38 votes

DP Opinion poll on spanking.

I was commenting back and forth with another member about whether or not spanking a child was right or wrong. That other member happens to be from Sweden where spanking was made illegal back in 1979.

To clarify I am not asking if it is OK to abuse a child, such as a right hook to the face, or putting cigarettes out on them, but an open handed swat to the butt in rare circumstances, while keeping your cool, and with a measured amount of force. It happens to be legal where I live, (which is not what I use as a judgement of right and wrong).

The other member cited the non-aggression principal at one point, which I do not think applies fully to someone that is unable to understand their own best interests. We don't let 5 year old kids cast votes, nor do we cut them loose to live on the streets. Without the use of force, many kids would not ever bathe. Adults shouldn't be subjected to a nanny state, but I think kids should be, according to their maturity level/age.

So I am curious about everyone's opinion. If your opinion is one of a parent with practical knowledge of child rearing, as opposed to a single person's theoretical knowledge, I am curious about that too. If you never spank, what are your alternative disciplinary actions? I know my son would exercise civil disobedience if I tried to put his nose in a corner, or if I tried to imprison him in his room for a timeout.

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I was spanked as a young

I was spanked as a young child. Well I wouldn't so much call it spanking as getting whooped with a belt (with the buckle). I don't even remember what I did to get it, I'm sure that I was probably misbehaving to the extent that it made my father angry enough to essentially beat me. I love my dad. In fact he's my best friend to this day. I don't feel I received any benefit from getting beaten. I think my dad did get some benefit from it as he was able to alleviate his frustration at that given moment. My dad and I are very similar people, in the way we think and feel. He's never told me, but I am certain he felt unrelenting shame every time he did it. The same shame I feel when I holler at the top of my lungs at my 4 year old daughter out of frustration. I can't imagine the kind of terror that she feels when I do it (it's evident on her face), as I am a very large man who is mostly quiet and soft spoken, but is somehow able to yell loud enough that it probably startles the neighbors. The last time I got the belt was probably around 6 or 7. I spent my summer and winter breaks during college working with my dad (he's a contractor) and that's when we actually got to know each other, even though we had lived in the same house for 18 years up to that point. We spent 10 hours a day next to each other. This is when I discovered that the man I had told myself I would never become was my mirror image. People that knew my father would frequently comment to me, "you are just like your dad." I would make the same sardonic comments, the same observations, had a similar sadistic sense of humor and had a similar thought process to making decisions. We had similar political leanings, live and let live. We would often have to travel hours to a job site. In those car rides we would make each other howl with laughter. I feel like my dad and my wife are the two only people that have ever "gotten me."

One day during lunch, sitting on the tailgate of his work truck parked outside of a house we working in, drinking coffee (in the summer heat of the San Joaquin Valley) and shootin the shit, I asked him, "why did you stop hitting me with the belt." I already had an inkling of why, but I wanted to confirm it. He said, "because you would start laughing at me." Even at such a young age, I was very keen on how to solve situations that bothered me. Obviously I didn't like to get beat. I made a decision that I was not going to show him that he was hurting me, as way to give him the middle finger. So the next time he brought the belt out I prepared myself to laugh at him. The first swat indeed inflicted tremendous pain, and I'm sure it produced a tear. I pushed the pain away. It was there, and I felt it, but the best way I would describe it is that I put it off to the side. I laughed at him. He hit harder. I laughed harder. I laughed until he stopped whipping me. It wasn't the last time I got the belt, but I didn't get it to many times after that. That pain I put off to the side turned into fear of my father and resentment, which I didn't let go of until I was 18. The only thing those beatings taught me was how to endure pain and figure out the best way to humiliate the person inflicting. I didn't become a better person because of it. I didn't become a better father because of it. I don't strike my kids, though I have become frustrated enough that I wanted to.

I'm not saying that spanking is necessarily unwarranted. For example, if my eldest started hitting her little sister who is not capable of walking yet let alone able to defend herself, I would probably spank her. I know some comments have equated taking toys away as theft. I respectfully disagree. My daughter knew the word property before she was 2 years old. She is renting the toys she plays with from me. I own the toys. I also own the storage that the toys are housed in. Our contract is, in order to play with the toys you must do x,y,z and must not do x,y,z or else her access to said toys is revoked.

I don't spank, but can think of situations in which I would. I don't spank because getting whipped with a belt didn't turn me into a better person.

Against Physical Aggression

Spanking is the easy way out. Ultimately adults spank because they lack the mental ability to explain or teach. This is probably because they (The parents) were also spanked as children which means they were taught to obey authority rather than to understand morality.

You can't teach your children that initiating physical violence and aggression are wrong, and at the same time spank them. It's completely hypocritical. You would not hit an adult, yet it's okay to hit/spank the most innocent and vulnerable? I get very angry when I see demons hitting their children. It's disgusting.

BTW, it does not matter how or where you hit them. Otherwise let me come over and beat your on your ass the next time you're not watching your child.

I agree wholeheartedly. It's

I agree wholeheartedly. It's hypocritical to say the least..

what about spanking adults?

What's the DP consensus on that?

“Although it was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.” — Albert Camus

Well, we know that the prison system does not work...

at least not at changing someone's behavior.
(the adult version of time-out).

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I am wearing ass-less chaps

I am wearing ass-less chaps right now and going in to see my wife. HOLLA! Totally support.

Ron Paul 2012 - It's Almost Here!

I really do not understand

I really do not understand advocating a return to spanking in schools, as some in the comments below are. Save for private or Christian schools, isn't this sort of turning our children over to the government? I thought government intervention and correction was what we are trying to curtail? Allowing a school to spank your child seems like a cop out since public schools are in fact government institutions. I for one would NEVER allow the government to spank my children. Very glad my daughters are schooled at home! :)

Ron Paul 2012 - It's Almost Here!

work with a bunch of kids sometime

you will soon be advocating spanking. The kids are not responsible for their food, clothes, roof, education, heck until they graduate most young people are responsible for nothing. Considering their lack of responsibility they do not feel consequences. spanking is simply an efficient way to instill consequences on a young person who is to immature to face the adult consequences.

Absolutely and Rarely

3 kids... they all needed a few good tune-ups before they were 5.
It's healthy for them to know there is a "line" that can be crossed. When they're teens and adults those lines are real and the consequences (not spanking) can be tragically life changing... thinking before acting can start at a young age.

There are many many good comments (advocating spanking) below I agree with.

I've got two kid leaving their teens.

I can remember spanking each of them only once or twice. It wasn't the bent over the knee kind, that I got. It was one or two swats on their butts when they did something pretty bad.
They were three or four when it happened. They got the idea and there were no more spankings.
I can't imagine that type of punishment becoming routine. Wouldn't it lose it's force after a while? Then what?

IMHO: The Situation dictates..

Spanking as PUNISHMENT is most often the least effective, counter-intuitive form of behavior modification begetting unintended emotional consequences within a child's psyche...(IMHO)

However, the situation may be as such that a spanking can derive a desired modified behavior that a parent may calculate to outweigh the potential unintended consequences. I also feel that no Agency has the authority to make it illegal to spank a child without ASSUMING OWNERSHIP of that child. It goes without saying, but I shall say it: I do not condone ownership of a person & do agree with the natural laws of the custodial parent.

I have been fortunate, in that the only spanking my child has received was in the form of NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT & NOT PUNISHMENT. Some may argue that negative reinforcement is not effective & immoral.
Again, the situation dictates which parental tool may be most effectively utilized. I also feel that it is important to separate the concept of spanking and the concept of punishment.

Here is my only personal real life example as a parent spanking his child:

At the age of 4, my son had finally ditched the training wheels on his bicycle. He had been told not to ride his bicycle in the street because a vehicle may not see him and if a car hit him then it would hurt very bad & mommy & daddy would be very sad.

Because children have not been on this earth as long as myself(through no fault of their own), I understand that they may not understand the extent of pain/death that may occur. I am certain that my son did not.

As he steered his bicycle away from me & into the street, a car sped past him going much faster then the posted speed limit. He was mere inches from being hit. I am fortunate that the car was going as fast as it had, otherwise my son would have been in front of the vehicle.

I perceived that my son still did not understand the full ramifications of extensive pain, death, sadness, etc..

I utilized the parental tool of a spanking as negative reinforcement at the onset of incident. Yes, he felt pain. Perhaps he was initially confused between the concepts of negative reinforcement and punishment. However, I calculated at that particular moment that the most effective way to ensure the future safety of my progeny would be to abruptly instill a brief moment of shock and a SLIGHT amount of pain on his rear-end in hopes that it would aid in his development.

In this instance, negative reinforcement was much more effective than positive reinforcement. I calculated that hugs & lollipops for being on the sidewalk would not help my child develop a sense of understanding of the relationship between a collision with a car & pain.

Following the act of utilizing the tool of negative reinforcement, an extensive conversation took place between my son & I (A Full House moment if you will). This conversation was another tool utilized as an attempt to subvert the potential unintended emotional consequences that may have occurred while assisting in the development of my child's psyche. This conversation was also an attempt to convey the concept of absolute love & desire for the well being of my son while reestablishing previous levels of trust.

We then discussed his PUNISHMENT & why he was being punished. His punishment was 'No bicycle, until he understands that he can not ride in the street unless I feel that it is safe for him and have inspected for dangerous cars'. It just so happens it was roughly a week until I felt that my son's rehearsal of a common rule for survival had matured within his mental development.

Therefore, it is in my humble opinion that the situation may dictate that a spanking can be effective as negative reinforcement. I also believe that the onus is upon the parent to calculate when its usage is warranted. I feel it should be used rarely as increased usage results in diminished desired results while increasing the unintended consequences upon a child's psyche. Spanking should be avoided & not used out of anger or for punishment as this very closely resembles violence.

I think everyone can benefit from increasing their ability to situationally calculate what behavior modification technique will maximize the potential for desired outcomes in regards to child development. A more thorough understanding of what constitutes negative reinforcement, punishment, & violence would benefit a great deal of Wal-Mart shoppers, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc..

To be truthful, this is my retrospective justification. The calculation & enforcement took merely a few seconds. To those whom may argue that I took a child's property, I simply ask this, "If your child purchased a weapon against your will, do you have the right to remove it from his/her custody?" Answer: "You bet your ass you do". It kind of falls in line with the natural laws of the custodial parent.


That sounds pretty reasonable

I'd like to state that I am fully in to non violent behaviour, but I think your example demonstrates how it can in certain situations be used for positive development.

Personally I think the key is not in the degree of force used, or even the nature of the situation where it is used, but in the motive behind it's use. This is essentially the same as what you are saying about the difference between negative reinforcement vs punishment. I would state it as, motivated by love or something else.

Freedom is a byproduct of acceptance - judge not.

I would also add that one of

I would also add that one of the problems in the application of operant conditioning, it is most often assumed that people will act or behave rationally. For instance, it is usually assumed that providing, as a potential reinforcer, something that is deemed a reward (something that would be considered desirable by most or pleasant) as a response to a desired behavior will result it reinforcement. Of course if the behavior is not increased then the reward is not a reinforcer. There is a book by developmental psychologist Peter Gray, called Free to Learn, in which he talks about how children learn and develop. He does talk about Skinner in his book as it relates to providing rewards for creativity. He writes about studies conducted in which one set of children are primed with being informed that they will receive a reward if they draw with certain pens, one set was asked to draw a picture and then they were surprised with a reward afterwards, the other set was told to draw a picture and received no rewards. The drawings were evaluated by people who were not aware of which group the drawings came from. The children who were primed with the reward were judged to have produced significantly less quality drawing than the two other groups. The children who were primed also spent half as much time drawing as the other two groups in following free draw/play sessions. The authors interpreted the results as the children who drew knew that they would receive a reward saw drawing as something that is done for a reward, rather than as something that is done for its own sake. As a result they only would draw just enough to get a reward and they would also avoiding drawing if no reward was going to be provided. Multiple studies involving subjects of varying ages produced the same results.

Gray does state that his ideas (as far as theories on how children learn) closely align with Vygotsky's (as do mine). However, there is significant overlap between Vygotsky and Skinner's theories of learning, and I would say they are pretty closely related. Vygotsky focuses more on internal and social reinforces that children experience as a means to increase behaviors, and Skinner did say that a person can be there own listener and that verbal behaviors can be reinforced socially. Skinner seemed to be more focused providing specific stimuli and at a specific reinforcement schedule, whereas Vygotsky focused on reinforcers that are more "naturalized" and random.

I would say Vygotsky and Skinner would be in one camp of thought. Nativists like Noam Chomsky would be in another. They theorize that everyone is innately born with the ability to learn (specifically language, or the "language acquisition device" (a structure that exists in the brain) as Chomsky put it. He gave up that theory when it didn't hold up after years of criticism.

Now he theorizes that syntax and morphology are innately present in the structure of the brain and calls it "Universal Grammar." To me, it sounds like he just changed the name of language acquisition device. Universal Grammar receives similar criticisms that the language acquisition device did.

Negative reinforcement by

Negative reinforcement by definition is effective. If desired behavior has not increased, then negative reinforcement hasn't taken place. Most people have experienced negative reinforcement. For instance, to avert the feeling of being too hot in your house you turn the air conditioner on, or turn a fan ect. The behavior of turning the air conditioner on was increased. Positive reinforcement would also have probably taken place as the air conditioner (the stimulus) cooling you down and making you feel comfortable would also more than likely increase the behavior of turning the air conditioner (if it doesn't increase it, then positive reinforcement hasn't taken place). Reinforcement, whether positive or negative, has only taken place when desired behavior has increased.

Punishment is removal of a stimulus as a result of a non desirable behavior, or a stimulus is presented to decrease a non desirable behavior. Spanking to decrease a non desirable behavior would be punishment. Taking away his bike every time he rides in the street, as you also stated, would be a punishment as you are removing a stimulus. Spanking to decrease the behavior of riding in the street is also punishment, although if the spanking resulted in the increased behavior of riding his bike on the sidewalk, then negative reinforcement has taken place.

We are splitting hairs

I agree with much of what you said. However, here is where I disagree:

"...or a stimulus is presented to decrease a non desirable behavior. Spanking to decrease a non desirable behavior would be punishment. "

I disagree in regards to methods of application. I believe spanking-as-punishment to be a variant of violence. The spanking my son received was not to "decrease a non desirable behavior", such as playing in the street. The spanking was administered as a means to associate a stimulus of pain with the act of being struck buy a moving car without actually being struck by the vehicle. By reinforcing the concept of pain in this instance, its purpose is to assist in the development of a child's ability to calculate risks of particular behaviors while leaving the opportunity for the child to desire pain if he chooses.

Nurturing the skills of risk assessment will allow him to play in the street with a heightened awareness of the dangers associated with the behavior. I will not always be able to keep him from playing in the street, but when I catch him in the act, his punishment is removal of bicycle privileges.

Case in point: A couple of months later, I observed from a distance as he knowingly disobeyed me by entering the street with his bicycle. Prior to him entering the street he spent several moments looking for dangerous traffic. I observe this as successful negative reinforcement & not punishment.

Had he chose not to enter the street out of fear that I would spank him, then I failed in my attempt to assist in his development and instead committed an act of violence in which effected his psyche in a manner I wished it had not; it would have inadvertently stunted his ability to conduct risk assessment due to an underlying conditioning fear of spanking (violence). The potential of conditioned fear & emotional tyranny upon the child is an unintended consequence often miscalculated by a parent & the observers of a parent while administering a spanking.

A spanking administered as negative reinforcement when a particular behavior increases the risk of pain disassociated with the act of spanking is valuable.

A spanking as punishment is merely a variant of violence.

Punishment & Negative Reinforcement are not necessarily interchangeable but often can be. Thus, we split hairs.

Nonviolent punishment/negative reinforcement examples: Grounding, restriction from play items, increased chores/workload,

Punishment when not interchangeable as negative reinforcement example: introduction or removal of a stimulus towards a child on conditions unrelated to behavior modification techniques(I.E. neglecting to provide essential parental guidance to a child because he/she does not share similar physical traits with the assumed parent).

Spanking as nonviolent negative reinforcement example: Supplying the stimulus of abrupt force & pain during an instance of behavior that is likely to result in abrupt force & pain orders of magnitude higher that is not present at the particular moment. (I.E.: My son was not hit by the car, the abrupt force & pain was not present, therefore, a moment of abrupt force and pain many orders of magnitude smaller was calculated as an acceptable form of negative reinforcement of the inherent risks of pain of be hitting by an automobile.)

It is valuable to sidetrack on definitions. It assists in decreased circular logic propagation. A falsehood that everyone has been susceptible to.

Yes splitting hairs. I was

Yes splitting hairs. I was merely defining terms in my original reply, not casting judgement on actions you implemented. When you say "reinforcing the concept of pain," you are using the term reinforcing as a means to strengthen, to support, to solidify, as in reinforcing concrete. This reinforcement is not the same as the meaning of reinforcement present in "negative reinforcement" as it relates to behavioral psychology. Reinforcement is a description of an observed behavior. Positive and negative are denoting add or subtract, such as the term positive punishment. I "get" what you are getting at though.

This is a pretty helpful diagram (though I don't agree with the way it says noxious stimuli under positive punishment, stimuli is not required to be noxious for positive punishment to have occurred, any stimuli that is added that results in decreased behavior is positive punishment ):

Punishment and negative reinforcement are never interchangeable, by definition. One increases, the other decreases. Certainly a behavior can decrease as another behavior has been increased through negative reinforcement.

One of my former professors, Dr. Hegde, is also a pretty good resource as he is a devout proponent of behavioral analysis. I am a speech-language pathologist by trade, like Dr. Hegde, but he earned is doctorate in psychology first, then his masters in speech-language pathology afterwards.


Here is a clear explanation (hopefully this works):


Ah yes

Quick edit:

Thank you for the references and explanations. My behavioral analysis attempt is filtered through a developmental psych class from a community college over 10 years ago.

I am thankful you 'get' what I was getting at. I will relearn the accepted definitions instead of arbitrarily assigning my own. It should advance my communication abilities in the future ;)

With more clarity of the definitions of positive/negative reinforcement & punishment; I agree that punishment & negative reinforcement are not interchangeable.

If I have read from your references & diagram correctly, the spanking my child received does NOT seem to fit the hierarchy of operant conditioning. It is considered by the terms in your references as CORRECTIVE STIMULUS PRESENTATION.

The heart of what I was saying is that spanking as a form of punishment is actually violence.

I guess now I am saying that spanking as a form of CORRECTIVE STIMULUS PRESENTATION should only occur when the form of behavior is likely to cause a similar painful stimulus in many orders of magnitude higher or even death. Otherwise, spanking, I feel, is violence...

The example in the diagram exhibits what I disagree with: Spanking a child for cursing. I feel that it is violence & not an effective tool for behavior modification in regards to optimal child development, nor should it be considered positive punishment.

The real hairs split through legislation & execution of the laws.

Thanks for your responses. You have helped me further understand who I am & perhaps someone else has picked up some clarity as well.


my two cents

I am a single guy but I work with young people as part of my job.

When I was a child a spanking was never done with a hand but with a stick, or a belt, and it was always done in my parents room. Basiclly when my parents told me to go to their room I knew I was in for it, that said I remember a lot of times when I was really little where I would get scared at night go down to my parents room and not wake them up because thats the room I got spanked in. They slept better and had great privacy because of where I was spanked.

That said in working with young people, I find there are a lot of young people whose parents never ever discipline them in any way, outside of yelling at them and cursing them. There are a lot of young people who simply ask for a freaking spanking, they do something wrong just to see what will happen. Both of these sets of kids are in need of a responsible adult giving them a spanking. At times I wish that any adult could spank any child for any reason.

My children wake me up

often. I want to know if they're scared at night so I can comfort them. Uninterrupted sleep is overrated, especially compared to the chance to help a scared child.

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Asking to be physically

Asking to be physically abused? Haha that's a new one

This is something that should

This is something that should be entirely left up to parents to decide. I was spanked once as a child, I am not suffering any residual emotional problems as the result. My wife and I do not spank. We have wonderful children that have rarely needed punishment past age 5 or 6. It is what you do in those first crucial 5 years that molds and shapes who the child becomes. My daughters respond far better to having their ipods taken away for an extended period than they would to the momentary sting and/or humiliation of physical punishment. We have decided to demonstrate the principle of non aggression even personally in our family. It has worked very very well. Perhaps we are lucky.

The is what I have decided for my family. We have NEVER physically punished any of our children in any way ever. However, I do believe that if a parent decides to use a non abusive form of corporal punishment with their children - it is their right to do so.

Only one thing that you said sort of bothered me. You said "the non-aggression principal which I do not think applies fully to someone that is unable to understand their own best interests..."

Just keep in mind that this is the EXACT argument that our government uses to attack other countries or spy on her citizens citing various intelligence unknown to the general public thereby asserting we do not actually know what is in our own best interest.

Ron Paul 2012 - It's Almost Here!


So, you're saying a parent has the right to decide whether they can abuse their child or not, but what about killing it? Is that ok too?

Phxarcher87's picture

What about

a dog? Should you smack a dog when he doesn't listen to your command?

Remember when teachers wacked kids in school to make them listen. I would have probably benefited from that.

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect" - Mark Twain

Ah, now there's something I know about.

It is never a good idea to punish a companion dog. It makes them fear the punisher.

Four years ago I rescued two very cute stray dogs. One of them would not defaecate when I walked them. He would do it indoors when I was not watching. It was clear to me that a previous owner had punished him for doing what comes naturally. He was afraid to do it when a human was around.

It took me an entire weekend to change his mind. With a book to read, I sat in a chair in the backyard and waited him out. When he finally could delay no longer, I rushed over and gave him an entire wiener, a bit at a time. Same thing the next day. He got it. After that, when I opened the back door, he would happily bound outside to do what earned him my approval and rewards.

It took a couple of years for him to trust me completely. In that time, I never once so much as raised my voice to him. I did have to pull a baby-back rib bone out of his throat once. That's different.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

Spanking in school

cured me and dozens of other boys of our ADHD long before that "condition" was discovered.

It's a knee jerk reaction taught by our parents.

How to train an American child?

Spanking gives a quick result.
Other ways of training take more time.

So I think Spanking is Relative to a Parent's Time.

I was a single Father. boy 7. girl 2.5

when it all started. I can count on one hand how many spankings they both got. they both knew the rules.
the main rule for me, was that they HAD to know the offense before they committed it.
if a child does not really know that something is wrong to do, before they do it. they should not be physically punished.
and while it needs to be memorable, nothing but red skin should result.

I suppose that what I am trying to say is, if you do it right. it never really needs to be done.
but it is not a card that should be thrown away.

but in 20-20 hindsight.

it needed to be appropriate to the child. someone else noted that below. I concur.
my son was a pushover, my daughter a hell raiser.
Kids come out of the box with their basic personalities intact.
watch for that.

I would have been a better parent, if I had known then, what I know now.


growing up with a single mother with 2 kids

I was spanked for various things. However I ended up doing them again (born anarchist). I will say that one day I had made a derogatory statement at school, and my mother instead of spanking had embarrassed me in front of my friends. That was way more effective.

I have seen little devils get spanked and they hit their parents back! However when the parent puts the child in their room alone, The child becomes upset beyond belief.

His name is Edward Snowden

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