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article imageUS study says smacking kids helps them

By Paul Wallis     Jan 3, 2010 in Science
Smacking leads to happier kids, according to a new US study. Ironically, it took this long to find enough people who hadn’t been smacked to do the study. Now, a US study says that smacking into adolescence actually helps.
Most parents resent the “no smacking” edicts from a supposedly too-PC professional lobby. The fact that there are obvious limits to smacking and physical discipline, at least for sane parents, never seems to get mentioned. The fact that the “no smacking” approach has done nothing to stem child bashings by the lunatic fringe hasn’t had a lot of traction, either.
The no-smack concept, ironically, came from an anti-violence perspective, but was effectively translated into a no-discipline motif by some flat footed over the top PC publicity a few decades back which managed to miss its own point very effectively.
The original idea of the no-smack regime was to reduce the sort of semi-psycho, overdone approach, which was actually dangerous. A smack on the bottom is harmless. A smack on the head can do real damage, particularly to a young child.
The oppressive hyper discipline of the past was no joke, as many will remember. Bruised and sore kids were no myth, and over-disciplined kids were famous for lying their heads off. Those who perceived their parents as actually hostile were definitely not considered to be well served by that sort of treatment. All they learned was to avoid discipline, and later, self-discipline. Most people did stop well short of that sort of actual abuse, and stuck to the traditional “don’t do that” form of smack, tapering off as the kids grew up.
The no-smack approach was generally distrusted, and resented as an intrusion when it began. The overall reaction was a groan of disbelief. It’s also a matter of opinion whether it’s really taken hold. “Reason with the child” is a mixed blessing, after the event, and some parents believe that a no-risk option for getting away with murder isn’t the right message to send to the average two year old.
Most people have seen the screaming, undisciplined brat who’s obviously not under any sort of control. That may not be typical of the no-smack ethos, and certainly not the intent, but they really are out of control. They’re a risk to themselves, and likely to do staggeringly stupid things, simply because they can.
The parents receive the flak. The stony disapproval of an entire mall is a thing to see, particularly from other parents, who can make their point without saying a word. That hasn’t done a lot to boost the image of the no-smack idea.
Nor has the level of actual violence been affected. The pitiful tales of kids who’ve been killed regularly haunt the news. One woman actually put her kid in an oven, and turned it on. It’s doubtful that the sage philosophical arguments actually penetrate situations like that. It’s unrealistic to assume they do, and the no-smack lobby has yet to address that issue.
Prof. Marjorie Gunnoe, of Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, did a study of 2600 people, including about 25% who’d never received physical chastisement. The press coverage of this is sparse, and it looks like there’s a paper in the works, which has reduced the output in the releases, but Prof. Gunnoe has stated that the data from her study simply doesn’t support the no-smack concept.
Her research states that children smacked up to the age of six were likely to do better, in fact, at school, and more likely to do volunteer work, want go to university, and other signs of higher participatory involvements.
Gunnoe isn’t saying smacking is an answer. She considers it a “dangerous tool”, which may indicate she started her research with more than a few reservations of her own. She also said that it’s not appropriate for all situations.
The demographics of this issue are pretty clear. The smacked generations don’t buy the no-smack approach. They generally seem to think it reduces parental options, and doesn’t do a lot for discipline. The no-smack side equates smacking with violence against children, and hasn’t made much distinction between a smack on the bottom and a funeral.
Whatever the outcome, there's another issue: Child psychology might want to look at providing clearer arguments for its cases. As a communications exercise, no-smack has been a classic case of the single message getting amplified into a sort of jihad against parental discipline. The arguments have been polarized, not productive. This has been a situation where unqualified, over simplified statements have been the default version of ideas for public consumption, and that’s helped create an almost purely reactive environment for the concept. Some things should never be dumbed down, and raising kids is definitely the best place to start.
More about Spanking, Pediatric psychology, Marjorie gunnoe
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