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Sometimes, Is Spanking Still the Best Option?

1 ¾ min

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” isn’t in the Bible; it’s from the 17th-century Samuel Butler poem “Hudibras.” However, the phrase certainly expresses the spirit of the Bible’s Book of Proverbs and the prevailing wisdom of Western tradition.

Recent polls show that almost seven in 10 Americans believe spanking is an acceptable form of punishment at home, and about half of American parents sometimes spank their child.

But spanking as a form of punishment is in decline, and it definitely has its modern detractors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly opposes striking a child for any reason,” and recommends, among possible alternatives, “reach[ing] out to your child’s pediatrician for advice.” Many psychiatrists and parents also argue that spanking “doesn’t even work,” as it has only a fleeting behavioral impact. And then, of course, there’s the contingent who believes that spanking has deleterious effects on children’s psyche, and can result in such things as “future aggressive behavior” and dropping out of school.

Corporal punishment at school is also increasingly becoming a thing of the past. You’re probably not surprised to hear that corporal punishment at school is now illegal in 31 states in America. In fact, you’re probably more surprised to hear that it’s still allowed in 19 states, though its use has been severely curbed.

What’s even more surprising, however, it that even spanking children at home is considered illegal in 25 countries in Europe. The law in Sweden justifies a ban on corporal punishment as follows: "Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment."

As of now, the anti-spanking lobby in America hasn’t really had many victories. And judging by polls, most Americans today would shirk European-esque laws against corporal punishment. Is that a good thing? In some cases, do you think spanking is still the best disciplinary option for parents? 

Daniel Lattier

Daniel Lattier

Senior Fellow

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