Spanking: It hurts more than you think


The problem with spanking

Spanking is hitting. Spanking is meant to cause pain to control a child’s behaviour. When you’re stressed and angry, spanking may seem like a quick way to stop misbehaviour – but it doesn’t work.
Spanking may cause your child to fear you and stop trusting you. Anger, resentment and shame can build up in your child, and this can hurt your relationship. These bad feelings can also hurt your child’s self-esteem and ability to have healthy relationships with others.

Why discipline works

All children need discipline. It teaches self-control, responsibility and acceptable behaviour. Unlike spanking, which uses pain, fear and shame, discipline means teaching, guiding and nurturing.
Discipline doesn’t mean your child gets away with misbehaving. Discipline puts rules and limits in place early in life to give children guidance. It takes patience and commitment, but the rewards are worth it.
Some children are not able to do what you want because of their age or stage of development. A toddler, for example, wants to touch everything. This is a normal part of development. It is not “bad” behaviour. Under-standing how a child develops will help you choose the best way to discipline as your child grows. Remember that all children are different. What works with one child may not work with another.

Reasons not to spank

  1. Spanking is hitting, and hitting hurts physically, emotionally and socially.
  2. Hitting people is wrong – and children are people, too.
  3. Children who are spanked are more likely to be aggressive. This can lead to other problems, like bullying.
  4. Spanking can result in fear, not respect. A child who fears a parent may learn to hide behaviour and lie rather than trust that parent to guide and teach.
  5. Spanking may get a quick reaction, but next time you may end up hitting harder. And when you’re angry and stressed, it’s easy to injure your child.
  6. Spanking doesn’t teach the right lesson. It shows a child that hitting is a way to solve problems.

You may be saying to yourself, “I was spanked and I turned out okay.” It could be that you turned out okay in spite of being spanked, not because you were spanked.
In the past, parents did the best they could with what they knew. Today, we know a lot more about how children develop. That’s why more and more parents are choosing not to spank.

Use discipline to encourage good behaviour

You are the best role model your child has. Show your child how to solve problems in a peaceful way.

  1. Make a few simple rules that are fair and reasonable for your child’s age.
  2. Make sure children know what is expected of them so it’s easier for them to cooperate. Be consistent.
  3. Make routines and stick to them, especially at bedtime and mealtimes. Your child is more likely to misbehave when tired, hungry or over-excited.
  4. Listen and try to understand your child’s point of view. Help your child to talk about feelings like anger and sadness. Let your child know that it’s okay to cry.
  5. When your child is having fun, it’s hard to stop. Give your child time to end the activity.
  6. Children can get bored easily, so plan ahead for outings. For example, distract your child with a toy or play a game while waiting in line.
  7. Allowing children to make simple decisions makes them feel good, and it teaches them how to solve problems. Offer choices like, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?”
  8. Children don’t always understand dangerous situations. Supervise your child and explain the dangers as often as possible.
  9. Be part of the solution. Encourage your child to come to you with problems and figure them out together.
  10. Praise your child when rules are obeyed and be patient when they are broken. Learning is a process and it won’t happen overnight. Remember, you can never give too many hugs.

Disciplining your child takes time and patience, but it can make parenting easier and more rewarding. Your relationship with your child will grow stronger and your child will learn important skills.

Use discipline when your child misbehaves

Your child knows the rules. You’ve reminded gently, but nothing seems to be working. So, what do you do next?
Choosing to discipline rather than spank is still the best way of getting through to your child. Testing the limits is natural and part of growing up. Teaching your child how to behave is up to you.

  1. Don’t let your anger get the better of you. Take a minute to cool off. When you are calm, find out why your child misbehaved.
  2. Talk it out. Listen. Let your child know why you are upset. Be careful what you say – mean words can hurt your child.
  3. Use consequences that make sense with your child’s actions and age. For example, if your four-year-old throws a toy, take away the toy for a short time.
  4. Turn a tough situation into a game. A child who refuses to put away the toys is more likely to do it if you make it fun. Children also learn through play.
  5. Your child will have bad days just like you. Hugs and staying calm help your child get through tantrums and tears.
  6. Ignore minor misbehaviour. Ask yourself, “How important is it to respond?” Ignoring often works to stop unwanted behaviour.

Most importantly, let your child know that, while you aren’t happy with misbehaviour, your love will never go away. Parenting is tough work, but it should never hurt.


  1. Babies can do no wrong. They need love and attention. They should never be shaken or hit in any way.
  2. Be patient with toddlers. Everything is new to them and they have short memories. Gently remind them of the rules when they forget.

Making it work

Your child will be happy and healthy if you are happy and healthy. When things get to be too much for you, take some time for yourself. Go for a walk, take a bath or call a friend. If that doesn’t work, there are ways to get help. Relatives and friends, other parents and family resource programs can all help. So can we.

Get in Touch with us: Toronto Health Connection 416-338-7600 or call Parent Help Line 1-888-603-9100 (24 hrs)

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