Spanking, Smacking and Hitting Your Child

We at this Parental Alienation Syndrome website also fight for the rights of children to be safe from physical harm. We support the belief that smacking and hitting of children should be banned. There are no grey areas. Ban the hitting of children.

We believe children need to feel safe and have a trusting and loving relationship with adults and carers. Smacking and hitting children can cause a child to repress negative feelings about a parent, this in turn can lead to other psychological or physical problems later in life Teaching children to learn ‘control through aggression’ is unhealthy and may cause shame, guilt, low-self esteem, humiliation, lack of confidence and an inability to have safe boundaries which can stay with them into adulthood.

What people say

I don’t hurt my child when I spank or hit her. – Then I ask why do it in the first place?

I have to hit her in case she touches something she should not.

There are many other means to stop a child touching something dangerous like a fire. Try isolating the fire with a secure guard. Use tone of voice to teach the child.

It is my child and I will spank/smack/hit her if I like – Well you may have given birth to the child but we do not own children, they are humans too and are not objects for adults to hit.

My child needs to be disciplined – Yes dicipline is important and there are ways to do this without using violence or smacking. There are many other methods that can be used that are safe and support the childs need to learn positive reinforcement.

What about punishment

There are many ways to punish your child. One is to teach the child negative behaviour can have consequences such as removing favourite toys or time out. Focusing on positive beahviour can limit the negative behaviours.

Why should I not hit my child

Children are unique in that they need to trust and feel safe around their carers. To be nurtured and feel dignity. Not to be taught that by inflicting pain on them they should respond positively. IF IT WAS GOING TO WORK IT WOULD HAVE BY NOW, IT DOES NOT WORK , SO LETS TRY SOMETHING ELSE.

It is well documented that a percentage of parents admit to losing control while hitting children. Utensils are often used that injure the child. How many times is it acceptable to hit a child in a day?…do we use the back of the hand? or the flat of the hand? is using knuckles accpetable? where on the body is it acceptable to hit? neck – face – back – head – legs. How hard do you hit? there is much ambiguity and this can put the child in an unsafe position often resulting in physical damage and/or psychological damage.

Accumulated research supports the theory that corporal punishment is an ineffective discipline strategy with children of all ages and, furthermore, that it is often dangerous. Corporal punishment most often produces in its victims anger, resentment, and low self-esteem. It teaches violence and revenge as solutions to problems, and perpetuates itself, as children imitate what they see adults doing.

Spanking Children, Is it Ever a Good Idea?

A mother going through a high conflict divorce tells us about how she misunderstood her son’s acting out behavior and spanked him. She vividly describes the legal disaster that occurred when her family and court case was turned upside down. Dr. Jayne Major and Dr. David Swanson, author of Help—My Children are Driving me Crazy, discuss the subject of spanking children and alternatives that parents can use to discipline and not punish children.

Definition of Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment can be defined as a painful, intentionally inflicted (typically, by striking a child) physical penalty administered by a person in authority for disciplinary purposes. Corporal punishment can occur anywhere, and whippings, beatings, paddlings, and flogging are specific forms of corporal punishment (Cohen, 1984).

Worldwide Initiatives for Banning Corporal Punishment

Education, as well as legislative and legal reforms, are crucial to ending corporal punishment on a worldwide level. In 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to ban all corporal punishment of children. By passing their no corporal punishment law, Sweden set a good example for other nations. Furthermore, Sweden bolsters the law by providing funds for a massive education campaign and designating extensive support services to minimize family stress and conflict. While the Swedish government primarily relies upon the pedagogic effect of the legal prohibition, offenders are subject to criminal prosecution (Bitensky, 1998). Other countries that have followed the Swedish example are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Ukraine and Netherlands.(EPOCH-USA, 2007a).

Several countries making progress toward bans against corporal punishment of children in all settings, including homes, are Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Belgium, United Kingdom of Great Britain, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal, Fiji, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands (Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 2007). Current information is regularly posted on the website

In the United States, however, corporal punishment of children in the schools is legal in about half the states, and “reasonable” corporal punishment of children by their parents or guardians is legal in every state except Minnesota (Bitensky, 1998). Prohibition of corporal punishment in family day care, group homes/institutions, child care centers, and family foster care varies according to state laws (EPOCH-USA, 2007b).

Consequences of Corporal Punishment

Accumulated research supports the theory that corporal punishment is an ineffective discipline strategy with children of all ages and, furthermore, that it is often dangerous. Corporal punishment most often produces in its victims anger, resentment, and low self-esteem. It teaches violence and revenge as solutions to problems, and perpetuates itself, as children imitate what they see adults doing. Research substantiates the following consequences of corporal punishment:

  • Children whose parents use corporal punishment to control antisocial behavior show more antisocial behavior themselves over a long period of time, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, and regardless of whether the mother provides cognitive stimulation and emotional support (Gunnoe & Mariner, 1997; Kazdin, 1987; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).
  • A consistent pattern of physical abuse exists that generally starts as corporal punishment, and then gets out of control (Kadushin & Martin, 1981; Straus & Yodanis, 1994).
  • Adults who were hit as children are more likely to be depressed or violent themselves (Berkowitz, 1993; Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992).
  • The more a child is hit, the more likely it is that the child, when an adult, will hit his or her children, spouse, or friends (Julian & McKenry, 1993; Straus, 1991; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992; Widom, 1989; Wolfe, 1987).
  • Corporal punishment increases the probability of children assaulting the parent in retaliation, especially as they grow older (Brezina, 1998).
  • Corporal punishment sends a message to the child that violence is a viable option for solving problems (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).
  • Corporal punishment is degrading, contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robs a child of self-worth and self-respect, and can lead to withdrawal or aggression (Sternberg et al., 1993; Straus, 1994).
  • Corporal punishment erodes trust between a parent and a child, and increases the risk of child abuse; as a discipline measure, it simply does not decrease children’s aggressive or delinquent behaviors (Straus, 1994).
  • Children who get spanked regularly are more likely over time to cheat or lie, be disobedient at school, bully others, and show less remorse for wrongdoing (Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).
  • Corporal punishment adversely affects children’s cognitive development. Children who are spanked perform poorly on school tasks compared to other children (Straus & Mathur, 1995; Straus & Paschall, 1998).
  • Parental corporal punishment is associated with higher levels of immediate compliance and aggression, lower levels of moral internalization and mental health, delinquency and antisocial behavior, quality of parent child relationship, and likelihood of becoming a victim of physical abuse (Gershoff, 2002).

Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

  • Set firm, consistent, age-appropriate, and acceptable limits. For example, although a 5-year-old child may be able to resist the urge to touch things, it is not reasonable to expect that a 2-year-old will be able to handle such limits. Therefore, parents may need to childproof their homes to protect breakable items, and to keep children away from dangerous objects.
  • Teach children conflict resolution and mediation skills, including listening actively, speaking clearly, showing trust and being trustworthy, accepting differences, setting group goals, negotiating, and mediating conflicts.
  • Reason and talk with children in age-appropriate ways. Verbal parent-child interactions enhance children’s cognitive ability.
  • Model patience, kindness, empathy, and cooperation. Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence their actions have on a child’s or group’s behavior.
  • Provide daily opportunities for children to practice rational problem solving, and to study alternatives and the effect of each alternative.
  • Encourage and praise children. A nonverbal response such as a smile or a nod, or a verbal response such as “good” or “right” not only provides incentives for accomplishment, but also builds primary grade children’s confidence.
  • Allow children to participate in setting rules-and identifying consequences for breaking them. This empowers children to learn how to manage their own behavior.
  • Provide consistency, structure, continuity, and predictability in children’s lives.
  • Encourage children’s autonomy-allow them to think for themselves, and to monitor their own behavior, letting their conscience guide them.

Strategies for Parents, Schools, and the Community

  • Expose children to a variety of sources-including the Internet, television, movies, radio programs, puppet shows-that model alternatives to corporal punishment.
  • Provide parents with information on child development and behavior management through workshops, mentoring, conferences, library books, newsletters, brochures, flyers, and bulletin board materials.
  • Make parents aware of parenting classes that stress behavior management strategies as alternatives to corporal punishment, or make parenting courses available at school.
  • Provide education classes for couples that recently have become parents.
  • Improve preservice and inservice programs for teachers, principals, and other school staff that teach techniques for building better interpersonal relations, positive guidance in the classroom, and new strategies for maintaining student interest.
  • Help establish ties between the school and community through mental health and family counseling programs to support families in stress.
  • Ensure increased collaboration among community programs serving young children and their families.
  • Develop a comprehensive and unified system of advocacy on behalf of children.

Possible Statute for Banning Corporal Punishment of Children

Bitensky (1998) has proposed a statute that integrates the prohibition of corporal punishment with criminal liability. This draft statute emphasizes the pedagogical thrust of the prohibition, downplays the repercussive role of the law, and embodies aspects of approaches adopted by those countries that have banned corporal punishment of children. Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children reports specific legal reforms enacted in different countries.

Organizations Committed To Ending Corporal Punishment

94 White Lion Street,
London N1 9PF
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7713 0569.
Fax: +44(0)20 7713 0466.

Nadine Block, Director
155 W. Main Street, # 1603
Columbus, OH 43215
Telephone: 614-221-8829
Fax: 614-228-5058

The Center for Effective Discipline (CED) is a nonprofit organization that provides educational information to the public on the effects of corporal punishment and on alternatives to its use.
EPOCH-USA seeks to end all corporal punishment of children, including that in homes, through education and legal reform.
The National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools (NCACPS), is an organization that shares information on the progress of banning corporal punishment with the public and the media.


(The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect)
200 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60601
Telephone: 312-578-1401
Fax: 312-321-1405

ISPCAN’s mission is to support individuals and organizations working to protect children from abuse and neglect worldwide. It supports international efforts to protect the rights of the child.

Prevent Child Abuse America

200 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60604-4357
Telephone: 312-663-3520
Prevent Child Abuse America is a national organization dedicated to preventing child abuse in all its forms through education, research, pilot programs, and advocacy.