Spanking gets a good report cardThis just in (sorry, kids): Spanking children makes them happy.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, a new study by Calvin College’s Marjorie Gunnoe found that teens who were spanked as children ended up with a “sunnier outlook,” were “better students,” had “more positive academic records and optimism about their future,” and volunteered more than their unspanked peers. In fact, Hemingway wrote, “the never-spanked group never scored the best on any of the 11 behavioral variables analyzed.”
Hemingway mentioned two extremes in the spanking camp, No Greater Joy’s Michael Pearl on the spanking side and ParentingInJesusFootsteps.org on the non-spanking side, as well as Scriptural proof texts for corporal discipline. Before anyone accuses her of abuse, Hemingway jumps in with admonitions of balance, reminders to use all of Scripture for discipline, not just the verses about the rod, and for this, we salute her. Too many—like the woman I know who swatted her children 400 times for telling a lie—vehemently adhere to passages on the rod outside of the context of their balancing counterparts: not provoking our children to wrath and being sure we put on humility, gentleness, and forgiveness in our parenting.
Parents, Christian or not, will likely continue the spanking debate ad infinitum, the question being is spanking abuse or an effective tool in the parenting tool belt? No rational person would advocate lashing out in anger and beating a child (which is what most people in the anti-spanking camp call “spanking”). Yet many of those who claim to be against spanking because of its “abusive” nature think nothing of verbally tearing into their children, giving them the silent treatment, sending them to their rooms for hours on end to contemplate their misbehavior, shaming them, or scolding them within an inch of their life. Because no bruises are visible, they feel their form of discipline is less harmful than spanking.
I recall a neighbor who vehemently vocalized her distaste for those who spank their children, yet regularly shouted so loudly at her little boy that my father once said, “Boy, it would be better if she shut her mouth and just gave that child a good spanking.”
Is spanking abuse? It can be. But, with new studies like Gunnoe’s showing the upsides of corporal discipline, opponents might want to reevaluate their tired rhetoric, because the proof that spanking is good discipline is starting to show up in the parental pudding.
If you need help in learning how to discipline properly (including limited, but realistic, use of corporal punishment), I advocate Dr. Dobson's classic Dare to Discipline. However, we also used child training (not just punishment, but positive training) inspired by To Train Up a Child and Above Rubies.