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My Husband Spanks Our Son

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

Q: My husband spanks our 17-month-old son when he misbehaves. I feel bad for my son, so I comfort him afterward. I don't agree with the spanking and have told my husband that, if he insists on doing it, I don't want to witness it. I don't think my son is old enough to be punished that way. What is a good age to start? Is there a better form of discipline?

A: Spanking is not a healthy, appropriate, or effective form of discipline for your child. There is no "good age to start" spanking a child. Telling your husband to spank your child when you aren't there doesn't take away your responsibility every time your little boy is hurt when his father hits him.

You and your husband need to learn forms of healthy, positive discipline. You also need to understand what behavior is appropriate for your son's current stage of development. When you learn more positive ways to discipline and understand why your child behaves as he does, you will parent better and give your child the compassionate support and guidance that he needs.

I believe in the saying, "When we know better, we do better." Please ask your pediatrician to recommend some parenting classes for you. Your HMO, local adult education program, YMCA, or children's advocacy organizations might also provide parenting classes. I'd also like you and your husband to read, Positive Discipline: The First Three Years by Nelsen, Erwin, and Duffy. Soon you and your husband will be able to discipline with love and understanding, instead of spanking out of frustration. Get the knowledge you need and watch things get better. Thanks for writing.

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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.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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