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Does Spanking Prepare Kids for the Real World?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Crime has increased since our society began to look down on those parents who spank their kids. Children now seem to think that they can do whatever they want. They don't respect authority in the home or at school. I think we are doing more harm than good by not using this form of discipline.

I don't agree that spanking teaches children to fear their mistakes because they cause pain and shame. Don't mistakes still cause us pain and shame as adults? Shouldn't spanking be used to let the child know right from wrong, and prepare kids for life in the real world?

A: Neither children nor adults should be made to suffer shame for the everyday mistakes that we make in life. We certainly shouldn't be hit for them. I believe that a child needs a sense of shame and regret for certain wrongdoings and acts of unkindness; this is part of a child's healthy sense of moral and character development. But spanking doesn't prepare a child for the "pain" he will endure as an adult when he makes mistakes. It teaches him that grownups, even his parents, can hit him whenever they want to if he displeases them or makes mistakes.

There is no body of research that I am aware of that corroborates your statement that crime has increased as a result of parents condemning spanking as a productive method of discipline. In fact, many states still allow teachers to administer corporal punishment. All solid research available loudly proclaims that we are a nation of spankers and have been for some time. We should show children right from wrong by forming loving, respectful relationships with them, not through fear and control. Discipline comes through teaching and encouraging words, not through rewards and punishments.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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