Spanking, 10 reasons why it is better to do without it (according to science)

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In Del Paese, the classic light spanking is considered a form of 'reasonable' punishment, useful for correcting a child's wrong behavior and quick to give the result, that is, the child stops. However, there are more and more voices from prestigious pediatric associations, international scientific experts and studies that question this practice as an effective method to educate the child, in the short and especially in the long term.

In this article


  • Spanking does not help the child learn the right behavior
  • The spanking only affects the moment
  • Spanking increases the child's propensity to be aggressive
  • Spanked children grow up more insecure and with less self-esteem
  • Children who get spanked risk being less good at school
  • Spanking over time generates a sense of anxiety and not being up to par
  • Why do parents give in to the urge to slap?
  • What if it were possible to avoid this by changing the daily routine?
  • There is an alternative to spanking. The parent remains authoritative and the child experiences
  • If 'the world came from', children take them does not mean that it is right

1. Spanking does not help the child learn the right behavior

The prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a clear stance against spanking. Spanking only blocks the baby's action immediately for fear of taking them again, American pediatricians say, but they certainly do not help him learn 'right' and adequate behaviors.

On the same wavelength, is also Olivier Maurel, president of the French Observatory on Ordinary Educational Violence (Oveo), who for years has dedicated himself to research on this issue and to the battles in defense of children. Maurel writes in a book on the subject (La spanacciata, The Green Lion): "Immediately, the beaten child often obeys the order he received for fear of being beaten. But for him it is also the first experience of cowardice".


"He often starts again at the first opportunity but secretly: first experience of hypocrisy. Finally, he can feel pleasure in challenging his parents; first experience of provocation. Cowardice, hypocrisy, provocation: is this really what parents want to teach their children?".

Read also: How to scold your child and make him feel loved

2. Spanking only affects the moment

In most cases, after 10 minutes, the child who has been spanked tends to repeat the wrong behavior that caused the parent's reaction. This is what emerged from a recent pilot study by the Southern Methodist University (USA), published in mid-April 2022 in the Journal of Family Psychology. The research monitored 33 families for 6 days, with an audio-video recording system.

During this period, there were 41 incidents of mild physical punishment (in total) within 15 families. In 73%, within just 10 minutes, the punished children did the same thing again.

3. Spanking increases the child's propensity to be aggressive

In the same vein, it is also a larger comparative study - considered a milestone on the subject - on the effects of physical punishment on children in America by researcher Elizabeth T. Gershoff (2008). According to the data of this analysis, spanking is useless to educate the child and teach him not to do something that the parent considers wrong.

On the contrary, with this type of intervention the propensity of children to be more disobedient and aggressive increases even in the long run. The gesture in itself of the beating (even if 'light'), explains the study, causes a sense of anger and closure: for the child, often, it is not even clear what he would have done wrong. Every time he takes them, therefore, the US frustration grows and tends to repeat that behavior.

This tangle of negative feelings can also translate into a deso di retaliation towards i piweaker. THEThe child feels weak towards the adult who exercises his power with the spank and for this he will try to 'make up' on those who are weaker than him.

After all, if an adult, for example, happens to have a boss at work who yells at him with fury every day, he will certainly cover a certain anger. The mechanism is always the same: the prevarication of one individual over another, the strongest exercising his power over the weakest ...

Why then a child, one small person with equal dignityà and rights, should he tolerate willingly what is unacceptable to a 'great'?

4. Spanked children grow up more insecure and with less self-esteem

The parent should do without spanking because there is a risk that they have a negative impact on the child's overall physical, emotional and psychological well-being. This is the conclusion of the international association End all Corporal Punishment of Children after examining 150 studies conducted in the last 30 years on the subject of spanking.

In particular, the Association argued, children who are often spanked feel more insecure and unloved. Even if the parent says: 'I'm doing this for your good!', On a psychological level, the message that such a gesture passes is never positive.

In short, spanking, even if slight and occasional (perhaps a 'surprise' for the child), undermine the development of self-esteem.The child perceives himself as inadequate with respect to the expectations of the parent, feels he is not good enough and often does 'wrong' things (without understanding the reasons well, especially in the case of the little ones around 24-30 months)

Furthermore, a child who often takes them finds himself struggling with a sense of helplessness because he feels weak, helpless and overwhelmed in the face of the adult who imposes himself by force.

5. Children who get spanked are likely to be less good at school

The negative consequences of physical punishment also include the cognitive sphere: children who receive spankings are slower and discontinuous in learning at school. This is supported by a study from the University of New Hampshire (2009) which concluded stress and fear of punishment worsen school performance.

The slap or spank also risks creating a vicious circle that feeds anxiety and insecurity. Basically, the child does not want to disappoint the parent, perhaps for a poor grade, but the fear of his reaction puts him under pressure to the point of stopping (and making mistakes).

The same happens to adults, however. Those at work who constantly have breath on their boss's neck risk getting anxious, agitated, and not completing their tasks in the best possible way.

6. Spanking over time generates a sense of anxiety and not being up to par

Spanking generates a sense of anxiety that is mixed with the fear of not receiving the approval of the parent and not living up to his expectations. This can have negative consequences for the baby in the long run. On a psychological level, this perception of oneself can 'take root' in him, making him, in the future, a less serene and balanced adult. This is what is claimed by a survey by a team of Canadian researchers (published in the Pediatrics journal in 2022) conducted on a sample of 34.653 adults.

Research has shown that those who received spankings as a child have a higher risk (between 2 and 7%) of suffering from anxiety, mood and behavior disorders than those who have never taken them.

7. Why do parents give in to the urge to slap?

Tiredness, stress, life and frenetic rhythms certainly do not help mum and dad to stay calm: most adults tend to get nervous (sometimes, in an exaggerated way) in front of what they consider tantrums (the child plays with food and spills all around, protesting at the supermarket because he wants candy, doesn't want to go to bed, brush his teeth, doesn't get dressed and it's late for school ...). Here, then, that the spanking seems to almost 'run away' from the hands to make him stop and immediately release his tension.

"The spanking, often, represents the simplest method for the adult to block a child's behavior. The adult has the feeling of having found an immediate solution and discharges himself - says Maddalena Mancioli, psychotherapist psychologist, responsible for the psychological area -Law of the La Via dei Colori Association, an association created to offer help in the event of child maltreatment.

According to the psychologist, giving a spanking is a shortcutThe adult tries to appropriate his role through imposition. But in this way he does not build those foundations of authority which are indispensable for educational action. Furthermore, to be effective, great attention must be paid to the relationship with the child.

Read also: Tricks to manage tantrums

8. What if it were possible to avoid this by changing the daily routine?

Of course, as an adult, it is not easy to look at yourself with clarity and self-criticism, however it would be important to make an effort to do so. Because, in most cases, from Maddalena Mancioli's point of view, the spanking (only) alleviates the adult's frustration.

First of all, as parents, it is essential to ask yourself when the scapaccione 'escapes'. In the morning, when it is late and there is the anxiety of taking the child on the fly to the nursery or school and running to the office? Or maybe, in the evening, after a whole day, it seems that the insistent crying is a kind of jackhammer in the head?

After all, small daily strategies would be enough to prevent stress and skin-deep nerves from dominating the adult and all this falling on the child. An example? Getting up all 15 minutes earlier, and having breakfast calmly, together, instead of spinning like tops for the whole thing, helps to better face the day (without giving up a slap to the child if he screams on the elevator because he has forgotten his puppet!) .

9. The alternative to spanking is there. The parent remains authoritative and the child experiences

Physical punishment closes the relationship with the child, as there is no dialogue. "The parent imposes himself with an act of force - regardless of the physical extent of the spanking - instead of get involved in the relationship through reasoning and other strategies, based on the child's age ", says psychologist Mancioli.

In his opinion, the first time the child receives a spanking, he may think he has disappointed the adult, but without any kind of confrontation. So, he doesn't have the ability to use experience to do something different.

When the child has a behavior that the parent does not approve of, should make him understand that it is not okay with a firm and calm tone, looking him in the eye. The message must be simple, short and direct and accompanied by eye contact so that the child receives it at its best. In some cases, mom can also use another strategy with older children, saying, for example, 'Now sit here for a few minutes, calm down and think!'.

In any case, if a 2-year-old screams and throws himself on the ground, he certainly won't stop taking one spanking on the diaper.

"Our task, as educators, is to be a safe base for the child, accompanying him to discover himself, without clipping his wings", concludes Maddalena Mancioli.

Read also: Educating children to respect the rules

10. If 'the world came from', children take them does not mean that it is right

Customs are often handed down from generation to generation and are accepted without being questioned. Each society has its own baggage of beliefs, myths and prejudices, which are widespread and very difficult to eradicate. So for the spanking. Psychologist Maddalena Mancioli is convinced of this: "Each of us is inclined to look to the past, and for previous generations, spanking was 'normal'".

Olivier Maurel in his essay The Spanking writes: "In a country like France it took about a century and a half for the threshold of tolerance for educational violence to drop from blows to slaps and spanks".

Beatings to children now make you shiver. Will the same thing happen to the spanker too? Many hope this will happen soon. Less risk of unnecessary damage to the psycho-physical growth of future adults.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, passed by the United Nations (1989), in article 19, calls on all States to protect the child 'against any form of violence'.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (before which each state must submit a report on how it respects the Convention every 5 years) recommends that measures be taken also towards the most common corporal punishments such as spanking, slapping and slapping.

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