Q.  I cannot imagine what you were thinking when you said, “Spanking a child does more harm than good. In fact, some refer to corporal punishment as the lazy person’s way of discipline.” Are you out of your mind? I was spanked and I intend to keep spanking my six children!

A. Let me begin by asking you a question: “Do you want your child’s brain to reach its IQ potential or not?” Your question does remind me of the ongoing debate about the pros and cons of corporal punishment in raising children and adolescents. As I pointed out recently in my Brain Blog, researchers have found a link between spanking and IQ levels. Following are some of the study conclusions:

  • Children who were spanked in childhood have lower IQs
  • The more children were spanked, the slower the development of their mental ability and the lower their IQ level
  • Countries in which spanking children was more common saw stronger links between corporal punishment and IQ
  • The IQ of children 2–4 years old who were not spanked was 5 points higher when tested four years later than those who were spanked.
  • Corporal punishment experienced into the teenage years may hamper brain development even more.

In general, children tend to find spanking highly stressful and it can fall into the category of “abusive behaviors.” The child learns that it is okay to whack human beings who are smaller than they are “because they can.” Spanking experience(s) can leave them with a number of deleterious outcomes:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • A tendency to startle easily
  • An ongoing dread of bad things happening.

The benefits of reduced spanking appear to include:

  • A reduction in juvenile delinquency
  • Less adult violence and masochistic sexual activity
  • An increased probability of completing higher education and earning a higher income
  • Lower rates of depression and alcohol abuse

There are ways to discipline that avoid these potential outcome but they take careful thought and time to implement. Most parents would like their children to be as smart and successful as possible. Avoiding spanking and dealing with misbehavior in other more functional and effective ways can help make that more likely to happen. If you want smarter and more successful children, these strategies are worth it.

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