17: Does Spanking Breed Violence?

Question: If I spank will it make my child hit other children and/or be more violent?

Response: That’s a really good question, because it is one of the most common objections people have against spanking. In fact, I think almost all articles you read that are opposed to spanking will mention this concern, almost as if it is a well documented fact of science that spanking breeds violence.

There are some studies that link spanking with violence (as well as some that don’t), but as we all know such studies can be seriously flawed. Here are some questions that should be asked of studies on spanking. Do they separate spanking from beating? Do they consider age appropriateness and separate out teens and infants from the study? What is considered violence? A child who is spanked is probably more likely to spank as a parent, right? Does that automatically put that parent in the violent category, thus proving that spanking breads violence? I had a teacher who said he was hit with a hammer as a child. Does he fall in the same statistical category as a child who is spanked with a wooden spoon? Do the researchers have agendas that might skew their approach to their research?

Since we usually don’t know the answers to these questions when we hear different studies quoted, let’s consider a few common sense approaches to this question.

First of all, what is your experience? It is harder to capture what is really going on in a home on a survey than it is for an observer to discern. Are there some families you know that use spanking as a form of discipline and that do it in a way that is loving and healthy? If so, what are their kids like? Are they the playground bullies? Do they hit other children? My own observation is this: children that are lovingly disciplined and spanked are far less violent than their non-spanked counterparts. Of course I’d say abused kids are the most violent. My kids have been spanked a lot, and yet it is extremely rare for them to act violently. In my personal experience, there is just plain no connection between spanking and violence. None.

A second consideration is societal trends. Spanking is looked upon with more and more disfavor in our society. It is certainly less popular now than it was in the days of our grandparents. A question to consider is whether society is getting more or less violent. If spanking greatly contributes to violence, and if in our society the frequency of spanking is greatly reduced, then it stands to reason that as a society the level of violence should be dropping as well. I realize that many other factors may play a part in societal violence, and that I am not providing you with any hard data. However, I still think it is a valid point to consider in a society that seems to be spinning more and more out of control—particularly when it comes to teen violence and rebellion. Certainly spanking cannot be the evil atrocity that society says it is. Perhaps our grandparents were a little wiser and more civilized than we give them credit for.

A third consideration is to reevaluate the initial premise. The basic idea is that spanking is violent, and therefore will breed violence. While at face value this may seem reasonable, let’s think through another scenario using the same logic. Let’s take kissing for example. Will kissing your children make them sexually promiscuous later in life? Perhaps it will make them incestuous, or maybe they will become pedophiles. I’m sure you see the fallacy in those ridiculous assertions. Obviously there is healthy kissing that promotes love and warmth in the relationship, and there is sexual kissing, which would obviously be harmful for a child. To equate the two and to attribute the outcome of one form to another would be a serious flaw in logic. The same is true of discipline. There are healthy forms of corporal punishment and there are unhealthy forms. No one will argue that physical abuse will harm children in numerous ways, including making them more prone to being abusive. However, biblical spanking is not physical abuse, it causes no injury, it is not done in rage, and is an act of love, not violence. To put spanking on the same level as violence is simply not a fair comparison.

A final consideration is that the Bible teaches it. Did God in His infinite wisdom somehow miss the harms of spanking that our modern day researchers have now discovered? Of course not. God knows what is best and what is best for our kids. It would be wise to trust Him over our modern day "experts". Regardless of all arguments for and against it, God’s direction on the topic should be enough.


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