The Controversy has Led to Tragedy
Recent news reports bring to light the fact that 3 children have been killed by parents following the advice of a preacher in Tennessee whose book that calls for parents to use beating to discipline children has sold over 600,000 copies.
The preacher is Michael Pearl and he promotes a religiously informed conviction that an essential tool in teaching children rules and how to follow them is to beat them. He goes so far as to call for children to be trained just as mules are trained, and his book recommends the type of instruments that are best to use when hitting your children.
Clearly, this call for hitting children is an extreme, but it taps into a controversy that all parents in America face- is spanking a good tool for teaching kids rules and encouraging them to do so?
To my mind, it is a controversy that is worth our attention about as much as arguing if the earth is flat. This question has actually been measured and studied, and in every instance the studies find the same conclusion:
Spanking does not work.
What does that really mean? The facts are dramatic:
- Kids who are spanked do not behave better than kids who are not.
- Kids who are spanked are not more likely to follow the rule the spanking was meant to teach
- Kids who are spanked are more likely to have trouble in their life than similar kids who are not spanked. Spanked kids tend to be more likely:
- To be more violent
- To have more trouble having healthy relationships
- To hit their children
So, not only does spanking fail to teach kids to behave well, it also actually hurts children.
If a drug failed this miserably and hurt people this much it would be off the market very rapidly.
This makes the attraction of hitting kids in today's climate all the more striking, and yet hitting kids has become a politically sensitive subject with some constituencies taking on the use of spanking and corporal punishment as important actions to support for a variety of reasons.
This news story reminds us that it is important, from time to time, to look at the facts when it comes to how we teach our children. There may be religious or philosophical concepts that promote the idea of hitting children, but the facts establish that it doesn't work and it causes harm. The tragedies of these three families should bring that message home quite forcefully.
Spanking is a nice word for hitting our kids.
It turns out that hitting kids does not work, it does not help control behavior and it fails to teach kids rules.
Further, hitting kids can cause harm, at the time, and later in life.
We strongly urge all families to be careful not to hit their children.
Dr. Arthur Lavin
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