Moment Of Clarity

Should Parents Spank their Children?

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Corporal punishment is making a comeback. While spanking never truly went away, the discipline technique has, however, gone viral, thanks to videos posted on social media:

There’s the mom who used corporal punishment with her 11-year-old son because of alleged gang involvement.

And the father who was worried sick because  his 13-year-old daughter who was missing for three days.

And most recently, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was booked on a child abuse charge for reportedly lashing his son with a wooden switch.

In case you were wondering, it is legal for parents to use corporal punishment in 49 states. And, as a therapist, I support its use to discipline children, but very rarely and never as a single method of punishment. There should be additional parenting techniques being used in as well.

When disciplining children, corporal punishment is intended to cause just enough discomfort or pain so the child is deterred from doing it again. Studies have shown that while spanking a child will get them to immediately comply, there is a link to aggression and the use of corporal punishment.  On the other hand, just because someone was spanked doesn’t mean they are going to grow up and be a bully.

However, there is a fine line between acceptable and excessive use of corporal punishment.


Simply put: one or two slaps on the hand or butt; hitting to the face is off limits. When parents begin punching their kids or pulling their hair, they are not disciplining the child. Instead, they are using the child as a punching bag to release their negative feelings (e.g. anger, fear, frustration). In those instances, corporal punishment is not considered discipline.

Corporal punishment should be the last resort and last only a few seconds. Then, it should always be followed by a conversation regarding what happened. When the spanking is excessive, conversations are unlikely to occur or be productive to the child if they do.


Never spank a child when you are angry. When you are emotionally charged, it is in that moment of anger, fear, confusion, etc. that you are likely to hurt the child and that is when excessive corporal punishment is most likely to occur. If you are emotionally charged, you need to take a time out and pull yourself together. Ask yourself the following questions:

1)   Why am I going to hit them?

2)   What am I trying to teach them?

3)   What will they really learn?

4)   Can they learn that lesson without me hitting them?

By the time you are done thinking about the lesson behind the spanking, you will probably be a lot calmer than before; and if you aren’t, you need to walk away and let someone else handle the situation.

Nonetheless, there are some parents who are not angry or upset with their child and still administer excessive corporal punishment. When this occurs, chances are the parents believe they have rationally thought through the situation and are convinced that this is the best solution to this problem. It is not uncommon for parents who grew up in homes where excessive corporal punishment was used to think it’s is normal. It’s not.


When a parent records and then posts the video of a “beating” online for the world to see, it does absolutely nothing to discipline the child; it only serves as a form of humiliation. In the end, the child only remembers being shamed and that becomes the lesson.

That sense of shame often haunts them in ways most parents can’t begin to realize. Shame can be so overwhelming that it can reduce self-esteem, limit academic performance, reduce their ability to trust their judgment (which can lead to being a follower), and restrict their ability to think clearly.


Before you hit your child, ask yourself the following: Is it the only option that I have? Am I going to hit my child to help him reduce the behavior or am I simply releasing my anger?

Use corporal punishment in conjunction with other parenting methods (e.g. time-out) and never when you are angry.

The best type of discipline is non-violent. When, as a parent, you can sit down and talk to your child about what has happened without hitting them, you are modeling self control. You are showing your child how to regulate their emotions, think clearly, and effectively articulate their feelings and needs.

Punishments are intended to teach, not hurt. Sometimes the lesson can hurt, but the intention is to teach that child something that she can use later. Hitting the child teaches them to hit other people. It teaches her that are some people who were powerful and some people who are powerless, and if you have power you can hit and hurt other people who don’t have power.

Parents, be wise in how you discipline your child. The lesson goes on far beyond that single moment in time and becomes a part of who they are forever. The next time you think of using corporal punishment, recording and then posting it to the Internet, STOP. Count to 100 and ask yourself what am I really teaching my child?

With love and light …


Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90% success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!