To Spank or Not to Spank

A better source of parenting advice than the Pope.

A better source of parenting advice than the Pope.

Pope Francis has made headlines with his story of a “good father” that chooses to smack his children a bit, but “never in the face so as not to humiliate them”.

I realize that priests are often called upon to give advice to parishioners, but maybe parenting advice is a little out of their purview. Of course, children of his generation were whipped, smacked, and spanked with abandon. Nowadays you can get sent to jail if someone finds out about it, even in the Pope’s home country of Argentina.

Corporal punishment is definitely falling out of favor. Studies suggest that spanking doesn’t correct behavior over the long term, and can erode the trust between children and their parents. It is not, however, illegal in the US. Unless the judge decides the punishment was abuse.  In fact, about 60% of American parents believe in spanking.

If you’re against spanking or would like to enforce discipline without it, there are plenty of books out there that tell you how.

Were you spanked as a child? How do you feel about spanking your own children?


  1. I was spanked as a child. From what I recall I was a rule bender and boundary pusher and I was only spanked when ‘enough was enough’. I couldn’t be reasoned with and grounding was ok with me as time alone was always welcomed. I was never punched, slapped, whipped, etc. I was spanked on the bottom with a hand. I have spanked my child when the other methods didn’t work. I don’t advocate doing it or abstaining from it, I advocate doing what works for your child. I have seen kids that even the slightest change in tone of voice makes them fall in line, and others who will defy, defy, defy. It all depends!

  2. I agree, Megan. Some kids don’t ever need a spanking or, like me, just one well timed spank. Others don’t respond otherwise. As for slapping, whipping or anything else, I don’t condone that type of corporal punishment..

  3. Megan I’m with you 100%. I was spanked on rare occasions as a child, and I clearly recall that I was all but asking for it by pushing the limitations of both the rules of my household and the patience of my parents. The spankings were never painful, and I even recall *knowing* that it was much, much harder (emotionally) on my parents than it was on me. What made it effective was knowing that there was actually a limit to how far I could push my parents before they had to take physical action, which ultimately showed me that society needs limits on the behavior of individuals – at some point there has to be a physical consequence, whether it’s jail, prison, or – in some states – death.

    There was one time when I pushed my grandpa, a WWII vet and an inherently patient man, so far beyond his limits that he popped me in the mouth. And I absolutely deserved that, being old enough to take a light punch to the face and also being old enough to know better than to throw a tantrum out of pure selfishness. That particular experience was no different than pushing one of my peers so far that a fight broke out, except in this case there was no fight, and when it came to fighting with my peers as a child I was typically the party who was pushed to his limit and forced to resort to violence in order to set the bullies straight 😉

    As for raising my own children, I don’t anticipate finding a need to resort to spanking, based on the reaction from my eldest daughter when I break out my serious dad voice. But you never know, and I completely agree that parents need to do what works for their unique situation.

    I’d like to hear from at least one parent out there who absolutely will not entertain the idea of corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool, particularly regarding what it is that drives those parents to preemptively making that decision.

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