I say this as someone who was spanked as a child AND someone who has studied child psychology:
Please, please don’t spank your children.
Corporal punishment teaches children to fear getting caught– they learn to avoid punishment by whatever means necessary. This includes lying and hiding their misdeeds.
Many, many studies of child development have found that corporal punishment is ineffective at instilling internal morality and socially acceptable behavior in children. Children who are spanked are statistically more likely to misbehave when they think that they won’t get caught.
If you want to teach children to make good choices, there are hundreds of better ways. Here’s a few tips:
- Never discipline a child while you are angry. Angry parents don’t always make good decisions. You want the child to learn from their actions, not capitulate to appease your anger. Take a moment to calm down if you need it.
- Remove them from the situation. If child throws a tantrum at the supermarket, you can take them outside to calm down.
- Impose natural consequences. If the child leaves their toys outside overnight, their toys get ruined.
- Set rules for behavior and explain the consequences you will impose beforehand. „We always pick up our toys before dinner. If there are still toys on the floor after I ask you to clean them up, I will put them in this box and you won’t have them for 1 day.”
- Talk to the child
- Listen to the child’s explanation: „I wanted the toy, and sister wouldn’t give it to me so I pushed her.”
- Explain the rule: „It’s our rules that we ask nicely for a turn and wait, and that we only use nice touches.”
- Explain how they violated the rules: „You didn’t wait for sister to give you the toy, and you used a not-nice touch.”
- Help them plan out better behavior: „What should you have done instead? Sister is feeling hurt that you pushed her. What should you do now?”
- Implement the plan: „Sister, I’m sorry for pushing you. Next time, I’ll ask how long until I can have the toy. Can I play with the toy in 10 minutes?”
Here’s a neat summary of a meta-analysis of spanking research (36,000 people, 88 published studies):