We have grown up in a society that has used negative reinforcements to obtain a desired behavior. There are thousands of people that die in car accidents every year and to reduce this we hand out fines for speeding. A child does not follow an order, so we bend him over our leg and spank his butt. These actions make sense because it is what was done to us. Most of us believe that we are good people and most of us were spanked at one time, therefore we conclude that spanking is a main contributor to making us good. What if we are not good people because we believe stealing people’s money and hitting children is okay? One could argue about the morality, but I would rather convince you through scientific research that both of these are ineffective at reducing the perceived negative behavior.

There is a church on the opposite side of the street where I work. The speed limit drops from 45 mph to 35 mph along the property of the church. Most weeks there is a cop that sits there in that speed trap. I had everyone from my work mark down how many cars they saw him pull over during the day and it turned out to be roughly 4 tickets an hour! The average speeding ticket is roughly $150, so during an 8 hour shift this cop is making $4,800. That is over a million dollars a year! And this is if it is just speeding, it does not account for having expired tags, a head light out, no insurance, invalid driver’s license, unpaid tickets, etc. It seems to be a lucrative business. With so much money being taken from the civilians pocket it begs the question: Does this negative reinforcement even work?

The answer is NO, it does not work. There was a massive study done in Maryland on speeding in 2002. They went through the driving records of 3.7 million people. They found that people that were caught speeding and given a ticket were twice as likely to receive a ticket again. They also found that, “overall legal consequences had no significant effect on the risk of receiving a repeat speeding citation”. Here we see that this negative reinforcement does not work. Police know this and yet they still hand out tickets.

Another negative reinforcement that is popular in our culture is spanking. Spanking is the act of hitting a child on the butt, because a child gave a negative response. Contrary to popular belief people have not been spanking their children all throughout history. That is not to say that people never hit their children in the past, but it was not the popular way of raising a child. The Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, actually prohibits spanking children. Recent studies have come out that up to 90% of parents today use corporal punishment (spanking). Now I am not questioning the love of the parents who are hitting their children. I believe that they are doing what they believe is best, but is spanking actually the best method for resolving disputes in the house?

Through many case studies psychologists have found 8 negative side effects associated with children who were spanked:

  1. Increased child aggression – more likely to physically hurt others
  2. Increased delinquent and antisocial behavior
  3. Increased adult aggression – Aggressive behaviors can follow into adulthood
  4. Increased adult criminal behavior
  5. Increased risk of abusing own spouse or child
  6. Decreased quality of parent/child relationships
  7. Decreased child mental health – Children that were spanked score 5 points lower on IQ tests
  8. Decreased adult mental health

Science will always be striving to know more, but it seems conclusive that spanking does not work. At its core we are teaching children that violence is the way to solve issues, especially when someone upset us. Children simply imprint on the behaviors of those around them. If they see their greatest influences use force to solve their problems then they will see no other options.

Some people will read this and conclude that “not all children are the same” and “we shouldn’t all use the cookie cutter approach to our children”. I am NOT advocating for all of us to use a cookie cutter approach to raising our children. I am advocating for parents to find peaceful, non-violent forms of approaching their children. If you simply decide that you will not hit your child, your approach will still be different than mine.

For example, my child wakes up at 6am every morning. I prefer he not do this because I would like to keep sleeping. There are many peaceful approaches to this problem. One parent could sit down and talk to their child about how they need to stay in bed until the parent wakes up. Another parent could allow the child to play in their room, but not come out until they wake up. Another parent could let the child watch tv until they wake up as long as they are quiet. Another parent could teach the child to read a clock and explain that they cannot come out until a certain time. All of these are preferable and have the likelihood of yielding the positive reaction than spanking your child for waking you up.

Now is time for us to act. We all want what is best of our children. We all want our children to be smart, kind, strong, peaceful, and successful. How we try to achieve this will affect our children for the rest of their lives. My hope is that we can raise a generation of children that use peaceful means to solve their problems. If we can do that, just one generation, maybe we can see the world at peace. Maybe we could even live in a society without any of those pesky speeding tickets.

For additional reading on spanking

Sources/further reading:

  1. Spare the Rod… http://ci.liberty.me/2014/04/19/spare-the-rod/?refer=libertyme
  2. Spanking Lowers IQ http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/09/spanking-iq.html
  3. Spanking Is Harmful To Kids’ Intelligence http://www.themoneytimes.com/node/85300
  4. Spanking Leads To Aggression Later In Kids http://life.familyeducation.com/spanking/discipline/65550.html
  5. I Was Spanked And I’m Fine http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/spanked.html
  6. The Negative Effects Of Spanking http://www.utexas.edu/know/2009/09/21/elizabeth_gershoff
  7. The Fallacies Of Pro Spanking Science http://www.nospank.net/johnson2.htm
  8. Plain Talk About Spanking http://www.nospank.net/plntk.htm
  9. Facts vs. Opinion: School Corporal Punishment http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=factsvsopinions
  10. Spanking: Facts & Fiction http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=factsnfiction
  11. Is Corporal Punishment an Effective Means of Discipline? http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2002/06/spanking.aspx
  12. The Men They Will Become http://elinewberger.com/discipline_punish.html
  13. Spanking Is Counterproductive And Dangerous http://www.alice-miller.com/flyers_en.php?page=2
  14. Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth http://www.repeal43.org/joint-statement-on-physical-punishment-of-children-and-youth/
  15. Physical Punishment and The Development of Aggressive and Violent Behavior: A Review http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/CP27.pdf
  16. Research On Spanking By Parents: Implications for Public Policy http://www.neverhitachild.org/straus15.pdf
  17. Swedish Parents Don’t Spank http://www.neverhitachild.org/haeuser.html
  18. Spanking in the Home and Children’s Subsequent Aggression Toward Kindergarten Peers http://www.neverhitachild.org/aggress.html
  19. Spanking Increases Street Entries http://www.neverhitachild.org/embry.html
  20. The Art Of Discipline http://www.neverhitachild.org/artodisc.html
  21. Teach Gentleness By Being Gentle http://www.neverhitachild.org/gentle.html
  22. What Breeds Bullies? http://www.neverhitachild.org/bullies.html
  23. How Can We Prevent Violent Behaviour? http://www.neverhitachild.org/prevent.html
  24. Ten Reasons Not To Hit Your Kids http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/tenreasons.html
  25. Why Do We Spank Our Babies? http://www.thelaboroflove.com/forum/nancy/spank.html
  26. Twenty Alternatives To Punishment http://www.awareparenting.com/twenty.htm
  27. Spanking and Child Development:  We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children http://www.endhittingusa.org/resources/printable-case-against-cp-and-our-manifesto/spanking-and-child-development-elizabeth-gershoff
  28. Origins Of Spanking Fetishes: A Testable Hypothesis http://cdugan0.tripod.com/SpkFetOrigin.html
  29. A List Of Editorials In Popular News http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=editorials
  30. Tons More Great Links Here http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=atschool-main