To Spank or Not To Spank

Ever wonder if there just might be a better way?

I  heard a mother threaten to smack her child if he didn’t stop crying, and a father yelling at his children to sit down and shut up! Professor Murray Strauss of the University of New Hampshire has conducted research which indicates that 94% of adults in our society believe it is okay to hit a toddler. That’s 9 out of every 10 members of our society believe it is okay to use violence against our most vulnerable population. So let me ask you a question: Are you one of the 9? Do you believe it is okay to hit a toddler or to use force in their correction? No judgment on my part, only curiosity. As a network member, you may have been exposed to the findings on the developing brain, multitudes of platitudes on bringing more love and understanding into the home rather than fear and stress. You are a part of a small fraction of adults in our society and that is very sad.

Two of my good friends Drs. Lou Lombardo and Karen Polonko are sociology professors at Old Dominion University. They travel around the world presenting papers on violence against children and have brought some of the leading scientist, researchers, trauma gurus, etc. to Old Dominion’s student body. Both of them are very loving and passionate human beings. They do not believe in violence against children. In fact, they know violence against children, even spanking, is not in the best interest of children or our society.

What I find interesting is that Lou is a very peaceful man. He is passionate about not hurting children. Karen says that Lou came from the greatest family ever. However, Karen didn’t come from such a peaceful environment and she says routinely how screwed up she has felt when it comes to relationships. Yet, both these two wonderful people make a concerted effort to practice what they preach not just in their work but in everyday life. Lou practices his peace daily by gardening and mentoring students. Karen recently took a sabbatical from work and read eight books on parenting, not for her own children, but for the recreation of her own blueprints for how she was parented. As she says that it is very difficult to recognize what you never received so she is downloading positive perspectives into the hardware of her mind and heart.

Child abuse arises primarily from generational imprints of fear, and then continues to be activated by the experience of stress in our lives. In order to end child abuse we must honestly recognize the pain we have grown up with, and the messages that we carry from many generations of stress, fear, and abuse in parenting. Not in a judgmental way but rather as an exercise in observation and mindfulness. From this perspective we can gain a more clear understanding of our behavior in relationship to our children when we become stressed as they struggle to work through their own past painful experiences.

To spank or not to spank, that is a good question. I know there is an entire tradition and culture around physical punishment. Other good questions might be...
1 - Does it really work? (let's examine the penal system to see if the death penalty keeps people from crime etc).
2 - Will it make us damaged adults (as in, I was spanked and I turned out alright). Are any of us really alright?
3 - Is There a Better Way?

I wonder how many of us would swat our spouses to teach them, or would welcome a swat ourselves in order to help us learn....rhetorical question of course, but why would we hit our children? Is it because we lack other alternatives, like love, influence, and the time it takes to really know our children? Read the article How Not to Use Guilt and Shame and let me know what you think. Pain = Learning?

Choose Love.



  1. I’ve had parents complain that their child just doesn’t seem to learn without a good spanking. I’ll agree that to some extent, what they’re saying is true: some children will repeat certain behaviors over and over again, and seem to be unresponsive unless they get something bigger that “gets” their attention and breaks the cycle.

    I assume that the reason this is so is because the root issue isn’t being addressed.

    Do you agree?

    • Bryan Post says:

      Yes. The next question for them is, does a good spanking resolve core/root issues?

      • I think probably most people who spank would agree that it doesn’t really resolve any issues. It’s done out of frustration, or because the parent can’t think of any other way to handle the issue.

        Especially with foster kids, who have attachment issues, and an inability to think ahead or consider the consequences of their actions – spanking solves no problems (long-term) at all.

        But for a lot of people, as you said, it’s not a cut and dry issue.

        Personally I feel there are instances where I have spanked my children, specifically dangerous or potentially dangerous behaviors. For example I have swatted toddlers on the behind who insisted on running in the street.

        Was there a better way to handle it? I don’t know. They’d already been told to stay with me, preventive measures were already put into place, etc etc. And I can say that once I gave them a swat on the behind, that behavior stopped immediately. So maybe it’s a case of getting a small hurt to prevent a bigger one. Or maybe that’s what “they all say?”

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