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Children Are People, and We Don’t Hit People

It’s time to acknowledge that children are people.

That may sound silly, but there are parents who swear by discipline methods that don’t reflect their child’s value as a person.

This reminds me, there’s new study led by George Holden of Southern Methodist University has found—based on real-time audio recordings of parents who volunteered to wear a wire during their daily interactions—that of parents who use corporal discipline, spanking and slapping is a very frequent child-rearing practice. Read about the study here. While in other studies, which were based on parent self-reports, it was found that the average parent spanked only as a last resort for severe misbehavior, Holden’s audio recordings revealed that spanking was used as a first-line discipline method for even trivial misbehavior and that children tended to misbehave again within 10 minutes of being punished.

children's toyParents who defend spanking as a viable discipline method often say that it should never be done in anger, yet Holden’s study found that most parents responded either impulsively or emotionally, rather than intentionally, were hitting just 30 seconds after conflict began and often for incidents like sucking fingers or getting out of a chair.

It sounds trite, but do imagine for a second that that child being spanked for sucking fingers was a person with genuine feelings of hurt and anger and confusion. Imagine that child was an adult. Imagine that child was you.

Many adults have habits that others perceive as poor habits, like smoking or fidgeting. Should an adult who is sucking their fingers be spanked or slapped? To take it a step further, many young children who have a sucking habit are actually displaying developmentally appropriate behavior.

A child is no less a person than an adult.

Parents who practice corporal punishment may believe that there are no other effective discipline methods, but there are. There are many discipline techniques that do not include corporal punishment, or even any forms of punishment, that are very effective for families. It may take a change in mindset by the parent or perhaps a change in the parent’s own stress-coping skills, but there are many discipline approaches that do not include hitting that work well.

Some organizations that promote these effective, nonpunitive discipline techniques include:
•    Attachment Parenting International
•    Center for Effective Discipline, which hosts SpankOut Day April 30th
•    Playful Parenting
•    Positive Discipline
•    Unconditional Parenting

Children Are People, and We Don’t Hit People

Rita Brhel

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APA Reference
Brhel, R. (2014). Children Are People, and We Don’t Hit People. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Apr 2014
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