Spanking can psychologically damage children

Spanking can psychologically damage children

Studies show that spankings contribute to mental illnesses in children. It makes them more aggressive as an adult. It damages the emotional connection and trust that children have in their parents. It teaches them that hurting people is an acceptable way to “teach” people what not to do. And in very young children, under the age of 2, they don’t have the cognitive ability to connect spankings with what they did wrong, making that abusive. Spanking also seems to decrease the cognitive ability in children.

Many adults who have been spanked as children are now speaking out against corporal punishment, and a goodly sized subsection of that group are children who have been spanked in the name of Biblical literalism. One example this blogger, who is creating an ongoing project full of stories showing the negative effects of spankings. More examples and websites are provided at the end of this post.

Spankings, growing up, was something to be feared. My mom’s spankings was just a swat on the butt to get your attention–those we weren’t afraid of, but respected.

My dad, however, is another story. Suffice it to say he spanked in anger. He spanked to release his own frustration and anger on my siblings’ little bodies. He spanked just because he thought we disrespected him. He spanked my hard of hearing little brother simply because he couldn’t hear at a Boy Scouts meeting, because he thought that was extremely disrespectful to him.

I barely remember my own spankings. I do remember trying to cover up my butt with my small pink pillow to try to cushion the blow. I remember trying to cover my rear with my hands. It only made him angrier as he pushed the pillow or my hands to the side to hit my butt, hard, over and over again. Crying would make him angrier. “You don’t have any reason to cry! Should I give you something to cry about?!” And not crying also made him angry, as he kept going until we did cry. It was a catch-22. He stopped when I got older. I don’t remember exactly when, but I think it was about the time I started to develop..perhaps 9, 10 years old.

While I can’t remember much about my own spankings, I remember the fear. My heart would feel cold, and start pounding. Anxiety went through the roof.

I remember my siblings’ spankings more than my own.  Me–I can deal with it. Them–I wanted to protect them. There were times when I prayed that God would let me feel the pain of the spanking instead of them. A spiritual/physical proxy, if you will.

dad spanked the boys more than the girls. They were more troublesome. They were rowdy. They had trouble containing their energy and testosterone. They were punished more severely, because it wasn’t right for boys to cry. When he didn’t spank them in a prolonged manner, he would hold them by the upper arm so that their feet couldn’t grip the ground as well, allowing him to deliver a fuller, more painful blows.

We were afraid of his anger. Once, Tommy was so nervous as dad was yelling at him for a long time about something he did wrong. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was, but I believe it was something really minor. but Tommy laughed. It was so ridiculous, dad’s proclamations and punishments, that he wanted it to be a joke. That threw him into a rage. I was seriously afraid for Tommy. The other little ones scattered. My mom ushered them elsewhere in the house, out of dad’s way, as dad yelled at Tommy in the boys’ bedroom, pulled down his pants, and delivered incredibly strong blows on his butt. That was the first time it clicked in my mind. He was releasing his anger this way. He was using Tommy as a punching bag of sorts, except with an open hand.

That was also the first time I truly felt afraid. Would this be the time he finally snapped and started spanking everyone else, too? It wasn’t, but we were all scared. Tommy was bawling his eyes out in his bed, trying to be quiet with his tears so not to enrage dad and invite more spankings. He was spoiled, therefore he had no right to cry.

I wished, during these spankings, that he would actually close his fist and hit us instead. As sheltered as I was–we all homeschooled–I had a suspicion that if it became a closed fist, then it would leave a bruise. And if it left a bruise, then I could finally tell someone about how angry dad was all the time…and have them believe me.

Spanking is not something I endorse. I hesitate to even say that swats like my mom’s are acceptable. Why? Because of two things. One would be my own experience, as mild as it is compared to other peoples’ definitions of spankings.

The second thing would be that definition of spanking. Some parents excuse a hiding with a belt or wooden spoon as spanking. Others, like the followers of the Pearls and of Bill Gothard, excuse full-on beatings as “spankings,” because they believe it is the Biblical way of discipline. They believe that one must break a child’s will in order to make them obey their parents blindly.

And they call it “spanking,” lumping in child abuse in with the lesser forms of spankings, hoping that by association with the moms who simply give swats, the public will excuse it as a parental right to discipline their own children.

This irks me to no end. I get so angry thinking about parents who get away with abuse, hiding under the guise of discipline in the form of spanking. This is why I don’t think I will ever even give my child a swat. There are better ways now of disciplining children. We know better about the long-term harm on the parent-child relationship because of spankings.


Hat tip to Tracy over at Good & Bad Parents for stirring up the spanking pot, and for letting me share my thoughts. Because my thoughts became rather lengthy, and didn’t even touch on some things, I decided that I probably should write my own post.

Below are some links to get you started on reading up about the effects of spankings. While they tend to be religious in the circumstances of spankings, it can easily be extrapolated.

Why Not Train a Child

To Spank or Not to Spank

Recovering Grace

A letter to a pastor

What spankings teach children

Countries that have banned corporal punishments This one is especially interesting, reading the rationale for the legal ban of spanking or other corporal punishments.

The sexual dangers of spanking This one is probably the most controversial aspect of spanking, especially since there are adults who give and/or receive spankings as a form of sexual play among consenting parties.  It seems odd to do something like that to children as a form of discipline.

Filed under: Abuse


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  • Nice blog, Holly! I'm sorry that you had such a bad experience, however I'm glad that you felt comfortable enough to share it.

  • In reply to Tracy A. Stanciel:

    Thanks, Tracy--and thanks again for bearing with my comments on your post. :)

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    There are two sides to every debate. What about the research that shows that spanking decreases mental illness later in life? It’s here:

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