What I know and what do I want to know?

We’ve all experienced, seen or is somewhat aware of spankings, whether it’s for not paying attention, talking back to parents, breaking rules, getting into trouble, being disrespectful or overall disobedient. No child likes to be spanked and no parent loves to spank their children either, however, all parents that love their children will correct them when they’re wrong even if it requires a spanking. Spankings however, should only be considered, after trying every other disciplinary method. Children also, believe it or not, appreciate a parent that guides them in the right direction using any appropriate means necessary, besides it’s beneficiary to both parent and child in the long haul. All parents desire to have well mannered, disciplined and respectful kids, at least I do. Many times, children purposefully misbehave just to see how much they could get away with. It’s important for parents to understand and know the difference between when a child is acting out on purpose, when there is something more psychologically associated with their behavior or when they’re just being typical kids acting their age. Some kids behave irrationally because of a need for attention, or something much deeper that supersedes our expectations of what their behavior should be or is considered normal at their age level. I know that kids should never be spanked for mere childish irresponsibility but only in cases of willful disobedience or insubordination of authority.   

In this piece, I want to find out why parents should or should not be allowed to spank their children. Many people object to spanking as they think its a form of abuse.  It is quite evident that we often confuse the true definition of what a spanking is with our own biased opinions of what we think it is. In this case, there will always be disagreements and objections due to misunderstanding and misconception of what a spanking truly is. A spanking is in no way shape or form comparable to any form of abuse. It does not involve harming the child, inflicting deep pain on the child, leaving bruises, or breaking bones. Any form of punishment that includes these should be considered abuse and there should never be an excuse or an occasion to abuse a child or condone abuse towards children period! However, a spanking is only considered a spanking when executed correctly. This involves a slap with one’s open hand on a child’s buttocks as a punishment. Notice the key words are ‘open hands’ and ‘buttocks?’ According to wikipedia the buttocks are two rounded portions of the anatomy, located on the posterior of the pelvic region of primates (including humans), and many other bipeds or quadrupeds, and comprise a layer of fat superimposed on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. Physiologically, the buttocks enable weight to be taken off the feet while sitting. Many cultures have also used the buttocks as a primary target for corporal punishment, as the buttocks’ layer of subcutaneous fat offers protection against injury while still allowing for the infliction of pain. The buttocks is also known as the backside, rear end, rump or behind. A spanking is only considered a spanking when given on this part of the body anywhere else is not a spanking. Spanking is not hitting a child in the face, back, torso or any other part of the body that will result in the child getting hurt, deeply pained or bruised.

Furthermore, a spanking does not involve the use of sharp objects, electric chords or any form of objects that will result in pain, scars, bruises, or broken bones. Thus far I know that a spanking is not abuse, should only be administered on a child’s buttocks and should not be given by angry parents with a bad temper.  This should be done solely out of love and should be the last resort after clear warnings and instructions or after trying other appropriate and effective disciplinary methods. Most important is that spanking is most advantageous as an impediment to unacceptable behavior for younger kids such as preschoolers, kindergartners and kids up to the second grade. Kids younger than 15 months old are considered babies and should not be spanked! Equally as important as not spanking babies is the complete elimination of spanking before adolescents.

I chose this topic because as a mother to six, four and two years old kids, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with children’s growth, development, attitudes, behaviors and cognitive skills. I firmly believe that parents play a crucial role in influencing child’s growth, development, and well being and we have to set the stage for them to become well-functioning members of society. Becoming a parent heightened my appreciation towards my own parents for raising me the right way and spanking me when I truly deserved it. This helped me as a child to refrain from practicing bad behaviors not only because of the consequences but the mere fact that my actions were unacceptable and should not be repeated. Was it right for my parents to discipline me when I was out of line? Absolutely! How was it right? They are called parents for a reason not to just give us hugs and kisses but to raise us to be good people. It was right because it was administered solely out of love, the lesson was learned and no one got hurt. Moreover parents should have the right to discipline their own children without being questioned, if the kids turn out badly the parents get blamed for their child’s behavior and if the parents discipline their children to not be horrible people they still get ridiculed. How is this fair? Spanking should not only be used as an external motivator to let kids behave well but also to have an internalized socially appropriate way of behaving.  My interest in this topic augmented from conversations, reading many articles, books, and journals and seeing how controversial this topic is. I often wonder if the main reason behind all the controversies could be associated with, ignorance on the topic, misinformation, not truly understanding exactly what spanking is or how it should be properly administered or just personal beliefs? Why should there be a debate on whether parents should be able to spank their own kids or not? I am only referring to spanking here, not abuse, not a beating, a spanking! Everyone is subjective to their own opinion or belief as long as the intent is not to hurt or demonize anyone. Where do we draw the line in disciplining our children and what right does the government have to legislate parenting or care giving style? It is harder for parents to discipline their own children because of fear of the law and other people around with opposing beliefs. How are parents supposed to properly discipline their children without being ridiculed, feeling guilty and accused of being an unfit parent? I want to research this issue so I can better understand why spanking is not encouraged, what experts are saying about this issue and find out the real reasoning behind all the controversies. Are people confusing other extreme methods of corporal punishment with a simple spanking?

My beliefs on this issue are mostly but not entirely based on personal experience. I can relate to this issue from both perspectives, a mother, and a child. I was spanked as a child and of course, it was not pleasant but I learned that I had two options to either obey rules and respect authority or face the consequences, and yes I also learned that consequences aren’t supposed to be fun or else, what’s the purpose? As a mom, I want nothing but the best for my children and I will discipline them lovingly when it’s necessary. This is not because I’m following a pattern but because I know from experience that it’s effective and have proven it multiple times. However, what I’d love to hear from the experts is, “Is it really beneficial to spank children and if so what are the benefits? It is often said that spankings are associated with mental health issues which I find hard to believe so I would really love to find out if spankings are associated with mental health issues also or not?

 

                                                                   What my research process was and why?

In order to have a better understanding of my topic and unanswered questions, extenuating research was done from multiple databases, journals, expert findings, blogs, books, scholarly articles and the newspaper. I researched both sides of this issue in order to understand why there were so many controversies but had many difficulties finding as much research that was for spanking, given that the majority was against it. Majority of my research was done through academic search complete, where I found a vast amount of scholarly articles and journals. I narrowed my search down to the exact information I needed to aid in my research. On top of all my scholarly research findings I also read a few blogs and articles online just to see what other people including parents were saying about the issue. Even though I did not include those findings in my research collection, it was refreshing to read and understand their points of view. Upon doing so I discovered that it is okay for normal people to feel a certain way about this topic but it all boils down to the facts and the findings from experts that have researched and studied this issue for years.  The biggest difficulty encountered while conducting the research was the fact that almost every piece that I’ve read had a completely different opinion on the issue and a lot of it makes sense while a lot of it didn’t. It is hard to know what is right when everyone’s on a different page and everyone thinks their opinion is the correct one. As I researched I keep asking myself, how can we ever come to a conclusion on this matter when there are so much mixed feelings, emotions, and opinions? I learned that my interpretation of the issue is completely different than that of others. From all the research I realized that my definition of a spanking is not the same as everyone else and that made me understand why they would be against it. If I had the same interpretation and definition as the majority that is against spanking, then I would be against it too.  

As I continued to research I came to the understanding that there was more to a spanking than I thought it was. Here I was thinking a spanking should be just an open hand slap on a child’s buttocks but as read further and learned that people are using objects, pinching, punching and all these other cruel activities I cringed in disbelief that people would really do this to their children. However this does not mean that they are right and I’m wrong or vice versa, what most people tend to describe are the advanced type of corporal punishment which is not the same as a spanking. A spanking is only a subset of corporal punishment but does not involve all the other extreme methods of punishment. Furthermore, I learned that it is so important to always conduct research first on any issue that is so adverse and controversial. It is clear that spanking to the majority includes the simple type of spanking I’m referring to and a more advance kind of spanking which I still don’t agree with. Anything more than a normal slap on the bottom is not spanking but abuse. It is remarkable how much can be learned and how wrong or misinformed I could be. It is not easy discovering that I was among the misinformed all along but it’s a relief to know that I have the ability to be open to other opinions and even heighten my understanding of this particular topic. The part of the research I liked the least was finding out that my definition of a spanking had a more advanced definition than I had thought. No one likes to be wrong but my most favorite part was that all that misunderstanding was replaced by more concrete information and now I won’t speak based on opinion but pure facts. As a result of my research, I will have a different view on spanking and understand why it’s not accepted by many.  I found all the more scholarly sources more helpful given that they were based on facts, statistics and a vast amount of knowledge on the topic. As for a few blogs that I read also I didn’t see them as helpful since the majority of the writers are biased moms like myself who Is speaking based on opinion and personal experience rather than research-based facts. The next time I have a research assignment I think it’s so much easier and better to conduct extenuating research from multiple sources, and  be clear on my definition before I start so that way I have a very solid argument that is not just based on my own interpretation, bias and opinion but logic, facts, and evidence.

                                                    What I learned about this debatable issue in conducting this research.

In conducting this research I learned that a spanking is not just an open handed slap on a child’s buttocks to a lot of people. Many consider hitting with objects, pinching, kicking etc as a part of spanking. According to pediatrician of 25 years and father of 5 Den A. Trumbull, MD, FCP, Disciplinary spanking is a subset of corporal punishment, and therefore must be clearly defined in any attempt to intelligently discuss or evaluate it.  Spanking has been defined as “physically non-injurious, intended to modify behavior, and administered with the open hand to the extremities or buttocks.” Disciplinary spanking is one of many disciplinary tools intended to shape appropriate behavior in the developing toddler or child.  Mild spankings may be necessary as early as fifteen months of age.  They should be relatively infrequent, and should always be reserved for clear willful defiance, not innocent exploration or childish irresponsibility.  Spanking should always be a planned action by the parent and not an angry reaction.  It should consist of one or two spanks to the buttocks and should be administered immediately after the offense.  It should be followed by a loving embrace from the parent and a verbal review of the offense and reason for punishment.  As a toddler cognitively develops, the use of time-out, reasoning and restriction of privileges should serve as primary disciplinary measures, with spankings occurring much less frequently.  Spankings should only occasionally be necessary after 6 years and rarely, if ever, after 10 years of age.

 He went a step further to define what corporal punishment is so as to clarify the difference between both terms. Corporal Punishment is legally defined as bodily punishment of any kind  This term includes abusive and non-abusive forms of physical punishment.  It includes all beating, face slapping, shaking, kicking, punching, choking, scalding, even starving, as well as any other physical attempt to inappropriately hurt a person.  It also includes appropriate forms of physical punishment used in the discipline of young children, such as hand slapping, firm hand grasp, or ordinary spanking. (Trumbell)  Clearly the definition of a simple spanking is being confused and interpreted as something much harsher than it actually is. Even though it falls under corporal punishment its only a subset which is a small part of this larger group. Deep down I still think people are unaware of the difference of a ordinary spanking vs physical abuse which I don’t agree with or support. Speculations are that spanking leads to mental health problems and have an overall negative effect on children.

However, researchers remain skeptical. Studies suggest, for instance, that the effects of spanking can differ depending on the circumstances. According to an article by Alan Kazdin The empirical literature on spanking has been reviewed extensively. The most recent and comprehensive review, completed by Gershoff (2002), consists of a meta-analysis 2 of 88 studies. Gershoff examined the relationship between corporal punishment and compliance of the child, moral internalization, aggression, criminal and antisocial behavior, quality of the parent-child relationship, mental health, and abuse. Spanking tended to be associated with immediate compliance of the child (i.e., desisting the behavior targeted by the punishment), which Gershoff considered to be the only positive outcome evident in her review. On the negative side, spanking was associated with decreased internalization of morals, diminished quality of parent-child relations, poorer child, and adult mental health, increased delinquency and antisocial behavior in children, and increased criminal and antisocial behavior for adults; spanking also was associated with an increased risk of being a victim of abuse or of abusing one’s own child or spouse. Reanalyses of studies have underscored the importance of how spanking is defined. Several studies in Gershoff’s review included rather harsh punishment that would qualify as physical abuse (e.g., slapping in the face, hitting with an object). Reanalysis indicated the outcomes were more negative in those studies than in studies of less severe punishment (Baumrind et al., 2002). Similarly, other reviews have suggested that very mild spanking used as a backup for mild disciplinary effects may not be detrimental and indeed can reduce noncompliance and fighting. (Larzelere, 2000)

Two studies have found no associations between spanking and mental health problems among kids who were spanked less than once or twice a month; other research has shown that spanking has much less of a negative effect on preschool kids than on infants and adolescents. So the conclusion from the meta-analysis that spanking itself is dangerous might be overly simplistic. “I think it’s irresponsible to make exclusive statements one way or another,” says Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida. (Moyer) What Science Really Say About Spanking has to be my most convincing source because this study was not conducted by only one but many experts who not only based their findings from research but continuous studies from various fields that have a connection with the issue. It involved different scientists and psychologists who work together on all the dimensions and horizons associated with spanking and its effects. As a result of my research I clearly understand that Spanking will forever be controversial and there will always be advantages and disadvantages, however according to an article by Dr. Sabrina Frechete, Conditional CP is another perspective, which claims that the use of physical force for disciplinary purposes may be beneficial under certain conditions. Specifically, through literature reviews and meta-analyses, Larzelere (1996;2000; Larzelere and Kuhn 2005) found that mild and occasional spanking, when used under certain circumstances, had positive effects on children’s immediate compliance as well as on oppositional and antisocial behaviors. Mild and occasional spanking were also found to enhance the effectiveness of other disciplinary strategies, such as explanation and time-out. Larzelere (2000) suggested that the following conditions char-acterize effective and appropriate CP: (a) it is not overly severe; (b) it is motivated by concern for the child; (c) it is used between the ages of 2 to 6 years; (d) it is under control; (e) it is used privately; (f) it is used flexibly; (g) it occurs after a single warning; and (h) it is combined with reasoning or other disciplinary strategies. Proponents of the conditional CP perspective suggest that the literature on detrimental effects of CP focuses too heavily on severe forms of physical discipline.

Overall the controversies will continue given that the more advanced types of corporal punishment have defeated and overpowered the idea of a simple spanking. However, a simple spanking is not being condemned and is practiced by almost 90% of Americans, the problem is the most advanced types of punishment which also falls under a spanking has raised the bar and has given a simple spanking a bad name. 

In conclusion, effective research from multiple sources is extremely crucial when dealing with controversial topics. I have learned how to not rely solely on my biased thoughts, opinions and personal experiences as these may not always be logical or factual. Conducting research helps to add clarity, answers or substantiate questions and reasoning. To many complicated topics such as spanking children there’s usually never a wrong or right answer, however research is able to help us better understand the controversies from both sides. The most important part of conducting a successful research it to know what is being said on both sides of the issue and why. It is also recommended to conduct extenuating research before the actual writing process. Not only does this give you an idea of how much or how little knowledge you may already have on the topic, but this will ensure that there is a substantial amount of scholarly information ready to help develop a better understanding of the topic thus creating a much stronger argument in the writing journey. The necessary information serves as a guideline or an outline if organized properly throughout the piece. All in all, the question, “should parents be allowed to spank their children still remains unanswered like the thousands of other controversial topics. This does not mean that they can or they can’t it all depends on the parent, the circumstance, and taking all the pros and cons into consideration before deciding whether they should or should not. Based on my research finding it’s safe to say that parents should be able to spank their kids if they have a valid reason and do so appropriately. On the other hand parents that don’t believe in spanking don’t have to spank their children since no one is saying they have to and stick to other appropriate means of disciplining that works best for them. Overall it all boils down to being solely the parent’s decision, and no one else should make it for them. 

 

                                                                                 Annotated bibliography.

Alan, Kazdin, E., and Corina Benjet. “Spanking Children.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-8721.01239. This source highlights different views of spanking, key conclusions about its effects, and methodological limitations of the research and the resulting ambiguities that fuel the current debate and plague interpretation. this was very effective in my article as it shed light on what was being said from both sides of this topic.

Fréchette, Sabrina, et al. “What Is the Link Between Corporal Punishment and Child Physical Abuse?” Journal of Family Violence, vol. 30, no. 2, 2015, pp. 135–148., doi:10.1007/s10896-014-9663-9.

In this source the actual benefits and conditions of spanking was thoroughly explained through examples and meta-analyses. This was a critical and very important component also which aids in better understanding how and why spanking is beneficial, so instead of focusing on all the negatives on spanking actual light was shed on some positives also. This specific source played a big role in my piece by creating a balanced view of spanking, between its advantages and disadvantages.

Moyer, Melinda Wenner. “What Science Really Says about Spanking.” Scientific American Mind, vol. 27, no. 5, Nov. 2016, pp. 12–12., doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0916-12.

 This source was extremely helpful with providing results from actual research and studies that were conducted by experts. The conclusion from meta-analysis in regards to the association with spankings and mental health problems among kids who were spanked was provided in this book. It offered clarity where it was much needed and now I’m convinced that spankings really do not have any effects on children’s mental health. This source and its data are key component in the answer to the main question, “should parents be allowed to spank their children.” though the result did not answer yes or no, it did however clarify that it doesn’t cause mental problems in kids who gets spanked, which have been a common misconception to those who are against parents spanking their children.

Trumbull, MD, Den A. “Disciplinary Spanking: Defined « GoodParent.Org.” GoodParent.org, goodparent.org/corporal-punishment/disciplinary-spanking-defined/.

GoodParent.org offers information and guidance to parents of children from birth to adulthood. They promote child-rearing advice that is time-tested and rooted in the research-proven, Authoritative Parenting style. This approach balances the correction of the child with affirmation and stands in contrast to the extreme approaches of the Authoritarian (harsh, unreasonable correction with little affirmation), Permissive (too little correction) and Unengaged (uninvolved, neglectful) styles. The content of GoodParent.org is based on parenting research, over twenty-five years of pediatric experience, and Dr. Trumbull and his wife’s experience with their five children. This source is incredibly refreshing given that light was shed on the true definition of a spanking and what it truly is. Dr. Trumbull went further and distinguished the difference between a spanking vs advance types of spankings. He explained that spanking is only a subset of corporal punishment which helped me understand better why it is seen in a negative light since majority generalize spanking as just corporal punishment. He explained the differences between both spanking and corporal punishment on a whole, provided examples and also was extremely clear on explaining both terms and how they differ which was very helpful in my essay and was easier for me to determine the validity and accuracy of my stance on the topic.

“Buttocks.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttocks.

Wikipedia is a live collaboration differing from paper-based reference sources in important ways. Unlike printed encyclopedias, Wikipedia is continually created and updated, with articles on historic events appearing within minutes, rather than months or years. I used wikipedia to aid in the definition of the buttocks, the part of the body where a spanking is intended to be administered. I thought it was very important for readers to know why the buttocks is the safest part of the body to administer spankings based on anatomy, science and the physical structures of the buttocks. this was important so as to have a better understanding that spanking on the buttocks is safe and does not cause harm, bruises scars or cannot be broken based on its high fatty tissue content. this source is also extremely helpful when wanting to find data that is up to date.

Picture source: