There are three topics that should never be discussed on a beautiful sunny day: politics, religion and spanking.

Do you believe in spanking?” That was the question I was recently asked while enjoying a boat ride around San Diego harbor.

It was soon after this question was asked that I realized there are three topics that should never be discussed on a beautiful sunny day: politics, religion and spanking. Each of these subjects has the capability of changing the energy in a group of people from friendly to intense within a few moments.

The concepts of God, political parties and spanking can spark a dynamic conversation with the explosive energy of a Molotov cocktail. Innocent banter can quickly morph into a heated debate, changing social pleasantries into impassioned arguments. I knew this about politics and religion but I continue to be amazed at what happens when a seemingly ‘mild mannered’ group of people begin talking about the subject of spanking.

I have a theory as to why the topic of spanking triggers so much emotion:

Parents tell children that they love them. Frustration causes parents to spank in order to get their kids to listen. The very children whom we adore we then hurt. It doesn’t matter if we spank out of love or anger; we still hurt them physically and emotionally. We create confusion.

Why would a big person hurt a little person, especially when they are told they are loved?

We say it is for the kid’s own good. But it doesn’t feel good. We try to make ourselves feel better and justify spanking by saying it works. We add validation to it by saying we were spanked and it didn’t harm us. We are actually lying through our teeth. We would have traded spankings for a more appropriate, loving and productive approach. Our parents just didn’t know another way. We could learn another way but most of us are too lazy. Ouch! I know that hurts.

I like to ask parents how they would feel if teachers were allowed to spank children in school. Most parents respond by saying, “Oh, no, only the parent should be allowed to do that.” Can you see the insanity in this thinking?

If spanking is ‘good for them’ and if it ‘works so well’ why not use it?

If we could get honest with ourselves we would find the place of truth within us that knows there must be a better way.

In the 40 years that I have worked with children I have watched skilled teachers inspire, motivate and navigate large groups of children through their day without yelling, punishing or spanking.

There are, indeed, other approaches that teach responsibility, good decision making and empathy. It is the courageous parent who seeks out a path that supports the wisdom of effective, loving communication. Knowing where your true power lies without having to resort to physical punishment is one of the best gifts parents can give to their children.

It is true that spanking works in getting momentary compliance but it also creates long lasting negative side effects.

Those of us who were spanked want to believe that it did not harm us. If we were willing to go into our deepest places we would find the wounds that were inflicted by parents who hurt us in the name of love. Most adults don’t want to go there. We would rather live on anti depressants than face the pain from our own childhoods.

All I’m asking is that we do not pass this along to the next generation.

As a modern society we are making so many advances in technology and science that surely we are capable of making advances in parenting skills. All it takes is willingness.

Are you willing?

I will continue to offer suggestions and techniques used by parents and teachers that have proven track records for encouraging cooperative behavior without having to resort to punishments or spankings. I hope you’ll make a New Year’s commitment to embrace them and use them your lives.

Back to the original question: Do I believe in spanking?

I am willing to entertain the idea of spanking if we make it a universally approved method of getting people to do what we want. If it is such a great idea let’s use it on everyone, adults included. Until that time, let’s find a better way.


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