Experts Say Spanking Not a Viable Disciplinary Measure


Australian doctors are being told to instruct parents not to discipline their children with force, and since the country’s politicians will not outlaw corporal punishment for children, leaders in the pediatric arena are asking their colleagues to take the reins in changing the way parents think about punishing their children.

Grant McArthur, reporting for the Herald Sun, writes that at the yearly meeting of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, Professor Kim Oates asked doctors to teach their parents better ways to discipline their kids.

“We want to use our influence to change public opinion and, once it is changed, the Australian legislation might change,” Prof Oates said.

He added that there were still many parents who were hit when they were children and who now insist that they, too, have the right to hit their own children. Oates said that in Australia it was against the law to hit an animal, prisoners, and spouses, but parents are still allowed to hit their children. Experts explain that hitting can cause physical, mental, and emotional damage to a child and might cause aggression on the part of the child or teach a child that using violence is an acceptable way to get others to do what he or she says.

45 nations have legally banned physical punishment to children including New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. Australia, however, has laws which allow for the use of “reasonable force” to control a child’s behavior. Oates believes that Australia’s position concerning this issue put them in opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. The UN orders that all measures be taken to protect children.

Those who use force as a tool for disciplining their children say that it helps set boundaries, ensures that children see that there are consequences to bad behavior, and that it is a good way to teach kids a lesson. Those against corporal punishment say that honing parenting skills would be a better way to go, according to an opinion article in The Daily Telegraph. The author posits that since bullying has become a significant issue in Australian schools, how can children learn not to hurt or disrespect one another if the idea of hitting as a form of communication is allowed?

Last month, writes the Indianapolis Recorder’s Jessica R. Key, Toya Graham was praised for hitting her son to get him out of the crowd demonstrating in Baltimore, Maryland after the death of Freddie Gray. Anthony Batts, Baltimore Police commissioner, told Baltimore reporters, “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight.” But while some are praising Graham, others are discussing the inconsistent cultural attitudes concerning physical punishment.

Football player Adrian Peterson was booked and charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child, a felony, in Montgomery County, Texas. The NFL player spanked his son using a switch for using expletives and abusing his sibling. His lawyer said he did so because that was how he was disciplined as a child in East Texas. His punishment cost Patterson $4.14 million.

“The difference between the Baltimore mom and Adrian Peterson is one, Adrian Peterson is a large NFL player and his son was much younger. Physical scars were left. The other dynamic is that the mom was a mom and the child was a teenager,” speculated Dr. Michael McKenna, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Indiana University and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

According to Dr. Alan Kazdin, a psychologist at Yale University, 85% of US kids have been spanked by the time they reach adolescence, but just like parents had to gradually buy into insisting that their children wear seat belts, corporal punishment will change over time as well. McKenna believes that the black community is is more open about using the practice. He suggests, however, that adults learn to look at disciplining differently by putting in the time to truly teach the child right from wrong.

A study by Psychologists from The School of Medicine at Washington University found that punishments worked better than rewards, reports the ParentHerald.

“Our study showed that such feedback does not have to be harsh, since it appears that we tend to react in the same manner to any amount of negative feedback,” said lead researcher Dr. Jan Kubanek.

Co-researcher Richard Abrams said he wants parents to stop spanking their children.