First and foremost, we always need to fully comply with the law.
I read a number of articles and information on spanking, as well as on the reproducibility crisis in social sciences and psychology.
A lot of studies supposedly show that spanking has negative outcomes. However, the studies that do so lump together people who beat their children with fists around the face with those who do measured spanks on the butt. Of course the conclusion comes out negatively. However, when measured spanks are studied separately from abuse, children actually benefit from spanking as compared to other methods like time out or reasoning.
A lot of the studies are also done by biased people who have made it their life mission to outlaw spanking (Gershoff). Science has to be done by trying to disprove your hypothesis, otherwise it’s just fantasy thinking / attempts to persuade others.
Deciding whether spanking is positive or negative also depends upon ones own values. Some studies say that because children who have been spanked exhibit more fear or more aggression we should ban spanking. Those studies are assuming fear is negative… Often however a fear response is quite good as it is protective of the individual… For example, a child who has been spanked for running across the road will have a stronger fear response to doing so again. That is clearly good.
The real world we live in is quite violent and dangerous. Most of human history is just a long litany of constant violence… Wars, battles, famines, genocides, murders, assaults, rapes, thefts, etc. The time we currently live in is by far the most peaceful time in all of human history. What are the odds that we see a regression to the mean?
My goal, my purpose in life, is to maximize the chances our children have of long run safety, survival and reproduction.
My parents up until the age of 10 or so, spanked me in a reasonable way. They would talk sit down and talk to me about why I was getting a spank, give a spank on the butt with a belt or wood spoon or their hand. Then they would talk to me again about it. There was no abuse in this period, and I learned a lot from it. After the age of 11, my mother got into alcohol and meth and became violent and out of control, she would slap or hit me in the face, she would throw objects at me, etc. This was abusive and wrong… But I learned an awful lot from it (dealing with abusive authority figures / bullies, the fact that adults did not magically know more than I did, that I could choose who to trust and spend my life with and who not to, etc). Hard lessons, but they have served me well. I do not think that abuse usually results in positive outcomes or even that I would have benefitted from it without my grandparents saving me… Years of talking with my grandparents helped me learn those lessons instead of having a criminal future.
The real world, even today in the most peaceful time in history, is incredibly scary and dangerous. Major world powers are led by extraordinarily powerful, savage, ruthless bullies. Russia has Putin, China has Jinping, North Korea has Kim, Turkey has Erdogan, and countless other countries are led by similar individuals. Right now, millions of people have been forced to flee in Ukraine and tens of thousands are dead. Covid killed millions worldwide. Even everyday things are extremely dangerous; one of the leading causes of death in the world is vehicle accidents. Millions of dog bites happen in the US alone each year. Only one lifetime ago, the every human on the planet joined in in two world wars held twenty years apart killing tens of millions of people.
So what will maximize our childrens safety, survival, happiness, success, and reproduction in this terrifying world?
Teaching our children in a safe and controlled way the lessons that will protect them for a lifetime is what we should do. Fear of dangers like wandering off alone, running through a road, getting in water without help is healthy. Fear of disobedience is healthy… There will be many times we give our kids rules for their own safety that they will not understand. If fear of spankings helps them follow our rules, good.
It is beneficial for children to grow up aggressive. Why?
Violence is the most powerful tool known to man. Most governments, including the United States government, reserves violence as it’s exclusive domain. Government uses police violence to subdue it’s own population, and uses military violence to subdue opponent nations. Every government’s power derives directly from it’s ability to use violence to protect itself from threats and to achieve it’s aims. The US does this itself in ways generally more benevolent than any other country… But we still use violence sometimes in very ugly ways like supporting Middle East oil dictatorships.
An important lesson I learned as a child was that a bully (just a kid who uses violence to get his way) can be backed down by using violence back against them. Usually once you fight back against a bully and hurt them, even if you lose, that bully will not come back against you again.
It’s best to learn how to fight a bully when the bully is a little kid who can’t cause real damage. This is why school policies on zero tolerance for violence or bullying are so stupid. It really sucks to be bullied in school. I was bullied sometimes and it was some of the most miserable experiences of my life. But I am extremely grateful to have learned the lessons about bullies while only having a little fifth grade or seventh grade or college kid to deal with. There are tons of bullies in the adult world, these bullies are fully mature, intelligent, and at their full strength and can destroy you. Bullies exist in the workplace, on the road, and in public places. People willing to use violence and intimidation to take what you have. Most local and national leaders are people willing to use violence to get what they want. It’s best to learn young how a bullies mind works, what they want, when you can oppose them, and when you should knuckle under.
We may dislike violence, but violence is an everyday tool used everywhere. Intimidation, or the threat of violence, is what keeps all of us following the laws of the country. If you don’t pay taxes, violence will be used against you by the government. If you hurt another person, violence will be used against you by the government. Individuals use violence or the threat of it regularly too. A lot of robberies and assaults are thwarted before they happen because the would be criminals are afraid of violence from the potential victims, even if the criminals don’t fear police violence.
So violence is a tool that can be used for good or evil.
For parents, it can be the most effective tool to teach children fear of dangers or it can be misused to destroy a child.
My opinion matches the current legal requirements… Spanking may be used in a limited way that doesn’t leave any real damage to teach important lessons. Other tools than spanking are preferable when possible.
Spanking, and a reflection on other violence
First and foremost, we always need to fully comply with the law.