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Building stronger parent-child relationships

mother scolding her son

What About Spanking?

Ronald L. Pitzer, Family Sociologist and Professor — Family Social Science

Reviewed November 2008 by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for school success.

Should parents spank or not? Some parents think spanking is the right thing to do when their children misbehave. Others believe any form of spanking is wrong and harmful.

Why Parents Spank

Parents spank their children for a variety of reasons.

What's Wrong with Spanking

There are many teaching, nurturing, and disciplining tools available to parents that are more effective and less harmful than spanking and other forms of physical punishment.

Changing Spanking Behavior

If parents do not know any other choices or tools for handling misbehavior and teaching their children, they will be more likely to spank their children. Parents can avoid spanking if they know more effective ways to discipline their children. Explore other options as described on the resources linked in the following "Related Resources" section

If parents are extremely stressed, they may not be able to think about discipline alternatives and simply lash out. They may need help dealing with their own stress so that they can have stronger parent-child relationships. See the resources on the Dealing with stress and Taking Care of Yourself webpages to get more information and support in this area.

Remember, there are always better choices than spanking.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (1998). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics, 101, 723-728.

Eisenberg, A., Murkoff, H., and Hathaway, S. (1994). What to expect: The toddler years. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Co.

Smith, C. A. (2010). Spanking. In Responsive Discipline: A decision-making approach to guidance in parent-child relationships.

Steinberg, L. (2004). The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Straus, M. A. (1994). Beating the devil out of them: Corporal punishment in American families. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

University of Minnesota Extension. (1997). Positive parenting II: A video-based parent education curriculum. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension. This product is no longer available.

Related resources

Using Guidance Tools — Explore these strategies to help manage conflict and to teach responsibility to your children.

Setting Limits for Responsive Discipline — Provide a sense of security to your children by setting limits.

Guidelines for Consequences and Setting Limits — Use these guidelines to select effect consequences for your child.

Using 'time out' as a discipline tool — Follow these guidelines to use "time out"s effectively and get ideas for other discipline tools to consider.

Using natural and logical consequences — Get step-by-step instructions for using natural and logical consequences and see examples of this strategy in action.

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