What Does Spanking Teach Kids about How Love Should Hurt?

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Parenting Young Kids | 26 comments

What message does spanking kids send?
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We simply must talk more about how spanking affects children long term.

The biggest group of people who still support spanking are evangelical Christians, yet the research about spanking being harmful for kids is overwhelming.

I’m not going to rehash that today, because I’ve written about it before in these posts and podcasts, which are worth reading:

What I’d actually like to do today is simply share some insightful thoughts that were left on my Facebook Page this week as we talked about spanking. I think we had more than 2500 comments on those posts, and I pulled some out that I felt were important.

Note: It is my general policy to keep comments anonymous. Where actual names appear, it is only because those people asked to not be anonymous!

Why Spanking is Bad Even if You’re Not in an Abusive Home

Fifteen to twenty years ago, I defended spanking in columns that I wrote. We never spanked our kids, but I didn’t think spanking was necessarily bad. Then I started reading the research, and digging more into child development (as did my husband, a pediatrician, as new research came out) and we changed our views.

So I understand thinking, “let’s not be judgmental about this.” But when the research is so overwhelming, we need to pay attention.



My first ever memory was a spanking when I was two years old. How does a two year old remember something so clearly? Trauma.

I was rarely spanked as I was a well-behaved kid, but the memories and flashbacks of those rare occasions will still have me in a fit of tears, needing to throw up, and sitting in anxiety.

It has taken me years to work through that trauma and I still am not fully over it. I also want to include I was not raised in an abusive home. My parents were loving and kind and they only did what they knew was best.

The reality though, is that we do know better now and we need to make changes.

We need to learn that abuse is a “sliding scale”. When we hear that something is abusive, we jump to defense. We think that accepting it would mean we are/were horrific abusers. And that would bring so much shame and wallowing that most of us don’t want to even consider the possibility. But we can have abusive tendencies without being a monster. We can make abusive choices (in our ignorance and misguided ways) without it meaning we are horrible people.

But there’s a deep issue when we aren’t willing to accept any of the evidence, any of the studies, any of the theological concerns. Having spanked doesn’t inherently mean you’ve been a bad parent – but being completely unwilling to learn new things or even entertain the idea of not hurting your kids IS bad parenting.

Hayley Chase

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“Sure, I Was Spanked, But I’m Fine”

So many people said something like this in the comments, and a number of  people responded to it (as did I). I loved this response:

I was spanked as a kid and I turned out fine.

I have no concept of peaceful conflict resolution, but I’m fine.

I have no idea how to say “no” to people, but I’m fine.

If I ever get the feeling that someone is mad at me, I get instant anxiety because my brain associates people being mad at me with “punishment”, but I’m fine.

I never understood I was allowed to set boundaries around my own body, but I’m fine.

I was spanked as a child. My parents are not abusive people. They did what they thought they were supposed to do, AND even though I’m a fully functioning and very competent adult who can literally do *anything* I want, I’m only just now learning about bodily autonomy, boundaries, saying “no”, expecting to be treated with respect, and all sorts of social/emotional concepts. I pay a lot of money every month to learn the things spanking never taught me, but hey, I’m “fine.”

*My parents are my favorite people on the planet literally right there with my children and husband. My parents did their best with the information they had AND we’ll be doing things differently.*

Maybe your adult child that you use to spank as discipline is now a productive member of society and identify as Christian but do they have relationship problems? Addiction to food or other things for self coping? Susceptible to cult-like, spiritual abusers like Driscoll? Are they stressed out from always being a people pleaser? Are they on anxiety meds?

So many negative outcomes that are much more complicated than the easy thinking of well I spanked and my child is ✔️employed ✔️good citizen ✔️identifies Christian = spanking is the right thing to do.

What Does it Do to a Child to Equate Someone Hurting Them with Someone Loving Them?

Many people say that the problem with spanking is that it’s done in anger. If you calm down and spank and then hug them afterwards and comfort them and tell them you love them and did it for their own good–then it’s good.

But what dynamic are we teaching kids with this? We are teaching them that if someone hurts us, it’s because they love us.

(Incidentally, I think that’s one of the reasons for the increase in sexual fantasies/acting out later on that people don’t want.)

Can we talk about how this teaches “they hit me because they love me?” How do you think this will translate later in life when a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse hits them and says it’s in love? Also, how can they reconcile “it’s okay for someone to hit you if they love you and are correcting you, but you cannot hit anyone, but they can hit you if you deserve it because you are wrong, and they are just loving you.” You CANNOT teach a child that hitting is wrong and then turn around and do the same thing and say it’s because you love them. I am speaking as a teacher who has seen kids carry this logic with them several times.

I’ve defended the “Tripp method” in my day, as well. Spanking a child when not “in anger”, quoting verses and or speaking ‘I love you” when they are crying, frightened or just plain devastated, is not teaching them anything good.

Let’s see: Love requires physical pain. God will cause you pain and suffering because He loves you – what kind of love is that? Possibly causing them to equate misfortune in their life with that they “must deserve it” – that God is “displeased” with them. It’s OK to physically (or otherwise) hurt someone so long as you “don’t get angry” or smile about it while doing it, maybe. Or how about the absolute psychological confusion a child experiences when the parent they love and look up to for direction and comfort in life shows no emotion when they are physically hurting them. Oh, and be sure to hug them afterwards. You have set them up for a life of struggle with intimacy and unhealthy expression of emotions.

I’ve done it all ways, it’s unhealthy. The problem is not spanking in anger, the problem is getting angry in immaturity. Not expressing proper anger in a proper and mature way. Spanking only “works” because it doesn’t require us to deal with our own underdeveloped emotional and psychological issues and allows us to pretend we are being “responsible” parents by holding our temper and “disciplining” our children. When all we are doing is continuing the cycle of stunting the emotional and psychological development of the next generation, just in a different way.

When I discovered that the word discipline is derived from the word disciple and that a “rod and staff” in the Bible (in shepherding) were used to gently guide and comfort, all “biblical” reasons to physically hurt my children went out the window.

Reconsider, please. And take personal responsibility for your decisions and actions.

I feel sick.

We wonder why for ages so many men have been abusive to their wives.

We wonder why so many women have been tolerating this for centuries.

Is it just human nature? Is this the inevitable course mankind will continue to take? Are our daughters doomed to be one of the statistical 25-30% of women who will also grow up to endure this cyclic hell known as “domestic bliss?”

I don’t know why it never occurred to me before….It all starts HERE.

Now we have a source…

The devil has managed to corrupt God’s blessing of marriage by starting ALL the way back to when the spouses are just babies now. And all he had to do was use a twisted version of the Old Testament’s passages (which by the way NO ONE follows to a T since the Age of Grace began) and convince the majority of Christian patriarchy AND matriarchy, as well as church leaders that hitting your kids was not only Biblical but COMMANDED or you would chance their very souls being lost to damnation.

Considering our fleshly nature is selfish, vengeful, impatient and impulsive, you can imagine how easy it was for exhausted parents to get in line to sign up for this protocol, even though they should have been working on the whole “love, joy, temperance, meekness, faith” thing instead. But who’s got the time and energy for that when your kids are so busy pissing you off like it’s their full time career right?

I feel absolutely gutted, because like many evangelicals I grew up buying into this too.

Thankfully I’ve never put it into practice, but I was more of the mindset of “there’s nothing wrong with it necessarily if done ‘correctly’.”

I’m so grateful my kids responded quickly to time outs and privilege loss and I never felt that I had to resort to this. Because now I finally see what this is doing. ESPECIALLY with the “calm, spank, comfort” technique that is supposed to be the “Biblical” way.

It finally occurred to me what this is doing.

People who use this method are TRAINING their children how to behave alright. Because this is the EXACT PATTERN ABUSIVE SPOUSES FOLLOW.

They aren’t physically violent 24/7. They know the women would leave. They hit. They apologize. They beg their victim not to go. And then they are calm for a while. Til the next time the wife gets out of line.

  • We are teaching our boys that it’s ok to HURT someone smaller and weaker than you if they frustrate you or don’t do as they’re told. Just make sure you “comfort” them after!
  • We are teaching our daughters that if you step out of line, whoever is in charge of that household is entitled to hurt you, and you deserved it. And just in case you’re unsure if they still love you, wait a bit and they’ll probably tell you they do, so it’s ok. Just don’t do it again!

Now we know EXACTLY where this is starting.

And when the women try to go to the church leaders for help, because they’re hurt and scared, the same ones who are telling them not to leave those husbands, just continue to be submissive and pray for them are the SAME IDIOTS telling parents to keep spanking their kids or they’ll “spoil” them.

I’m so sick right now.

I’m also furious.

And I just want to sit down and cry.

The Last Word on Spanking

Y’all, our churches/church leaders lied to us about sex. They lied to us about marriage. They lied to us about purity. They lied to us about submission and hierarchy. They lied to us about impending Armageddon (some of you are too young to remember this). They lied to us about many things. They also lied to us about child-rearing. Please stop striking children. Follow the many wonderful gentle parenting/connected parenting resources, and grow.

What does spanking teach our kids?

And now I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is teaching kids to equate love with someone hurting them a good idea? How can we help people see that other ways of discipline are better? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Ray

    My two main problems with spanking are:

    1) I feel hypocritical as I’m actively teaching my 2 and 4 year old to not hit. But it’s okay for me to hit them?

    2) It is literally never a logical consequence. Like if they took something without asking, the response isn’t to hit them. But to teach them the right process and if they continue taking without asking, the can’t have that thing that day and can try again another day. The consequences really should going along with the behaviors we are teaching them.

    I was spanked as a kid and never thought it to be a big deal, and most people with loving parents that spanked are likely fine. But as Shiela points out the data shows it’s doesn’t have positive outcomes so I choose not to do it since it won’t help and it might hurt.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! It really isn’t a logical consequence.

  2. Kay

    What I remember about being spanked: I remember my anger about how unfair it was that I was being treated this way. When I was supposed to be “thinking about what I’d done,” instead I was stewing with rage over the unfairness of it all, that if my caretaker would JUST LISTEN, they would understand me. I felt unseen, unheard, and misunderstood every. single. time I was spanked. And got hit and humiliated to top it all off, then left alone with all those overwhelming emotions with no one to help me through them.

    None of those are things I want my children to feel with me. EVER.

    I say this as someone who USED TO spank my children. Not as someone who got this right at first. But I am so passionate about this now because learning about the research was such a relief to me! I couldn’t understand why my body felt so horrified at the thought of hitting my children. I was told it was just my sinful nature trying to stop me from parenting God’s way. NOPE. It was the wisdom of my body knowing this is wrong and ineffective and harmful. I’m so glad I listened to my own body and memory of how it felt to know it doesn’t teach what we were told it teaches.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think it’s amazing how many books tell parents “if you don’t want to spank, that’s your sinful nature in rebellion.” I’ve heard that from so many!

      • Sedge by the Lakeshore

        Those people are *presuming* sinful rebellion on the part of parents who don’t spank. We can’t see into another person’s interior disposition.

  3. Jane Eyre

    “So many negative outcomes that are much more complicated than the easy thinking of well I spanked and my child is ✔️employed ✔️good citizen ✔️identifies Christian = spanking is the right thing to do.”

    That right there.

    I was spanked when I was little, despite being an almost weirdly well-behaved kid. I guess I thought it was okay because I’m an adult who can function despite being broken?

    Trying to imagine spanking my kiddo – it would have to be beyond extreme, like, he’s endangering his life and the only thing that gets him to stop running into traffic is a spank. Not even sure something like that happens? Mostly just a “never say never” caveat.

    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      I think spanking done out of desperation is still wrong, but the parent would be less culpable.

      It’s the caregivers job to keep a toddler safe. Spanking would just be a way to offload that responsibility onto a kid.

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with Ray. The first few times I spanked, the look of betrayal on kiddo’s face gutted me, and I felt such conviction with a side of shame. I was raised with in-anger spankings as well as emotional/verbal/psychological abuse, so a calm spanking seemed a much better way. Then I started looking for those “punishment should fit the crime” ways and that was a lot more effective. Throw a hard toy at my head? Ok, it’s gone for a while. (Watch your “logic” though- “My kid inflicted pain to me so I inflict pain with a spanking.” No. Use better logic.)

    The third comment in the article was spot on. I am fine (except I’m not- I have most of those issues and am now recognizing and working through them in mid-life!)

    The next to last comment was brilliant, too! Once someone puts it together like that, it makes so much sense! But it can be so hard to see when we are looking at pieces. It’s like working on a puzzle but we can’t see the original image. Once we have it assembled, we can see the picture clearly. We can also then tell if there were other puzzle pieces mixed in, like bad theology, bad discipline techniques, etc. Thankful for others helping put those pieces together!

    Another thing to consider- if your child has any conditions that affect him/her, such as: autism, ADHD, sensory issues, etc., then spanking may come across in a very different light to kids. And if you take in foster kids that have been abused, you are not allowed (where I live) to punish them in a physical touch way. Taking away items can be triggering for them, too, as they often have had food/other item insecurity, so you do have to get creative. (Check out Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.) God made us each uniquely, and we have each been in different situations. Why should there be a “one size” approach to parenting such as spanking?

  5. Meredith

    My biggest regret in parenting so far is listening to my mom and all the Christian parenting advice and trying to spank my then 3-year-old son out of his tantrums and big feelings. I didn’t know anything about childhood development and knowing what I know now, I look back and can see he was desperately needing connection and safety. But all the Christian “experts” said that he was rebelling against my god-given authority and it was my job to spank that out of him. I literally feel sick thinking about it. And it didn’t even work– his tantrums got worse and he was more defiant than ever. Finally I was like, this is not working, I’m not doing it anymore, and started reading real childhood development experts. I’ve never looked back. My son is now a sweet, sensitive, kind, caring 7-year-old, who has big feelings (just like me!) and is learning how to articulate them. He also has a lot of anxiety and I wonder how much of that is tied to being spanked (even though I don’t think he can consciously remember it.)

    I’m far from a perfect parent and it is HARD to re-write those old thought patterns, to remember not to take it personally when my son is acting up, and to remind myself that what he needs most is connection from me. But it’s worth it. And when I mess up (which is frequent) I apologize to him.

  6. Codec

    So what should one do instead of spanking? I genuinly am curious.

    • Anonymous

      Redirect works very well until there is calm to talk things out. For example, one of my children have some make up work for school. The first level is to see if my child will reach out to teachers on their own. I will give this weekend to see if anything substantial is finished. Then come Monday if not much is done, the internet gets turned off an hour early and picking up friends after school stops. I also email all teachers to get an idea of what needs to be done. This is usually enough but every once in a while I have to get stern and completely shut off internet to our child’s room and homework is at the table with my husband or i right by to guide said child through the assignments.

      We do take away things or limit privileges. We talk through consequences and the preferred way of doing things. We also allow some room for feedback. Sometimes one of our kids will ask for certain consequences to be less severe for valid reasons. We want to be reasonable parents so our kids become reasonable and kind adults who know how to handle conflict in a fair, loving, and measured way.

    • Anon

      I’m my parenting, I plan better. If i know my kid refuses to brush their teeth because they’re tired at bedtime, I have them brush their teeth right after dinner when there’s still energy and time to play. If I know my kids has trouble getting ready to get out of the house, I slow down and allow more time for small steps. If I know my kid will refuse to turn off the tv, I set us up for success with timers, an activity planned for after, and time for me to go through the frustration with them. Spanking is planning for your kids to mess up and being prepared to ritually punish them. Without spanking, you start seeing patterns in your kids’ behavior and are able to get ahead of it. It takes a lot of time upfront, but creates a peaceful relationship built on trust and safety – totally worth it!

    • Jame Eyre

      It depends on what the root problem is. Spanking is bad because it does not address the root problem. Overtired kids need rest, even if it’s 3 hours before their normal bed time. Kids with big, frightening emotions need to be taught to let those emotions deflate in a safe environment. Kids who don’t do their chores should understand that they lose privileges if they don’t, because it’s part of living in the home. Kids with mental illness need treatment.

    • Lydia purple

      @Codec If the thought of not spanking your child leaves you completely helpless as a parent I suggest you examine your whole underlying view on what parenting is all about. Do you see the parent as the one to beat the sin out the child? That’s a very narrow and poor view which actually represents a false gospel too. No spanking will save a child from sin, only Jesus can do that.
      There is no short answer as to what to replace spanking with regarding discipline, because parenting is much more about navigating and building a healthy relationship which is the framework in which you guide and teach your child what to actually do and how to behave in all sorts of situations (by your example and explanations). You are helping the child to move from immaturity to maturity. Many times Christian parenting advise requires greater perfection of the immature child and offers less grace to them then it does to the adults. It should be the other way around. We should be more patient, loving and forgiving to the immature. We should offer more clear guidance and chances to practice as to what we want the child to do, instead of punishing any slip up. Punishment doesn’t teach a thing except that if you mess up you‘ll be hurt for the mistake. The approach of relational guidance sees mistakes, issues and misbehavior as an opportunity to teach the proper behavior. Failure is a chance to learn.

      • Codec

        Yeah I dont want to hit folks. I just want to know what really works in didciplining and helping people.

        • Lydia purple

          That is good. The thing is there is not one magical method of discipline that works. It really depends on the issue at hand.

          Some discipline issues arise because needs are not being met. So to „fix“ the symptom showing up as unwanted behavior, you meet the need.

          Some discipline issue is simply that the child does not know what to do. Often we tell kids what to stop or not do but don’t give instruction of what we actually want them to do. Simple clear instruction and practice will solve these issues.

          Sometimes kids try out behaviors to see what happens. Clear boundaries and modeling acceptable behavior will show them what is acceptable and what is not.

          Some issue‘s are problems that need to be solved together by negotiating the terms.

          Sometimes kids do stuff that cause some damage, so the way to teach them is to walk them through the consequences of cleaning up the mess they made (either a literal mess that needs cleaning or a relational mess that requires an apology and restoration of relationship)

          Some issues are immaturity issues in character – these require patience, modeling and teaching, practice and sometimes incentives to help the child overcome a particular struggle.

          Sometimes the child needs encouragement to overcome a difficulty.

          Sometimes a child needs to loose a privilege to be corrected.

          Some behavior issues are emotional dysregulagtion.
          One of the lessons I am learning when it comes to emotional regulation and healthy emotional connection between parents and children is that emotions are given to us to relate to one another and emotional regulation is supposed to happen in relationship not in isolation. I am still trying to put this consistently into practice and figure this out … but I know that punishment for feeling big emotions is not the way to go. My own upbringing and personality tendencies left me with a combination of unhealthy coping patterns and disconnection. I am working to grow and heal in this area for my children’s sake. Even in my imperfect attempts I can see the benefits of focusing on connection in the emotional challenging situations where I’d much rather just dish out a consequence and be done dealing with the behavior.

    • Carla Eble

      I used a book titled,”Love and Logic “. Worked for me.

  7. Cat W

    Yeeeeeessssss!!!!! We spanked our kids when they were younger but then I began to feel so uncomfortable about it. How is hitting a child’s bottom not abusive??? Why is this how we’ve been raised/taught!!! I’m so grieved that that’s how we did the first 8ish years of child raising…now I wonder, even though it’s been years, should we go back and apologize and explain that we no longer feel that’s appropriate? I don’t want them to grow up and spank their kids knowing what I know now.
    Clay Clarkson’s book Heartfelt Discipline was helpful to me in understanding how to interpret those biblical passages differently (there was some content in the last couple chapters that I don’t agree with but the first 3/4 was GREAT).

  8. Sarah R

    Thank you for this. This blog is one of the main things that held up a mirror to my assumptions about spanking — not a parent, but I was also one of the ‘I was spanked and I’m fine’ brigade. No, I was just deeply in denial about any uncomfortable feelings that I had about it, stubbornly believing my family to be perfect despite the fact that we’re not (we’re human), and having a HUGE idol of family that God in His grace had patiently dethroned. I wasn’t spanked often, but it was my dad mainly who did it and looking back, it definitely created distance in our relationship. I could not hold together that his hand could hold mine or pull me close at one time and strike me at another. I remember becoming much less cuddly with him as an older child (8-11) than I had been before. My mum’s slaps were rarely anything more than slapping my hand away from the stove. I can’t recall a single instance of her taking the lead on spanking us. Guess which parent I’m friends with as an adult? Even before news of my dad’s infidelity to my mum broke in our family this year, my relationship with him had dwindled to small talk and trying not to get him on the subject of politics.

    I’m not saying that’s all down to spanking, but it didn’t help. If something doesn’t help you parent, then it hinders and you should stop it. My older brother does not smack his kids. He also calls them ‘darling’, even the boys, and is in general a gentler father than we experienced. If I have kids, I will follow the same pattern of positive parenting behaviours e.g. time outs, privilege withdrawal etc, that they use instead.

    My father’s parenting was not all bad, I want to make clear. It was a mixed bag. When we were kids he would instigate most of the fun times, taking us to the beach and on bike rides. I have some great memories and overall had a good childhood. But even so, spanking did not help. My parents married very young and just repeated the poor parenting advice they were given and the bad role models they had in a couple of my grandparents, particularly my father’s mother. I’m grateful I’ve been single for all my life as it’s allowed me to unpack some stuff. I always wanted to marry at 23 and start making babies but I personally would not have been mature enough to do that. I have friends that did marry young and were mature enough; I wasn’t.

  9. JoB

    These last few posts have left me with more questions than answers. When I read the Bible, yes, I see a God who is inclined towards great compassion, but who is wild and entirely unpredictable. I see the book of Job, that great exploration of human suffering and questioning, as one of the prime examples. Job’s greatest pain came not so much from his extreme misfortune, but from God’s silence. And when God does show up, it’s not with a tender embrace or a forehead-to-forehead moment… it’s in a tornado and with a challenge to take on the complexities of running the universe, or else be quiet.
    Yes, Jesus touched and embraced the suffering, but most of his verbal interactions with people (especially those who were supposed to know better, including his disciples) consisted of rebuke. Honestly, when asked to imagine the voice of Jesus towards me, I think of the phrases “you of little faith,” “how long shall I put up with you?”
    I guess the conclusion I come to is that different people experience Jesus/ God differently. Some get the embrace, some get the rebuke. Some get peace, some get silence. Both are true, it’s not a formula and we can’t make sense of it. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. I just can’t 100% agree with the picture of God as a patient therapist or social worker. Maybe it can be one facet of him, for some, but not his primary characteristic.

  10. Angharad

    So this is not in any way supporting, advocating or encouraging smacking. But comments like this one actually harm the argument:

    “I was spanked as a kid and I turned out fine. I have no concept of peaceful conflict resolution, but I’m fine. I have no idea how to say “no” to people, but I’m fine. If I ever get the feeling that someone is mad at me, I get instant anxiety because my brain associates people being mad at me with “punishment”, but I’m fine. I never understood I was allowed to set boundaries around my own body, but I’m fine.”

    The implication is that no one who has ever been smacked has turned out ‘fine’.

    Here’s the thing – in the UK, literally EVERY kid was smacked until maybe a generation ago. I first encountered someone who didn’t smack their kids in the mid 90s, and everyone spoke about how odd they were, because it was SO unheard of.

    So on the basis of the comment above, we should have several generations who have no understanding of peaceful conflict resolution, who can’t say ‘no’, who get instant anxiety every time someone is angry and who can’t set boundaries. But I don’t see that in the majority of people around me.

    I’m sure that being smacked DID cause these problems in some people. But acting like there is no such thing as a ‘fine’ person who was smacked is undermining the ‘no smacking’ argument. Because people look at those around them and go ‘hey, those people were smacked and they don’t have these issues that are meant to be caused by smacking, so that means I can ignore the ‘no smacking’ arguments.

    With the marriage books, you often say that if a book harms SOME people, then it’s harmful, even if others experience no negative effect. I think the same argument should be applied to raising kids – if smacking harms SOME children, then it’s a problem. You don’t have to prove that it harms every child. And it’s actually counter-productive to try to do so.

    • Sarah R

      This is true. However, I wonder if it’s more that it harms most people a bit, and some people more, depending on how traumatic they experienced smacking to be? I‘m also British and many of my parents’ generation wouldn’t describe themselves as damaged by smacking (or by being beaten by teachers in school) but many of them are low-key angry people, emotionally illiterate and unwilling to interrogate why. I imagine childhood smacking plays a part their emotional constipation.

      Similarly, many people are bullied in school. It’s never positive or neutral in effect, but always negative; yet its effects vary for everyone. Some people suffer extreme bullying and will be marked by that their whole lives. Most, including me, suffered moderate bullying that has affected the people they are now, but I wouldn’t describe myself as emotionally crippled by it (or by my childhood smacking). Nevertheless, it wasn’t good.

      • Angharad

        I totally agree that the amount of damage is related to the amount of smacking experienced. But my point is that many people show NO damage. In fact, if I think about the people I know, everyone my age or older was smacked at least occasionally as a small child, and yet I struggle to think of any who show these signs of damage. I would guess this is because we were smacked very rarely and only for serious misbehaviours.

        The problem with adamantly trying to prove that everyone who was ever smacked has been emotionally damaged is that it weakens the argument. So if I show a ‘pro smacking’ person articles like this and they realise that smacking has a negative effect on SOME children and a neutral effect on others, they may reconsider their views on smacking. But if I show them arguments that say smacking is wrong because ALL children who are smacked experience problems with conflict resolution, personal boundaries etc, then they can point to those who have not experienced those things and say ‘your argument isn’t supported by evidence so I’m not listening’. I understand the temptation to try to prove that smacking damages everyone, but if that isn’t backed up by evidence, then it actually weakens the argument against smacking instead of strengthening it.

    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      Good points. Maybe a better argument when someone says “I was spanked and I’m fine” is to ask if they are fine despite the spanking?

      Like, someone might have once broken their ankle but the injury has completely healed since then. Being OK now shouldn’t be an argument about injuries not being harmful.

      • Angharad

        Yes. And to point out that while they were not negatively affected, other people have been.

  11. Lily

    I work professionally as a nanny, I have a degree in early childhood education. This is a huge topic I bring up front to families before working with them. I was spanked as a child and it became a factor in early onset puberty, as well as a shame and anger-based porn addiction at the age of 8.

    Respecting and trusting authority was never an option for me. As a result of these things, my grades were low and my aggression levels were high.

    There was never any concept of coercion or consent taught in the household.
    It has taken me 6 years outside of my childhood home to learn emotional recovery as a 20-something.
    I am still struggling and rebuilding my own beliefs of bodily autonomy and this life experience has impacted me negatively in my faith.
    If you believe spanking is harmless, it is because you do not remember it.
    One day, you might, and it will blindside you.
    Finding out where my anger and distrust of people stem from is what brought me here.


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