perspective. Is he deliberately misbehaving? Or he just being a kid?

That’s when the parent makes a bad judgement.

And if she happens to endorse spanking as a routine mode of discipline? Her mistakes might involve smacking her kids.


[deleted account]

I am a former spanker, and even though I only used it as a last resort, and I was always very calm when I did it, it WAS a release for me. I felt better after, like I had done something to take control of the situation, and, well, gotten vengeance--my kid felt horrible after a spank and no amount of cuddles, love, or treats (not that ever offered treats, or even often offered cuddles....I'm not cuddly) could take the feelings he had while I spanked him away. Sure, he might forget them, but that wouldn't be the point would it? The point of "teaching by spanking" is that the kid remembers how awful it feels to be hit by mommy. It is not just the physical aspect that makes it so damaging, it is the whole psychology of the process.

No matter how you look at it, spanking hurts the kid, and makes the parent feel better.

When I spanked, I know that I got to that "last resort" a lot quicker in the evenings than I did during the rest of the day. I could say that he had used up the other options all day, but I'd be lying because it was the same result whether I had spent the day with him, or away from him--if I was tired, I didn't try as many other discipline methods before I spanked him. I was ALWAYS calm, collected; I never yelled, but it was a release for got some of the stress out.....I'm not sure exactly how to explain that, sorry if it's a ramble.

[deleted account]

I don't understand that either, Emma. Maybe some people do spank calmly. I don't know. I think it's more likely that they don't realize that they're angry. Repressed cold anger isn't the same as calm. It IS a release of some kind like Kelly said.

JuLeah - posted on 07/11/2011




This is why I don't believe in spanking ... if we give ourselves permission to hit.... we will

[deleted account]

I’d have guessed that the parents on the recordings would say—in hindsight—that they aren’t proud of these moments. However, Holden suggests otherwise. As he notes in this press release, the parents in this study believed their spankings were effective and necessary. When it came time to discuss their behavior with researchers, they weren’t defensive about it.

This is what I meant in Debating Moms when I said that the article on CNN about permissive parents was in fact about normalizing spanking.

No empirical studies have shown that it's effective -- or more effective than other methods of discipline -- but it's considered normal parenting.

Carrie - posted on 07/22/2011




The main point, in my opinion, is that spanking is NOT discipline. It is punishment. The two words are not interchangeable. Are you trying to teach your child to become a conforming adult? Or are you trying to teach your child to be a self-disciplined adult? Do you want your child to do what is right because they fear punishment or want a reward or do you want your child to do right because that is the reward, in and of, itself? Discipline means to “teach.” Discipline helps the child learn what to do and helps children and parents feel good about themselves. Discipline emphasizes nurturing and guiding and is a positive way to teach the child self-control and confidence. With discipline, parents use strategies to prevent problems plus guidance to manage conflict.

The reason for discipline is to help children learn self-control and take responsibility for their own behavior. Children who are raised in a way that stresses positive discipline will understand their own behavior better, show independence, and respect themselves and others. When punishment is the basis for discipline, the person who punishes the child becomes responsible for the child’s behavior.


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TealRose - posted on 07/22/2011




Hitting a child? NEVER !! Think of it this way .. you can't hit an animal, or adult or even a criminal but ... use the magic word 'discipline' [which means to teach not to hit ] and you can hit your defenceless child, who is at least 2/3 smaller and lighter than you?? No, it teaches lack of respect for the child. If an adult wants / expects respect then they have to earn it too - it goes both ways.

The 'I was spanked and am fine' line doesn't make any sense - anymore than ' I was run over by a car and I am fine' does. We all know that not everyone run over by a car ends up being fine!

I am a 56 yr old grandmother who being spanked for the first time, lost my love, respect and trust for my parents. I have never and will never respect and trust anyone who hits me or anyone else. Love? I never felt loved, and the post spanking 'pep talk' of 'I love you ..' never meant a thing as they had just hit me.

As adults, we are always able to act kindly, gentle and with compassion. Children are just that .. children and not perfect and we are here to teach them how to grow up gradually into adults who are able to think for themselves - ie not just frightened as children not to do something because they might be hit, but because it is wrong or dangerous.

I never hit my children - and they are now great adults, and my daughter has two children two whom she doesn't hit - and they are really kind, delightful little beings !!!

[deleted account]'s like a drug, you know. It feels good in that tiny moment, when you feel like you are in control of the situation, taking action, then immediately follows the torrent of guilt and pain. And yet, after only 2 months of spanking--I think J may have gotten 8 spankings, if that, during those 2 months--it was incredibly difficult to stop. Even though I knew I would feel horrible after spanking him, at the end of the day, when I was worn to my last thread, It was still there in my mind when I ran through the, if I had spanked him THEN, I would have considered it "lazy."
That in itself proves to me that it is a release of anger for the parent, because if it weren't we would not be tempted to do it.

[deleted account]

Elfrieda, I think that is a very good way of looking at it! Becky, I wouldn't say all parents who spank "calmly" or after thinking about it for a bit are just lazy. Most parents who spank after becoming calm are under the impression that they are doing what is best for their child, that spanking is the best form of discipline for the infraction.

In my case, I never thought I'd spank my son when he was a baby, and for the first 2 years, I didn't. Then he hit some horrendous terrible 2's and I succumbed to peer pressure to spank him--it came from all directions and I had no support in real life for non-violent discipline. It only took about 2 months of spanking for me to realize I was right in the first place and stop spanking, but during those two months, even though it was terribly hard for me, it felt wrong, and I often cried about it, I thought I was doing what I needed to do to discipline my son.

I'm not defending those 2 months, spanking him was wrong, but it was more a result of misinformation, misguidance, and fear, than it was just laziness.

Alison - posted on 07/16/2011




Well, I wouldn't classify all forms of spanking as abusive necessarily. If it's not done often and only with the hand, I still don't think it is right, but I can understand why some parents think it is ok. But doing it often for trivial things, doing it with implements like a belt, or spanking too hard and multiple spanks at a time I think is crossing the line. The problem is that I think it's hard for parents to stick to those guidelines. Once you go down the path of disciplining violently, it's hard to get away from that and becomes easier to go further with it and let it get out of hand. I don't think it should legally be classified as abuse because a) it would condemn A LOT of parents, plus it's been seen as justified for generations b) it's almost impossible to regulate unless it's leaving marks and then who would seem them besides family c) there are far worse things children get done to them to keep CPS busy

Elfrieda - posted on 07/16/2011




Gah, I posted a long response last night but COM ate it. Or possibly it was our internet connection. :( I'll go again.

Thanks for responding, everyone. I understand a little better where you're all coming from. I've only got the receiving end, I've never spanked my son. (of course - he's only a baby)

I grew up being "spanked" and also "hit". Neither of them for very many years or very often, but the "spanking" would go along the lines of:

Mom says, "If you do that, I'll have to give you a spanking."

I do it.

Not immediately, but soon after (maybe 10 minutes), there is the spanking ritual. Usually I'd cry beforehand to make my mom feel bad so she wouldn't spank very hard. It didn't really impact our relationship for good or bad. I felt like she was being a mom, and this was a part of the job that she didn't like. It wasn't particularly effective, IMO, but it didn't do any damage either. I barely remember it.

On the other hand, my mom (who grew up with a dad who would have been considered physically abusive now) did have a bit of a temper on her, and before she mellowed out she did slap my face or leg when I got to be too much for her. This came when I didn't even realize I was misbehaving, and it's a much more vivid memory than the spanking because it hurt my feelings and shook my trust in her. She would always come and apologize afterward and tell me that she was wrong to do it. (She did learn other ways of coping, and never hit my younger sister - although she was spanked.)

So I guess I grew up with the two things, spanking and hitting, as very separate things in my mind. Spanking was because the kid did something bad, hitting was the parent doing something bad.

I thought that was the normal way of looking at it, but it seems like maybe my perspective is the odd one out, at least on the internet. :)

Becky - posted on 07/15/2011




Spanking has never made me feel better. It makes me feel like crap. It only adds to my anger and frustration because I am then angry with myself for responding in a way that I feel is inappropriate and hurting my child.
If a parent takes the time to calm down before spanking their child, then they should have the time to come up with a more appropriate method of discipline. If spanking is not an immediate reaction to an action (in which case, whether you appear calm or not, obviously you are upset with the action or you wouldn't hit), then I would consider it just lazy, because while you were calming down, you could have been thinking of a better way to teach your child what you want him to learn.

[deleted account]

Thank you, Liz, you said it perfectly. When I was spanking, back then, I LOOKED as calm as I could be, and I THOUGHT I was calm, but looking back, I now realize that it was a release of anger--even if I wasn't yelling, angrily glaring, or wildly swatting at my kid, when the hand made contact, I felt release. Really, there is no such thing as a "calm spanking" (unless you are a sociopath), only spankings that LOOK calm.

Alison - posted on 07/15/2011




I'm actually more understanding of parents who are frustrated and lash out than the "calm" spankers (been there, done that, feel bad). It's like the difference between a spontaneous murder and a premeditated one--a premeditated one is more cold-blooded and prosecuted that way (No, I don't think spanking is at the same degree as murder.) Doing it calmly doesn't make it right, doesn't make it less painful or traumatic for the child, doesn't take away the violence children learn from spanking etc. I think most people would think a slave owner whipping a slave or a man beating his wife is equally horrible whether in the heat of the moment or executed later. Plus, discipline, especially for young children, should be done as soon as possible or they forget and have no idea why they're being disciplined.

Stifler's - posted on 07/13/2011




What I don't understand is what Elfrieda said, I don't see how you would spank when you are calm and rational, it doesn't make sense to me. i never spank Logan for whingeing late in the afternoon when I'm praying for bed time but I do get frustrated and I've yelled and told him to shut up then I cried about it.

Elfrieda - posted on 07/13/2011




Does no one see a distinction between lose-your-temper-and-hit-the-kid and spanking as a calm punishment? I've noticed a few times when people have posted that they seem to think all spanking is a result of uncontrolled anger from the parent. Has this been your experience?

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