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Introduction
 
Why Punishment is Needed
 
Why Spanking is Needed
 
But the "Experts" Say...
 
When to Spank
 
At What Age to Spank
 
How to Spank
 
Summary
 
Reader Questions
 
Search This Site
 
Who is Paul Preston?
 
Contact Me
 
Reader Questions

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If you'd like me clarify something in the book or you have questions about issues not raised in this book, send me a question. I'll try to answer it and post the response here. Note that offensive or otherwise inappropriate question will not be answered.

You may email your questions to paul_j_preston@yahoo.com or click here to use an online form.

Why isn't spanking working?

When is spanking appropriate?

How many swats?

Where to buy a paddle?

Should a child be angry after a spanking?

Why doesn't good behavior last?

Should children be spanked when on vacation?

How many warning do you give before spanking?

Should children be spanked for mistakes?

Should children be spanked even if they are contrite?

Should older children be spanked only by the same sex parent?

Is it normal to feel guilty after spanking?

Can a child cry too much after spanking?

Is it acceptable for a stepparent to spank a stepchild?

Can parents expect too much obedience?

How do you handle a defiant attitude?

What punishments to use before spanking?

Why do children behave worse when they are away from home?

Should babysitters be allowed to spank?

Should a child have to apologize after being punished?

Does spanking work for tantrums?

Should children be punished at home if they misbehave at school?

Should a spanking be delayed long enough to cool off?

Is it normal for a spanking to cause bruising?

Should children be spanked during potty training?

How can I make my child see that a spanking was fair?

What should I say to someone who confronts me about spanking?

Does the number of spankings a child receives ever go up rather than down as he gets older?

How can I reintroduce spanking?

What can I do when neither spanking nor timeout works with a defiant three year old?

Is it ever effective to spank after a delay?

How soon should a step-parent start disciplining?

What should I do if a child thinks a caregiver is mean for spanking?

Does spanking lower a child's IQ?

Should a child be hugged after a spanking?

How can I stop my child from being whiny, sassy, and defiant with his new babysitter?

Is it ok for a child to play spank?

Should children be punished for showing their feelings?

What to do when child overreacts to spanking in public?

Should a babysitter be a certain age before being allowed to spank?

Can spanking a child cause them to develop mental illness?

Question: I don't know if spanking works. My son recently has had trouble staying in bed. I had been taking him back to bed and talking to him but he'd still get up. Finally my husband got fed up and spanked him for getting up. But he still gets up. Why does he still get up if spanking is supposed to make children mind?

Answer: Let me answer by asking a question. How should we decide if discipline works? I think you have to compare how a child behaves with discipline to how he behaves without it. If his behavior is better with discipline than without it, then the discipline works. To know if spanking worked in your case, you'd have to compare how many times your son got up during an average night or a week before he was spanked to how many times he got up during an average night or a week after he was spanked. If he got up less after he was spanked, then spanking worked--even if he continues to get up on occasion

It often takes more than one spanking to make misbehavior completely disappear. The fact that the misbehavior does not disappear with the first spanking does not mean spanking is ineffective. In many cases, a behavior goes unpunished several times before a parent decides to punish. By not punishing the misbehavior, the parent has taught the child that the misbehavior is ok. When the parent finally decides to punish, it will take several times before the child realizes that he is now being consistently punished for something he used to get by with. Therefore, it is a good idea to punish a misbehavior the first time it occurs. Otherwise, you'll have a harder time getting the misbehavior to stop. In your case, you'll need more than one spanking because it sounds like he got out of bed several times before he was spanked.

Question: I just don't feel like I know when spanking is appropriate. I have a three year old girl and she just does not mind. She is sassy and talks back. She tells me "no" or "i don't want to". She seems to whine and complain about everything. I feel like I am constantly spanking her. I feel guilty because I think I'm spanking her too much but I don't think I can allow her to be smart mouthed and sassy.

Answer: You are certainly correct that you can not allow sassiness and back talk. And you should not tolerate your daughter telling you no. When she is defiant, it is certainly appropriate to spank her. As for complaining or whining, you might be able to prevent her from whining about things like what she has to wear or what she eats by giving her choices of what to wear or what to eat--within reason, of course. If she chooses something and then whines about it, just ignore her. She'll soon stop. Also make sure she gets plenty of attention when she is being good since whining may be a way for her to get attention from you. However, if you ask her to do something and she whines and does not do what she was told, then you should consider this to be defiance and spank her for it. By the same token, if you tell her she can not do something but she continues to whine and plead to do it, then this should also be considered defiance--she is not accepting your decision and therefore she is not accepting your authority. In such a case, she should get a spanking.

If you reserve spanking for when she is defiant and disobedient, you'll find yourself spanking less. You may want to reread the chapter When to Spank. Also make sure you are spanking effectively and with sufficient intensity. If you spank effectively and with sufficient intensity, you won't need to do it very often. You may want to reread the chapter How to Spank.

Question: How many swats do you think is reasonable? Does it depend on the age of the child? On whether you're using hand or paddle, or are spanking on clothing or on underwear? I have tried using my hand on my 8-year-old daughter's underwear, but after three or four swats my hand stings but she's certainly not any more than mildly annoyed. Maybe I should use a paddle instead? Where do you get something like that? I'm pretty sure that if the spanking actually stung, she would be more impressed.

Answer: The number of swats that should be given depends on several factors: whether the parent is using his hand or a paddle; whether he is spanking on clothes or underpants; the size and strength of the parent; how hard he is swatting; the size and age of the child, to name a few. Therefore, I have not given any suggested number of swats. Each parent will have to gauge this for himself. Remember to strike a balance between a spanking that "makes an impression" and a beating. Too few swats and the child will laugh off the discipline; too many swats and you are guilty of abuse.

If you decide to use a paddle, you can find a paddle in novelty shops as well as online at places like eBay. You could also buy a small blank fraternity or sorority paddle. Try your local college bookstore or search online. If you continue to have trouble finding a paddle, you can always have one made by a woodworker in your area. When you buy a paddle, do not get one that is too heavy. Instead, choose one that is light, relatively thin, and has a short blade. This type of paddle will be easier to use. Be careful that you do no cause bruises when paddling.

Question: My son seems to be angry after a spanking. Is this natural? I thought spanking was supposed to break the will of a child?

Answer: Children should be contrite after a spanking. They should not be angry or defiant. If your son is angry after a spanking, then make certain you are spanking effectively. If the spanking is merely an annoyance rather than a true punishment, then it will make the child angry. You may want to reread the chapter How to Spank. Also make sure your son's spankings are justified. If your son feels he is being spanked unfairly, then he will be angry. Spank only with just cause and be careful to explain to your son the reason he is being spanked. If he understands why his behavior was wrong and if understands how you expect him to behave in the future, he is less likely to be angry.

Question: Sometimes the effects of a spanking don't seem to last a day. I spank my son for misbehaving and a few hours later he is misbehaving again. What can I do? I take his pull-up off and I spank hard enough for him to feel it. So does spanking just not work with him?

Answer: How do you respond when your son begins to misbehave after he was already disciplined? Many parents would not correct the child because they feel guilty disciplining a child that was recently spanked. Certainly, no parent wants to be harsh or cruel with her child, so the reluctance is understandable. However, some children quickly learn that their parents will not discipline after a spanking. This essentially gives the child a green light to misbehave after being spanked.

One of the major keys to effective discipline is consistency. Therefore, you must discipline your child whenever he misbehaves--even if he was spanked only hours before. On a rare occasion, you may have to give your child two spankings in the same day. But if you are spanking rather than beating, this will not be excessive physical punishment. And if you are spanking effectively, you should rarely have to do this. However, your child must know that you will discipline consistently. If you discipline consistently, you should see a decline in misbehavior after a spanking.

Question: My family just got back from vacation. We had a great time except it was tainted by one incident that kind of upset me. My two daughters had asked if they could go ahead of me and their dad to the pool. We said yes, but they were supposed to go straight to the pool. When my husband and I got there, they were no where to be found. After some frantic minutes looking through the hotel we found them in the game room which was not on the way to the pool. In fact it was in the opposite direction!! My husband and I were very upset. We had told the girls several times on vacation not to wonder off, and we told them this time to go straight to the pool. We felt the girls had disobeyed us. My husband took the girls back to the room and gave them both a spanking. Although I agreed with what my husband did at the time (and still do) I felt guilty. I felt like the vacation had been ruined. Should children get spanked on vacation?

Answer: Vacation is a time to relax, and some of the rules that parents have--like bedtimes--get relaxed as well. Parents naturally want vacations to be fun, and they want their children to see that mom and dad can have fun. But despite the relaxed, fun atmosphere, I do not think parents should suspend all rules. The biggies like telling the truth and obeying mom and dad should never be suspended. As I have tried to stress, one of the keys to effective discipline is consistency. And this means disciplining whenever and wherever misbehavior occurs. So to be consistent, you should discipline whether or not you are on vacation. Therefore, I think your husband was quite right to spank your daughters for disobedience. It is unfortunate that it had to happen on vacation, but do not feel guilty. You should never feel guilty for caring enough to discipline your children.

Question: How many warnings should a parent give before spanking?

Answer: That depends. For those cases where you use spanking as a first resort--and I have suggested spanking as a first resort in cases of dangerous behavior, lying, and disobedience--then no warnings are necessary. Your child should know that if she lies, she will be spanked, so she does not need to be told that the next time she lies she’ll get a spanking. When spanking is used as a last resort; that is, in cases where you decided to use spanking because other punishments are not working, then give only one warning. Suppose your child has been missing curfew lately. You have tried other punishments, but they have not worked, so you decide to use spanking. Tell your child that the next time he misses curfew, he will get a spanking. (Don't just give the warning; punish as well. So you might give your child early bedtime for a week and the warning.) If your child misses curfew after the warning, spank him. Do not give multiple warnings as this only teaches your child that he can ignore your warnings and continue to misbehave since you do not follow through on your warnings most of the time.

Question: My wife and I disagree about whether our children should be disciplined for mistakes or accidents. What do you think?

Answer: I am not sure what you have in mind, but if you are using "mistake" and "accident" in the conventional senses, I'd say no. Since mistakes or accidents are unintentional, children should not be spanked for them. Spanking children for accidents will not make them more careful. Instead, it is likely to paralyze them with fear of making a mistake. Therefore, children should never be spanked for mishaps such as accidents during potty training, for wetting the bed, or for accidentally breaking something. However, children should be disciplined if the "accident" is a result of doing something they should not have been doing such as roughhousing, running in the house, or playing with something they've been told not to touch. In such cases, the child should be punished, but not for the accident per se; rather, the child should be punished for disobeying the rule against roughhousing, or running in the house, or playing with something he was told not to touch. So if the accident or mistake is unintentional and not the result of disobedience, then do not punish. If, however, the accident is the result of disobedience, then punish the disobedience, but not the accident. Make sure your child understands why he is being punished. Remind him that accidents and mistakes are ok, but that disobedience is never ok.

Question: Should a child be spanked even if they are contrite and sorry for doing wrong. My little girl will often cry and say I'm sorry mommy when she has been caught being naughty. I really believe she is sorry so should I go ahead and spank her anyway when she is sorry?

Answer: Yes, you should punish your daughter even if she is contrite. Often children are not genuinely contrite--they are sorry, but only sorry they got caught, not sorry for what they did. But even if your daughter is genuinely contrite, you should still spank her. The spanking is not retribution for what she did, but rather the spanking is to teach her not to be naughty in the future. The spanking must be given if her future behavior is to be shaped. Also if you do not spank when your child says she is sorry, then you teach your child to say I'm sorry when she is in trouble since this allows her to avoid a spanking. But that is not the lesson you want to teach. You want to teach her not to be naughty. By spanking when she is naughty, you will teach her not to be naughty in the future.

Question: You seem to suggest that it is proper for either parent to spank both boys and girls. In view of your position that spankings should continue well into the teenage years, do you think there is a point at which spankings should begin to be handled by only the same sex parent or should the "either parent" rule continue to apply as long as spankings are still being earned by the child.?

Answer: No, I do not feel that there is a point at which children can only be spanked by the same sex parent. Just as either parent can send a child to bed early or ground a child regardless of the child's age, then either parent ought to be able to give their child a spanking regardless of the child's age. Some critics of spanking have implied that the spanking of an older child by a parent of the opposite sex is tantamount to sexual abuse. But this is absurd: there is nothing inherently sexual in spanking. A loving parent offering only correction should not be embarrassed or ashamed to spank an older child of the opposite sex. And the child should not be embarrassed or ashamed either. Remember I suggest that children be allowed to keep their underpants on for a spanking. Most children will not be embarrassed about being seen in their underpants by either parent. If the child or parent is uncomfortable with this, the parent should allow the child to keep his pants on and spank with a paddle.

Question: We decided to use spanking because we were having some problems with defiance with our four year old. I have spanked twice and each time I felt terrible afterward. I feel like I have failed as a parent. I feel guilty and just don't know what to say to my son afterward. Should I tell him I'm sorry? Is this normal? Do these feelings go away?

Answer: Some parents feel guilty after spanking, but I do not think it is the normal reaction. The guilt that some parents feel is the result of misinformation spread by some anti-spankers. Some anti-spankers equate spanking with child abuse and portray parents who spank as being out of control. However, as I have argued in these pages, spanking is not abuse. Nor are parents who spank out of control. On the contrary, spanking should be controlled. Parents should spank only on the bottom, and they should spank without leaving bruises and welts. So if you spank under control, then do not let others make you feel like a bad parent because you spank. You are not a bad parent just because you spank. In fact, some very good, loving parents spank, so you are in good company.

As for what to say, remember what you say before a spanking is crucial. Before the spanking, you should explain to your child why he is being spanked. Also you should let your child know that you are disappointed in his behavior but that you are not disappointed in him. After the spanking, let your child ask any questions and remind him how he is to behave. Do not say you are sorry for spanking. If the spanking was deserved, then you did what you had to do. You do not have to apologize for that.

You say you decided to spank. I take it that means you considered other options. If you have considered other options, and you chose spanking, then you did what a good parent should do: you considered the alternatives and chose what you thought was best for your child. You should not feel guilty about that. That is good parenting. However, I suggest you reread some of these pages and talk to other parents about discipline. If after some reflection, you still feel guilty about spanking, then I would stop spanking. Spanking may not be for your family. But be sure you make an informed decision. Don't let others make you feel guilty for spanking.

Question: Can a child cry too much after a spanking? My ten year old cries and carries on so much it seems like an act. She cries longer and louder than my five year old. What makes me think this is an act is that she did not use to carry on like this. Should I just let her cry it out like my mother advises? Or should I punish her for carrying on so?

Answer: Children react differently to spanking. Some cry more or cry longer than others. Children ought to be allowed to cry before, during, and after a spanking. No parent wants to stop her child from expressing her emotions. However, children occasionally exaggerate their crying. Children may exaggerate crying before a spanking in a attempt to get the parent not to spank; children may exaggerate crying during a spanking to get the parent to stop quickly; and children may exaggerate crying after a spanking as a way to punish the parent for spanking. The fact that your daughter carries on more now than before suggests that she may be exaggerating. She is trying to get back at you for spanking her, or she is trying to make you feel guilty for spanking in the hope that you will stop using corporal punishment.

Since she is trying to get back at you, she will stop carrying on if you do not allow her an audience. I usually recommend having children sit on a chair after a spanking to compose themselves. In your case, I recommend putting your daughter to bed after a spanking. I am not suggesting that you wait until her usual bedtime to spank her. Spank her immediately after her misbehavior. Then after the spanking, put her to bed and close her bedroom door. After about half an hour, check in on her. If she has settled down, then allow her to get up and consider the matter closed. If she is still carrying on, tell her she must remain in bed until she calms down. Leave the room and close her door. Allow her to get up only when she has settled down. In this way, you allow her to be alone and cry genuine tears. By removing yourself, she can not punish you, so her excessive carrying on should then disappear.

Question: I recently married a wonderful man. We have both been married before. He has a five-year-old son from his previous marriage and I have a nine-year old daughter and an eleven-year old son from my first marriage. We are still trying to make this blended family thing work. One bone of contention is discipline particularly spanking. My husband thinks it is acceptable for him to spank his stepson or stepdaughter when they need it. But I am reluctant to spank my stepson. It's not that I don't believe in spanking. I do think it is needed sometimes and I spank my kids. I just don't feel comfortable spanking his son. I don't feel it is my place. Also I feel my husband is a little too strict. He has spanked my kids when I would not have. (To be fair he is strict with his own son too.) Is it ok for stepparents to spank stepchildren or should parents only spank their own kids?

Answer: In blended families there are often clashes of parenting styles. When each parent in the blended family has children, each parent is used to raising kids and will often have very strong opinions on how it should be done. Each is reluctant to discipline the other's child because when they do, an argument often erupts. And each parent is often reluctant to have the other discipline his natural child because he feels the other parent is too harsh or too lenient. When only one of the blended couple has a child, there can still be clashes. The one with the child resents the other "interfering". The one without the child often thinks his opinions on child rearing are ignored.

Therefore, it is important for a couple to discuss parenting and discipline early in the relationship. A couple must reach an agreement on a set of rules and punishments for all the children in the house. Each parent must agree to stick to the rules and punishments. Reaching such an agreement will require each parent to compromise. But such an agreement is necessary, for children need consistency. It is confusing and unfair to children when their natural parent has one set of rules, and their stepparent has another set of rules. It is also confusing and unfair when some children in the house are held to one standard while other children in the house are held to another standard.

Each child in the house should respect and obey each of the parents--her stepparent and her natural parent. Therefore, each parent has the right to discipline each child in the house--regardless of whether the child is his natural child or his stepchild. And the right to discipline includes the right to spank. So yes, I think your husband has the right to spank his stepson and stepdaughter just as you have the right to spank your stepson. If you feel your husband is too strict, then you need to discuss this with him and reach an agreement on when spanking is appropriate. It is difficult to make a blended family work, but you must make the effort for everyone's well-being. The first step toward making a blended family work is communication between the parents.

Question: I found out my adolescent daughter wore makeup which she is not allowed to do yet. She also wore a pair of jeans out of the house that she was forbidden to wear. When I confronted her about this stuff she told me that it was her body and she should be allowed to dress how she wanted. I resorted to telling her that she lived in my house and had to follow my rules and I paddled her for disobedience. We have battled over the way she wants to dress before. She tells me I am out of touch and her friends' parents don't tell them how to dress. Am I being unreasonable? I don't want my daughter to dress like a tramp but I don't want her to be a social outcast because she can't do things her friends do. Am I expecting too much obedience from my daughter?

Answer: I don't think the problem is expecting too much obedience. Parents should expect their children to obey their rules--period. However, some parents have too many rules or rules that are unreasonable. These parents are not taking their children's best interests to heart because too many rules or unreasonable rules can stifle children's growth. Do you feel you have too many rules or unreasonable rules? For every rule, ask yourself why you have that rule and whether your daughter would be worse off without that rule. If there is no good reason to have the rule or if your daughter would be the same or better without the rule, then drop the rule. But if the rule has a clear goal and if your daughter would be worse off without the rule, then keep the rule.

When you consider how a rule affects your daughter think not just about the immediate benefits but also the long-term benefits. In the end, you are responsible for deciding what the rules are in your house. You should be willing to explain why you have the rules you do, and you should be open to suggestions about house rules. However, you should not make rules based on whether your daughter likes the rules. You have to decide what the house rules are based on what you think is best for your daughter.

I don't think you should be swayed by your daughter's claim that she should be allowed to dress how she wants because it is her body. If your daughter began cussing, you would probably punish her. Even though it is her mouth, you have expectations about what should come out of it. In the same way, it is her body, but you should have expectations about how she dresses her body. It is your responsibility to teach your daughter modesty. Many parents are not fulfilling their responsibility to teach their children how to dress appropriately and modestly. It is not inevitable that children will dress immodestly; parents allow their children to dress immodestly. These parents are not doing what is in their children's best interests. I think it is important to have rules about what your daughter wears or when she is allowed to wear makeup. If you have those rules, you should expect your daughter to obey those rules. And if she breaks those rules, then there need to be consequences.

Question: You say children should be spanked when they do something they are not suppose to do. But what if a child does what they are told but does it half-heartedly or with attitude. I get this mostly when my kids have to do chores like picking up their rooms. If I tell them to pick up their rooms they do it so slowly it can take a day or more. They'll pick up a few clothes and then play on the computer or talk on the phone. Then I have to remind them again. They are doing what they are told but not doing it like they should. Is it still disobedience? Does the way they are acting deserve a spanking?

Answer: A child can show disobedience and defiance in several ways. He can outright disobey you and not do what he is told. But as you point out, he can do what he is told but do it with attitude. A child can show attitude by stomping around, slamming doors, and talking back when told to do something. But a child can also show attitude by taking longer than required to complete a chore or by intentionally doing a chore poorly. In such cases, the child does what he is told but on his terms. He is trying to show you that you are not in control, he is. This attitude makes the child defiant. And when a child is defiant, he should be spanked. But be certain that the child is showing genuine defiance before spanking. There may be legitimate reasons why it took longer than expected to complete a chore or why a chore was done poorly. However, if there are no legitimate reasons, then you must punish; otherwise, the defiance will continue.

Since your children consistently drag out cleaning their rooms, start giving them a specific amount of time in which to clean their rooms. Be reasonable about the time. Choose an amount of time that is realistic for your children's ages and the size of the job. Set a kitchen timer with the amount of time that you have decided on. Tell each child that if her room is not clean when the timer goes off, she will get a spanking. If a child does not have her room clean when the time is up, spank her as promised. Then have her finish cleaning her room with a new time limit. However, in most cases, rooms will be clean when the timer goes off the first time.

Question: In some cases you say to use spanking after other punishments have failed. What punishments do you recommend using before spanking?

Answer: I do think that in some cases spanking should be used as a last resort when other punishments have failed. To be effective a punishment must be unpleasant for your child. There are many punishments that are unpleasant enough that most children want to avoid them. Before I recommend punishments, there are a couple of punishments that I would caution against using. First, I do not think extra chores should be used as a punishment. When you use extra chores as a punishment, you are teaching your child that work is supposed to be unpleasant, that work is punishing. I do not think that is a message you want to give your child. Children should be taught to take pleasure and pride in work. Children should even be taught to take pleasure and pride in chores such as doing the dishes or moving the yard, for it is pleasant and satisfying to have clean dishes or a neat yard. So do not make work a punishment; otherwise, you send the wrong message about work. I also think taking away a toy or a single privilege should not be used as punishment because I don't think it is effective. If you take away a toy, your child has other toys or games to play with. If you take away a privilege such as a cell phone, your child can use the Internet for chat. So taking away one thing is not very effective because it is not very unpleasant: your child can substitute other things until the lost thing is returned.

If you are going to put your child on restrictions, I recommend grounding your child to his room. That is, tell your child he must stay in his room for a specified period of time, usually an evening; sometimes two evenings, but not longer than two. Tell your child that he can only come out of his room for dinner or to use the bathroom. While he is in his room, he can read, do school work, or sleep. He may not play video games, play with toys, watch TV, listen to music, or talk on the phone. He can use the computer only for school work, not for surfing the Internet or chatting. This is better than simply sending your child to his room. If you simply send a child to his room with no restrictions, then he sits in his room and watches TV or plays video games, hardly a punishment. Grounding a child to his room is better than simply grounding a child to the house. If you ground a child to the house, he can not be with his friends, but he can stay home and listen to music, play video games, or watch TV, again, hardly a punishment. Grounding a child to his room with restrictions is a punishment because your child will find it unpleasant to be without his usual sources of entertainment. Do not use this type of grounding with young child especially children who are anxious about being separated from mom and dad for long periods of time.

Other punishments I recommend are early bedtime and timeouts. Both of these can be used with toddlers and teens and all children between. Early bedtime is another way of putting your child on restrictions. Simply put your child to bed earlier than usual. Put your child in bed with the lights out earlier than usual, not merely in his room earlier than usual. Since your child is in bed earlier, this means that he loses some free time that he might have spent watching TV, playing, etc. How much earlier you send your child to bed depends on his age and what he is being punished for. But choose an amount of time that can be "felt." Sending a child to bed fifteen minutes early will not be effective because it can not be felt. Timeouts should be used when you need to remove your child from a situation. For example, if your children are fighting, putting them in timeout immediately stops the fighting. Timeouts should be administered by having your child stand with her nose in the corner. She should stand in the corner one minute for every year of age: a six year old would stand in the corner for six minutes; a twelve year old for twelve minutes; and so on. Children should not be allowed to leave the corner or to whine, complain, or talk while they are there. If they leave the corner, whine, complain, or talk, then the timeout starts over again. If your child continues to whine, complain, or talk while in the corner or if you child leaves the corner before the time is up, then consider this disobedience and spank your child. After the spanking, put your child back in the corner to finish the timeout.

Grounding a child to his room, early bedtime, and timeouts are punishments that can be used before spanking. Suppose a child is teasing and tormenting her younger sibling. The first time this happens, scold her for it and warn her the next time she does it she'll be punished. If she torments her sibling again, you might send her to stand in the corner. Hopefully, this will be sufficient to stop the tormenting. However, if it happens again, then you should give her a spanking.

Question: My kids are pretty well behaved at home. They act up from time to time but they behave most of the time. It is a different story when they are away from the house. When we are at stores they run the aisles and handle things they are not supposed to. At church they talk during the service, kick and pinch each other, and kick the seats in front of them. If I threaten to spank them they behave for a few minutes but are soon back to acting up. Spanking works at the house. Why doesn't it work away from the house?

Answer: You say when you are out, threatening to spank does not work. Does that mean you do not follow through on the threats you make when you are away from home. If you do not follow through on threats, this could be the reason your children behave worse when away from home.

Many parents are reluctant to discipline their children when they are away from home. And when they get home, the children are usually behaving, so the parents let the earlier misbehavior slide. As a result, the children learn that they can get away with things outside the house that they would be punished for at home. If you only threaten when at church or the mall, your children learn that you do not follow through on threats in those places. They realize they can continue to misbehave in those places without consequences.

If you want your children to behave the same outside the house as they do at home, you need to discipline them in the same way in both places. What would you do if your children continued to pinch and kick each other at home after you had told them to stop? If you would spank them at home for this, you need to spank them at church for it. Now, I'm not suggesting that you spank in public. I don't think children should be embarrassed by being disciplined in public. However, I do think you need to discipline when you are away from home. As I suggest on the How to Spank page, you should take your children to a private place to discipline when outside the house. You can take your children to your car or a private restroom to discipline. (Taking your children into the stall in a public restroom offers some privacy but is not ideal--use at your own discretion.) By punishing your children outside the house the same as you punish them at the house, you let your children know you have one standard of behavior that applies regardless of where you and your children are. If you discipline consistently when away from home, you will see your children's behavior improve.

Question: Our daughter who is seven years old stays with her aunt (husband's sister) a lot of times after school. Lately she has been acting up when she is over there. My husband thinks we should allow his sister to spank our daughter but I don't feel good about that. Should relatives be allowed to give spankings when babysitting?

Answer: That is a difficult problem that each family must solve. There are advantages and disadvantages to letting caregivers such as grandparents, aunts, uncles or babysitters spank your child. One advantage of letting a caregiver spank is that punishment is immediate. Remember that if spanking is to be effective, the spanking should immediately follow the misbehavior. So by allowing a caregiver to spank, you make it more likely the spanking will be effective. Also by allowing a caregiver to spank, you make it more likely the punishment will be carried out. When parents pick up their child from a caregiver or come home to a babysitter, the parents are often tired and ready to have dinner or go to bed. If they hear a report of misbehavior that happened hours before, they sometimes ignore the misbehavior, thinking they are too hungry or tired to deal with it. Besides they think the misbehavior is water under the bridge since it happened hours before. Thus the child's misbehavior goes unpunished. This teaches the child he can act up with the caregiver, and he will not be punished. Not a lesson that ought to be taught.

The disadvantage of letting a caregiver spank is that the caregiver might spank too hard and bruise the child. Also some parents are concerned that the caregiver might spank ineffectively because they are afraid of spanking too hard. Finally, some parents simply feel that spanking is something that is private and should only be done by the parents.

If you feel uncomfortable letting a caregiver spank your child, then don't let her. However, be ready to punish your child if she misbehaves while with the caregiver. If your child does something with the caregiver that would earn a spanking if she had done it with you, then you must spank your child for that misbehavior when you get home. Be sure to consistently discipline your daughter for acting up with her babysitter. Don't tell yourself that you are too tired, hungry, or busy to deal with her misbehavior. Because the spanking will not immediately follow the misbehavior, be certain that you have your child tell you why she is getting spanked. This will help her make the connection between the spanking and her earlier misbehavior.

Question: Should children be made to apologize when they have misbehaved?

Answer: Generally, I'd say no. In many cases, when a child breaks a rule, he hurts no one--but himself. If a child rides his bike out of the neighborhood when told to stay in front of the house, the child has disobeyed and should be spanked. (Also riding out of the neighborhood can be dangerous behavior.) Although the child did challenge his parents' authority, the parents should not take this personally and feel insulted. No apologize is necessary. Simply punish the child and move on. The only time I think an apologize is necessary is when a child's actions hurt someone else. If a child hits another child, or tells lies about another child, or ridicules a sibling, or cusses a parent, then the child should be made to apologize in these and similar cases. But unless the child's actions hurt someone else, I would not make a child apologize.

Question: Our daughter who is almost 9 years old has a crying fit whenever she does not get her way. We have tried everything from giving in to taking away privileges but nothing seems to work. My sister says my daughter just needs a few good spankings. But is spanking a child that is already crying going to make them stop having a fit?

Answer: Crying fits or tantrums are usually attempts by the child to manipulate her parents. At some point, your daughter has learned that if she cries, you will give in and she will get her way. Even if you have stopped giving in, the fact that you did in the past taught her that she will get what she wants if she cries long enough. There may even be someone right now that still gives in to her like a friend at school or maybe a teacher or grandparent.

Punishments can work with tantrums because punishments stop misbehavior and in your case, you want to stop her tantrums. I do not think spanking should be used as a first resort with tantrums. Having your daughter stand with her nose in the corner is a good first punishment. It removes her from the situation and lets her know you are not going to just stand there and listen to her tantrum.

Many parents think it is ineffective and maybe even cruel to spank a child that is crying. But your daughter’s crying during a tantrum is used not because she is in pain, rather it is used to manipulate you. Therefore, if having her stand with her nose in the corner does not stop her tantrums, then you should use spanking. By spanking her, you are letting her know that her behavior is inappropriate and that you expect the tantrums to stop.

Question: My son has recently gotten in trouble at school a couple of times. Although he has been disciplined at school my husband thinks he should also be punished at home. Should kids be punished at home for acting up in school or is that excessive?

Answer: Certainly parents should not be cruel and unduly punish a child, so your concern is understandable. If your son has already been punished why should he be punished again. However, in cases like this, there are two authorities: the teacher and you, the parents. You, the parents, are the ultimate authority in this case because you are ultimately responsible for your child’s behavior. The school seems to think the matter has been dealt with sufficiently. But do you think it has been dealt with sufficiently?

Since you do not say how your son misbehaved or how he was punished, my answer has to be very general. Remember the goal of punishment is to reduce misbehavior. Therefore, you must decide whether the punishment given to your son by the school is sufficient to reduce his misbehavior. If you decide that it is sufficient, then consider the matter closed. If, however, you decide it is not sufficient, then you must punish your child in a way that you think is sufficient.

You might wonder why a school would punish in a way that is not sufficient. Some options such as paddling are no longer available to many schools because of state laws. Also schools are afraid of lawsuits and other actions by parents. So if a child is disrespectful to a teacher, he may only receive a timeout from the group or a chat with the principal. Many schools merely send notes home deferring discipline to the parents. Therefore, if a child was disrespectful to a teacher and received a timeout at school, the parent would have to decide if he thought timeout was a sufficient punishment to reduce back talk in the future. If the parent feels that his child needed a more intense punishment than the timeout, then the parent should punish his child at home. On the other hand, if he thinks the timeout is sufficient, then he would not punish again. However, he should still talk to his child about his misbehavior and how he is expected to act in the future. In the end, the parent is the final arbiter on whether the matter was dealt with sufficiently by the school.

Question: You say parents should not delay giving a spanking. But what if a parent is angry. Should spanking be delayed long enough for the parent to cool off?

Answer: Yes, by all means. Never spank your child in anger. When you are angry, you are liable to spank too hard and cause bruises or welts. Therefore, if you are angry, take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself not to take your child's misbehavior personally; remind yourself that you are giving a spanking not to get revenge or get even with your child, but rather to teach a lesson. You may need to step away from your child in order to calm down. In that case, send your child to where the spanking will take place and remain where you are to cool off. Only go and spank your child when you have calmed down. But delay the spanking only long enough to cool off. Do not delay the spanking unnecessarily.

Question: My husband gave my stepson a spanking last night for not obeying me when I told him to clean up a mess. Today I noticed bruises on my son's bottom. My husband feels terrible and swears he did not mean to bruise our son. This is only the second time he spanked his stepson and the first time he did not leave any bruises. Is it normal to leave bruises?

Answer: No, it is not normal and should never be thought of as normal. If a spanking leaves bruises or welts, the spanking went too far. Period. Maybe your husband did not intend to leave bruises but the fact is he did cause bruising. Your husband needs to find out what he did to cause the bruising and then correct the problem. Did he hit too hard? Did he give too many swats in the same place? Was he using an implement that maybe should not have used? He should be able to figure out the cause of the bruising. Once he doe, then he can adjust the way he spanks next time. Bruising is not normal, so if it occurs take steps to prevent it in the future.

Question: I know you say children should not be spanked for accidents but don't you think children should be spanked during potty training? I'm just starting potty training and my friend says that spanking was the only thing that worked for her. She continues to spank when one of hers wets their pull-up on purpose.

Answer: I don't think spanking should ever be used during potty training. The accidents children have are not their fault. Children need to develop the appropriate muscles and an awareness of their bodies before they can be potty trained. During that development, they will have accidents which they do not intend. If a child sits down gently on his bed but the bed breaks, you would not punish the child because the bed breaking was not his fault. It was an accident; something he could not control. Now if a child jumps on the bed and it breaks, then he should be punished because it was his fault the bed broke. He did have control over the situation. If he had not jumped on the bed, it would not have broken. Accidents during potty training are like the first case: the child sitting down gently on the bed. Since the accidents during potty training are true accidents and not under the control of the child, the child can not be held responsible for the accidents.

I'm not sure how your friend knows when one of her children wets her pull-up on purpose. But if a child did such a thing as an act of defiance then punishment would be appropriate. However, you'd need to know it was on purpose, that the child had control and could have done otherwise, and that it was an act of defiance.

I'm sure you will get through potty training without using spanking. Most parents do. The key is to go slow. Many parents make the mistake of rushing potty training. Take small steps and when that step is mastered go onto the next step. There is a great deal of good information in books and on the Internet to guide you.

Question: My son was at a sleepover last weekend and there was some acting up. My son got a paddling for his part but his best friend was not punished at all. My son thinks it is unfair that he got paddled while his friend got off scot-free for basically doing the same thing. What can I tell him so he will not think I'm unfair and mean?

Answer: Unfortunately, this problem is not uncommon since not all parents are as strict and consistent in their discipline as they should be. Parents can minimize the chance of this happening by getting to know the parents of their children's friends. Find out what their parenting philosophy is. If you find out that a child's parents are lax on discipline, then your child should not be spending a lot of time with that child since his undisciplined nature will have a bad influence on your child. So in your case, if your son's friend was not punished for something you consider to be a paddling offense, then seriously consider whether you want your son to spend time with this boy.

When a child finds out that he was punished differently than one of his friends, he will often try to exploit this in order to get his parents to be less strict. However, you must not let him make you feel mean and unfair. If he deserved the paddling, then don't back down. Were any other boys present at the sleepover who acted up? If so, how where they punished? If other boys were punished, then point out to your son that not all boys who acted up got off scot-free. Second, explain to your son why you felt his misbehavior deserved a paddling. Remind your son that you disciplined him because you felt it was the best thing for him. Without running down the other parents, tell your son that letting a child get off scot-free is not the best thing for the child in the long run. Remind your son that you disciplined him because you love him and care about how he acts. After you have had this talk, consider the matter closed. If you continue to defend your actions after you have already explained them, you make your son think there is a chance you will become less strict. Once your son sees that your rules are not changing, he will drop his talk of unfairness and meanness.

Question: I was recently confronted by a woman for spanking one of my children. She insulted me and said a bunch of outrageous things. I was so caught off guard that any one would stick their nose in another parent's business like that that I did not know what to say to her. I want to know what I should have said to her so I'll be prepared if someone confronts me again. What happened was I was with my youngest daughter in Target. She had been acting up all morning and the last straw was when she threw a tantrum because I told her we wouldn't have time to look at the dolls. She'd already gotten a timeout at home for whining when she did not get her way. If a timeout doesn't work then the next step is a spanking. We had errands to run and were not going to be home for a while so I took her to restroom and spanked her. My husband had dropped us off so I could not take her to the car. When we came out of the stall a woman was waiting for me. She said I should be ashamed of myself for beating my child. She said I did not deserve to be a parent. I told her I did not beat my child and that she should mind her own business. I started walking out and she yelled that was going to call child services on me. I did not beat my daughter. I gave her more than a pat on the bottom but it was not a beating. What do you say to someone that says you beat your child and threatens to have your child taken away?

Answer: I urge discretion when spanking outside the home for this very reason. If you spank outside the home, you never know if you'll be confronted by an anti-spanking extremist. I also urge discretion because you should not embarrass your child by spanking her in public. It sounds like you did use discretion, however, as you did not spank your daughter in the aisle of Target. Although you did use discretion, you were still confronted. Unfortunately, this is always a possibility given some of the misinformation that has been spread about spanking.

It also sounds like you did the best you could under the circumstances. If discipline is to be effective, it must closely follow the misbehavior. Since you were not going straight home, you could not have waited until you got home to spank your daughter since the delay between her tantrum and the spanking would have been too great. Since you did not have a car, you probably had no choice but to spank her in a stall in the restroom.

Notice that the woman was not trying to engage you in a rational argument on the appropriateness of corporal punishment. Instead, she was trying to use guilt and embarrassment to shame you into not spanking. It is sadly ironic that she acted as if she had your daughter's best interest in mind, yet she thought nothing of insulting the girl's mom right in front of the girl. It is also sad that the woman said you did not deserve to be a parent when she knows nothing about your relationship with your daughter. What anti-spankers fail to acknowledge is that spanking is just one part of the parent-child relationship. It is not the entire relationship.

Do not let this woman or woman like her intimidate you into never spanking outside the home again. Continue to use discretion as you did here, but if a similar situation arises and you have no choice but to spank outside the home, then I hope you will follow through and discipline as you see fit. Do not let someone that knows nothing about you or your relationship with your daughter change how you parent. Even if you use discretion, you may be confronted again. Since the anti-spanking extremists are not looking to engage in a rational dialogue, do not waste your time or breath arguing with them. There is nothing you can say that will convince them that you are right and they are wrong. When confronted, do not be embarrassed or ashamed. Look the person in the eye and say firmly that you are well within your rights as a parent to spank. Tell them that how you raise your child is none of their concern and walk away. If the person continues to harass you or insult you, find store security and tell them you are being harassed. But most important of all, continue to parent according to your values. If you stop spanking even though you think it is necessary, then you have let the anti-spanker win.

Question: You say the number of spankings a child receives should decrease with age. But I have seen that with my older preteen the number of spankings he is getting is going up. Last year he only got one spanking the whole year but this year he has already gotten two spankings and the year is barely half over. Is spanking losing its effectiveness with him?

Answer: Generally the number of spankings a child receives will decline with age, but there may be periods when the number actually increases. Increases in an overall downward trend are usually temporary and occur for a variety of reasons. Your child may have suddenly started hanging out with kids that encourage him to act up. Find out if he has made new "friends" and if so whether they might be a cause for concern.

There are also certain periods in which children will test their independence by challenging your rules and your authority. One such period is around the age of two when it seems that the word "No" becomes the child's favorite word. This phenomenon is so common that it has been given a name, "the terrible twos." Another period in which children test their parents is the preteen years. During this period you see preteen sassiness and defiance.

It is a natural part of development for children to push for independence. Parents should encourage children to be independent in ways that are appropriate for their age. The problem comes when children push for privileges that are not appropriate for their age or for any age. For example, it is appropriate for toddlers to feed and dress themselves. It is not appropriate for a preteen to have no curfew or a curfew of midnight; nor would it be appropriate for a teen to wear jeans that are too tight, hang too low, or are too low cut. So parents walk a fine line. They must allow and encourage independence up to a point but not beyond that point. During the terrible twos and during the preteen years, children will often push for independence that is not appropriate. It is the parents' responsibility to know what is appropriate, and to encourage what is appropriate and to discourage what is not appropriate. When children continue to push their parents for what is inappropriate, this is defiance. Parents must not tolerate defiance and defiance always deserves a spanking. Therefore, your preteen may be showing increased defiance as he pushes for too much independence. This increase in defiance may account for the increase in spankings. When your child realizes that you will not tolerate defiance, the number of spanking should decline.

Also bear in mind that so far your preteen has only received one more spanking than last year, so it is not a huge increase. Just make sure you have not changed the rules on your child and now spank for things you previously did not spank for. You might want to review the section on When to Spank. You wonder if spanking is becoming ineffective. You know spanking is still effective if it continues to change your child's behavior. As long as spanking is still effective and as long as you only spank when necessary, then do not be overly concerned by temporary increases in the number of spankings.

Question: I am a single mom with a 10 year old daughter and a 7 and a half year old son. My daughter is extremely mouthy and disobedient. Most days when asked to do something she responds with sass and/or a straight out no. When sent to her room she continues to yell and be rude and normally either slams her door and or throws things! She is very smart and in a lot of ways older than she is but she is also quite immature about a lot of things. She stamps her foot quite often like a spoiled 3 year old while she's complaining, yelling or refusing to do as I ask. The last time I tried spanking was about a year ago. It was effective but I was not prepared to be consistent so I stopped. I would like to reintroduce this method of discipline! I am wanting to raise them to be respectful, obedient, and well behaved children that I can take out to places without fear of issues of behavior arising! Any further help or advice you could give me would be much appreciated.

Answer: It will difficult to change your daughter's behavior at this point given her age. It also sounds as if you have allowed her to act like a spoiled 3 year for a while. The longer misbehavior goes unpunished, the harder it is to change. But you have no choice except to try to change her behavior though since her sassiness and disobedience can not be allowed to continue. It is also better to take a stand now rather than when she is a teen. The task of changing your daughter’s behavior is not impossible, but it will be a slow, gradual process. Don't expect change overnight.

Whether a parent should “reintroduce” spanking will depend on how long it has been since you last used it and how effective it was when you used it. Since it has only been a year since you used spanking with your daughter, you should have no trouble using it again. Also it should still be effective now since it was effective last year. If you decide to spank, warn your daughter. The next time she is mouthy send her to stand with her nose in the corner. Corners are more boring than most kids’ rooms. When her corner time is up, scold her, letting her know how you expect her to behave in the future. As you scold her, tell her that if she acts up again, you will spank her. Don't make the threat unless you plan to follow through, so think about this carefully.

If she refuses to go to the corner, tell her if she is not in the corner in 3 seconds she'll get a spanking. Then start counting. She'll probably go. If she does not go to the corner, spank her and then put her in the corner. When she is in the corner, don't start the clock until she is quiet. If she whines, complains, or yells while in the corner, start the time over. It the yelling, complaining, or whining continues, consider it defiance and give her a spanking and put her back in the corner.

Be sure to spank every time she is defiant or disobedient. That sort of consistency is key to success. In the beginning there may be a day where she gets a couple spankings. It is ok for a child to occasionally get a couple of spankings in one day as long as the spankings are not excessive. The spankings will decrease as your daughter realizes you will not tolerate ANY defiance or disobedience.

Question: I have a 3 year old daughter that is very strong-willed. Her preschool teacher actually had a talk with me today after my child got upset several times and dropped to the floor because she didn't want to listen and it just had to happen on school picture day. She asked me if there was any effective method she could try. I'm having a really hard time trying to figure out something that works for her. My husband and I started spanking her before she turned 2 and continued until about a month ago when I decided it just wasn't working as well as I would like it to. I've now tried time outs...they don't work either. She's extremely smart, sometimes shy, and I have rarely caught her lying. Her defiance is usually because she does not want to do anything that someone tells her to do. It has to be her idea. Also she likes to talk back, after punishment she will say "ughhh!" with an attitude. I'm just really confused on how to handle her especially with her being in school now. Do you have any advice?

Answer: There may be some cases where you can give her choices and so things can be her idea. Save the battles for areas where there really is no choice. Tell her clearly what you want her to do and why you want her to do it. When she will be asked to do something that is new for her, start talking to her about it in advance. For example, several days before picture day, start talking to her about it and telling her what will be expected of her. This will make the new situation less strange to her.

When she won’t listen or is defiant then punish her immediately. Make her tell you why she is being disciplined. As for what will work, not every punishment will work with every child but every child will respond to at least one or two punishments. Punishments have to be unpleasant—that is what makes them effective. So remember to make the punishment of sufficient intensity for her age so it will be unpleasant. A timeout for her would be standing with her nose in the corner for three minutes without talking. You should also reconsider spanking her using the guidelines I have suggested on the How to Spank page. One of the things I suggest is combining spanking with a timeout of sitting in a chair. I find the two together are more effective than either one alone. Also think about taking away a toy for a period of time or combing this with spanking or timeout.

Don't let her be defiant after a punishment. If she is defiant then I would punish her again. As long as your punishments are not excessive it is not a problem to punish her twice in row. So if she is defiant after timeout give her a spanking.

The teacher will be limited in how she can discipline. She could start by using timeout or loss of some privilege that you daughter enjoys. Also let you daughter know she is expected to obey other adults and that she will disciplined if she acts up at school.

Last it is important to be consistent with your daughter. This can become tiring as you sometimes feel you are in a constant battle. Don't let your daughter's strong will wear you out. Hopefully, you and your husband can work together to make sure neither one of you get worn down.

Question: I need help with my four year old son. He has been defiant for some time now and is sometimes aggressive with other children when he does not get his way. Examples of his behavior are talking back, saying no, deliberately defying or not acting on an order, hitting/kicking kids to get his way, pushing kids aside so he can be first, etc.). This is especially a problem for his babysitter (we see less at home, but he still does these things at times). He hates time out and will cry when placed there, but it does not change the behaviors. We have also used loss of television viewing time (he was allowed 1 hour per day, but when he has a "bad day" defined by two or more time outs it is taken away). And we have tried going to bed early. We talk to him constantly about what is acceptable and not acceptable, and he understands fully. Nothing works, he continues to repeat the behaviors. He often is good for a day or two after being punished, only to have the behavior return. Our main problem is that these behaviors are seen much more often at the babysitter. I suspect that she does not take a more stern tone with him (we do at home), and so he listens less often. I have never believed in spanking, as I was spanked as a child (the wrong way)and would not wish that on my child. I am thinking I may want to try it, because nothing else is working and I need to get the message across. My question would be, would the spanking be effective if I punish him hours after we leave the babysitter? (having her spank is not an option). Could this still be effective?

Answer: A delay of several hours between misbehavior and spanking will be less than ideal but a delay between misbehavior and any punishment is less than ideal. Children your son's age can quickly forget misbehaving so they have a hard time connecting the punishment with the misbehavior after a delay.

Although spanking after a delay is less than ideal, you can increase the effectiveness of spanking after a delay in a couple of ways. First, when he acts up with his sitter make sure she tells him that he is being a bad boy and that she will have to tell his mommy and daddy that he has been naughty. This focuses his attention on his misbehavior and makes it likely he will remember it.

Second when you get home, help him remember what he is being punished for. So if he defied his babysitter when she told him to pick up his toys, say, "Remember when so and so told you to pick up your toys? What did you do? Did you pick them up right away? You told her "No" didn't you? and so on. Make it very clear to him why he is getting a spanking. Then after the spanking and after he has sat in time out, ask him why he got a spanking to make sure he knows why he was punished. On the other hand, if the babysitter gives you a good report, praise your son and tell him, "so and so said you were a good boy. That's great!! I'm proud of you!!"

Third on the way to the babysitter, remind him of how you expect him to act. Remind him that he is to obey his babysitter as he would obey you. Also remind him that if his babysitter tells you he was a bad boy that he'll get a spanking when gets home.

Last make sure you are consistent in punishment. You say he acts up mostly with the babysitter but that you get some of it at home. Make sure he is spanked at home if does something that earned a spanking when he did it with the babysitter. He'll be less likely to talk back to his babysitter if he remembers that when he talks back at home he gets a spanking.

I think spanking after a delay can be effective if you follow these four pointers. If you are consistent and patient, your son will learn what is acceptable and what is not.

Question: I have been a stepmom for 6 months now and want to know if it is too soon for me to start spanking my stepchildren. The kids are well behaved for the most part but there have been some issues with the kids respecting me. My husband, their dad, has been very supportive but he is not always there so I think I need to start disciplining the kids myself. Is it too soon for me to start taking an active role in discipline? I don't want to be the wicked stepmother but I do think the kids need to show respect to me.

Answer: How soon a stepparent should begin to discipline stepchildren will vary from family to family, but generally, I think the soon the stepparent takes a role in discipline the better. When a stepparent enters a family, the stepchildren naturally want to know what kind of parent the stepparent will be: Will she be strict or permissive? Will she back up the dad or will she take the kids’ side? Will she discipline herself or wait for dad? To find out the answers to these questions, the stepchildren will test the stepparent. If a stepparent waits too long to establish her authority, then bad habits can become established. If she does not punish disrespect, back talk, defiance, and disobedience from the start, then disrespect, back talk, defiance, and disobedience will become habits with the children, and it will be difficult to eliminate them later.

It is certainly understandable that you fear being thought of as the wicked stepmother if you come into the family and begin punishing right away. But in your case, you have been living with the family for six months; that is more than enough time for the children to get to know you and see you are more than just a disciplinarian. You are less likely to be perceived as a wicked stepmother if you make sure that you are doing more than just scolding and punishing the kids. When they accomplish something or do something good, praise then, tell them how proud of them you are. Spend time with them playing games, doing crafts, whatever the kids like to do. In other words, become an overall parent. If you are an overall parent, the children will realize that discipline is just part of what you do.

For those who might become stepparents, I encourage you to get to know the kids as you get to know their father or mother. Take the children along sometimes when you go out with their parent. Even spend time alone with kids. This allows the children to get to know you, so that when you live with them and begin to discipline them, they already know you are more than just a disciplinarian. If you are an overall parent that works to create a good relationship with the stepchildren, then begin to discipline the stepchildren soon after the families blend. By starting to discipline earlier, you prevent bad habits from forming.

Question: My kids recently stayed with their grandparents (my parents) for a week. While they were there my youngest daughter got a spanking from my father. She tells me now that she does not want to go to her grandpa's anymore because he is "mean." Before then she loved going to see her grandpa. Should I be concerned? If the other kids want to go visit their grandpa should I force her to go or give her the option of staying home?

Answer: Children sometimes become angry for being spanked. The chances of an angry reaction can be minimized if the parent, or in this case grandparent, makes certain the child understands the reason for the spanking and how they should behave in the future. Children are also less likely to react with anger when the spanking is reasonable rather than excessive.

Did you and your father explain to your daughter why she received a spanking? Does she understand the reason? Does she understand how she should have behaved? Ask her plenty of questions to make sure she understands. Also did the spanking seem to be reasonable? Talk to both your daughter and your father to find out if the only thing that happened was a child receiving a deserved spanking.

Your daughter also might be upset because she found out that her grandfather will not let her get by with everything. Grandparents are often more lenient than parents, so children are able to get by with misbehavior that their parents would never tolerate. Grandparents are often more lenient with their grandchildren than they were with their own kids, much to the surprise of their grown children. Because grandparents often spoil grandchildren, a grandchild can react angrily when on the rare occasion they are told “no” or disciplined. Having their wishes denied by grandparents that usually indulge them can be very upsetting to the child.

It would be better if grandparents were more consistent in discipline and disciplined for the same things as parents. Therefore, when a grandchild was disciplined it would seem less arbitrary, less out of the blue. So consider whether your parents are spoiling your kids too much. If you think your parents are spoiling your children, then talk to your parents.

Your daughter will probably get over this soon enough herself. But if she does not, then you need to talk to her. If it turns out that your father merely gave a reasonable spanking that was deserved, then do not allow your daughter to pout about it. By letting your daughter pout or stay home, you are saying to your daughter that her grandfather did something wrong. If he acted appropriately, then let your daughter know that in no uncertain terms.

Question: Wondering if you'd be willing to update your site to include your thoughts on the latest research that has found that spanking leads to lower IQs. P.S. I spank my kids. And am uneasy over a move in my area to make all corporal punishment deemed child abuse and therefore criminal. I'd love your thoughts on the IQ findings. That seems to be the only missing item on your site.

Answer: I’m sure there are many missing items, but let’s try to make it one less. Where to begin on the research between spanking and IQ? First, the research that I’m aware of looked at the relationship between “physical punishment” and IQ1. The subjects in the study were asked about being “hit a lot”. So a person might say they were hit a lot meaning they were spanked a lot (swatted on the bottom) or they might mean they were hit on the back with an electric cord. Spanking is acceptable; hitting a child with an electric cord is not acceptable. My point is, the study lumped spanking and abuse together. Also if you consistently have to spank a lot, you are not spanking effectively. This study did not address the question of whether moderate, reasonable spanking lowers IQ.

Second, the differences in IQ’s between those physically punished a lot and those not physically punished a lot were small. They difference was 5 points in younger kids and 2.8 in older kids. No one would notice a difference between children that have IQ’s only a few points apart. And those differences in IQ would not matter in terms of education, job opportunities, etc. Third, the researchers found only a correlation (association) between physical punishment and lower IQ, but many in the media were claiming that spanking lowered IQ--not what the study found. The fact there is only an association means that you can not say that the physical punishment caused the lower IQ.

I think this is another example of anti-spankers distorting research. They are trying to fool loving parents into thinking that every time they spank their child, they are lowering his IQ. But that is an utter distortion of what they study found. The study did not address reasonable spanking.

Question: Is it ok to hug my children after a spanking. I want to let them know that I still love them but my husband says children should be left to cry it out? What is your opinion?

Answer: I do not recommend that you hug a child immediately after a spanking. Hugging your child immediately after a spanking can cause your child to be confused since they are being punished and hugged almost at the same time. Wait until the punishment is over and your child is composed before hugging him.

Immediately after a spanking put your child on a chair. Having your child sit on a chair gives your child time to compose himself and it gives him a chance to think about why he was punished. After the time out on the chair, then remind your child how you expect him to behave in the future. Assure your child that you still love him but do not like that way he was behaving. If at that time you feel like hugging your child, then do so. Make sure you don't just hug your child after a spanking. Some parents are so sparing with their hugs that their children are willing to get a spanking just for a hug. Hug often and wait until the punishment is over to hug.

Question: I know you have answered similar questions but I really need some help with this. My son's new babysitter says he is whiny, sassy, and defiant when he is with her. I am frankly shocked by this because this does not sound like my little boy. He is very sweet and tries hard to please when he is at home. How can my sweet little boy be so naughty when he is with the sitter? And what can I do to stop his naughtiness with her?

Answer: When the babysitter reports your son’s behavior to you, make sure she gives you enough details for you to decide whether his behavior is inappropriate or not. Sometimes a child’s seemingly naughty behavior is merely the result of a misunderstanding: the babysitter considers something defiant that you would call normal child behavior. Some inexperienced babysitters or babysitters without children don’t have reasonable expectations for children. Make sure your son is really being whiny, sassy, and defiant with the babysitter before going further.

If your son’s behavior is truly inappropriate, there can be many reasons why he is acting differently with his babysitter than with you. The first thing to consider is whether he has acted this way with other babysitters or caregivers or just his new babysitter. If he acts this way with all babysitters, then this is a general problem. If he acts this way only with this new babysitter, then it is specific to his relationship with her. Knowing whether the problem is general or specific will show you where to focus.

Children often act up because they feel they are not getting enough attention from the babysitter. So does the babysitter only have your son or is she spread thin with other kids. If she is spread so thin your son’s basic needs are not met, then you find another babysitter. But if this is not the case, then work with this babysitter and your son to correct the problem. It may just be a matter of teaching your son to share attention.

Since your son has a new babysitter, he is likely testing her to see what the rules and boundaries are. Also many children act up with babysitters because most babysitters are less strict than parents, so children soon realize they can get by with things they could not at home.. So if your son is testing his new babysitter and he is not getting disciplined for his naughtiness, the naughtiness will only increase. Make sure your son understands how you expect him to behave with his babysitter. I assume you would not tolerate whining, sassiness, and defiance at home. Let your son know you will not tolerate whining, sassiness, and defiance away from home. Talk to your son before you drop him off at the babysitter (or before she comes to your house) about how you expect him to behave. Remind him of the consequences of being whiny, sassy or defiant with his babysitter. When you pick him up, ask the sitter in front of him about his behavior. If he was a good boy, praise him. If he misbehaved, then discipline him as soon as you get home. If you are consistent in this, then you will see a change in your son’s behavior with his new babysitter.

Question: Yesterday, I heard my daughter play spanking her dolls because they had been naughty. This is the second time I have overheard her spanking her dolls. When my daughter is naughty she gets spankings so doesn't this prove that spanking my daughter is making her hit.

Answer: I assume that your daughter was playing mommy. Certainly this is not uncommon for little girls. In fact, pretend play is important for development because it gives children a chance to practice the values of their family and culture. Since spanking is used in your home for discipline, it is natural that your daughter will use spanking in her pretend home. From what you describe, it seems your daughter knows that spanking is used by a "mommy" when a child is "naughty". It doesn't sound like spanking is making her hit other children. I don't think you have anything to worry about. It sounds like your daughter is on her way to being a good parent.

Question: You say on your site that kids should be allowed to cry after a spanking but you also say that kids should be punished for excessive whining and tantrums. Aren't you contradicting yourself? I'm not trying to pick a fight. I'm just trying to figure out whether kids should be punished for showing their feelings. I don't think my six year should be throwing tantrums like he does but I'm afraid if I spank him for throwing tantrums he'll be afraid to show his feelings later when he grows up. So could you clarify whether kids should be punished for showing their feelings or not?

Answer: Sorry for the confusion; let me try to clarify. Children should not be punished for having feelings. But children should be punished when they show their feelings in unacceptable ways.

In any situation some feelings or emotions are appropriate and some are inappropriate. Also emotions can be expressed in acceptable and unacceptable ways. Let me give you an example. Suppose an adult yells profanities and throws things when the boss denies his request for a vacation day. Most people would think that becoming so angry in this situation is out of line. And even when a person is angry, yelling profanities at the boss and throwing things is not an acceptable way to express anger. And the boss would think so too. She would probably reprimand if not fire the employee.

But adults do sometimes show inappropriate emotions or express their feelings in inappropriate ways. They do this because they were not taught how to properly express their emotions as children. Therefore, I believe parents must teach their children what emotions are appropriate in a situation and how emotions should be expressed.

Parents can teach children about emotions in a couple of ways. First, parents should set good examples. Parents should demonstrate acceptable ways of expressing feelings. Unfortunately, some parents punish their children for throwing tantrums and then turn around and throw tantrums themselves because they have to wait at the drive through of the fast food restaurant. So make sure you set a good example for your children by controlling your own emotions. Second, parents should talk to children while reading stories and watching movies and shows together. Parents can use story time or movie time to talk about what emotions a character might feel, whether a character is acting appropriately, and so on.

Last, children should be disciplined when they show their feelings in unacceptable ways. A six-year old that throws tantrums or whines needs to be disciplined for acting the way he does. But teaching children about emotions isn't over with childhood. The preteen that whines or throws her cells phone and runs to her room and slams the door when she is told she can not go to the mall with her friends also needs to be disciplined for acting the way she does. The first time a child shows his emotions in an unacceptable way, he should be scolded. The second time, the child should be scolded and put in time out standing in the corner. The third time, the child should be scolded and spanked.

When scolding, it is important to let your child know that he is being punished for the way he is acting, not for his feelings. So when your son throws a tantrum or whines, tell him what actions he is being punished for and tell him how you want him to act in the future. Just as the child that throws a tantrum after being told she can not go to the mall should be told that it is ok to feel frustrated when she doesn't get something she wants, but it is not ok to throw things and yell when she is frustrated. In this way, you are not teaching the child that showing feelings is wrong. But you are teaching the child that some ways of showing feelings are appropriate and some ways of showing feelings are inappropriate.

As for a child crying when getting spanked, remember I have said that spanking has to be painful. Therefore, it is appropriate for a child to cry when getting spanked. That is why I have said a child should be allowed to cry. Hope this clears up the confusion.

Question: My son is three years old and we used to spank him, but he started cowering and would act as if we beat him, which we don't. Not only did this make us feel terrible but it got really embarrassing in public as well. After a spanking, he continues to act out and be spiteful. No other form of punishment is working for him though, and I'm at my wits end. what do you think would be a good way to handle this situation?

Answer: If no other punishment is working, then I suggest you start spanking him again. Since your spankings are not severe, he probably cowers because he saw another child in a store cower and get out of a spanking, so your son tried cowering to get out a spanking. It is really hard to tell what started, it but you can reduce the chances of it continuing. As for his acting out after a spanking, it probably is spit. He is probably angry because he does not understand why he was spanked or feels the spanking was unfair. His acting out after a spanking can be reduced too I think.

When he misbehaves in public, pick him up and carry him to the car or a restroom for the spanking. He may cry or fuss as you carry him but most people feel for the parent that is carrying a crying or fussing child. People will not judge you the way you think they are will.

Before, during, and after the spanking remain calm. Scolding firmly and in no uncertain terms, but without yelling or shouting, let him know why he is getting a spanking. Talk in a way a three year understands. This scolding makes it less likely he will feel his spanking is unfair. After his spanking, put him in time out. I suggest sitting him on a chair. Make him sit there until he is calmed down and composed. The time out makes it less likely he'll act up after his spanking. When the time out is over, remind him again why he was spanked, tell him what he needs to do to avoid getting another spanking. Ask him if he understands. Then tell him you still love him. If after a couple of spankings, you see that he continues to act out after a spanking, start putting him to bed after a spanking until he is calmed down. I think these ideas should work if they are used consistently.

Question: Kids should be spanked right after they misbehavior so if they misbehave with the babysitter ideally they should be spanked by the babysitter. Ok, I get that. I also get that parents should only let a babysitter spank if they trust the babysitter. But here is my question, is there a minimum age that a babysitter must be before you let them spank?

Answer: I would be reluctant to give a specific age. I think chronological age is less important than emotional age. I think the babysitter's maturity and how responsible they are is more important than a number. We all know some young people that are more mature than some middle-aged adults we know. Obviously, you would not have someone watch your children that you did not trust. But giving someone permission to discipline let alone spank your children requires an even higher level of trust on your part. Rather than focus on their age, focus on how much you trust them to discipline your child responsibly.

When considering whether to give a babysitter permission to spank your child, ask yourself these questions. Is the babysitter able to recognize genuine misbehavior and not confuse misbehavior with accidents or normal kid stuff? Is the babysitter mature enough to use spanking only in cases of serious misbehavior? Will the babysitter be able to punish without anger or meanness? Will the babysitter be able to spank without embarrassing or humiliating your child? Will the babysitter have the willpower to follow through and complete a spanking even when your child is upset? Is the babysitter mature enough to spank effectively without the spanking being excessive? If you answer "yes" to all of these questions, then your babysitter may be mature enough to spank your child. However, if you answer "no" to any of these questions or if you feel uncomfortable allowing your babysitter to spank your child, then do not allow the sitter to spank. The decision to allow a babysitter to spank your children should come down to trust, not age.

Question: I just read online about a study that says children who are spanked are likely to develop mental diseases like depression. I have spanked my children but now I feel concerned that they may grow up depressed or with drug and alcohol problems. Will spanking my kids cause them to have mental illness when they get older?

Answer:They study you are referring to is by Tracie Afifi and her colleagues and was published by the journal Pediatrics2. What the authors of the study actually found is not what the web sites and media groups are reporting. The authors found that harsh physical punishment is correlated with higher rates of mental illness. The authors did not find that spanking causes mental illness. Let me explain the difference. The authors stressed that their study examined "harsh physical punishment." How did the authors define "harsh physical punishment"? The authors relied on answers to survey questions from a large sample of the US population. One of the questions on the survey was: “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?” (p.3 of the study). Respondents who said they were sometimes or often pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit were consider to have suffered "harsh physical punishment." The researchers then compared the frequency of mental illness in those who experienced harsh physical punishment to the frequency of mental illness in those who did not experience harsh physical punishment. They found a higher rate of mental illness in those who received harsh physical punishment.

Notice the survey question quoted above mentions things like "pushing", "shoving", "grabbing". The word "spanking" does not appear anywhere in the question. The word "slapping" is used in the survey question, but there is no distinction between slapping on the bottom which this site defends and slapping in the face which this site does not defend. The authors stated they intentionally used the phrase "harsh physical punishment" because they were including acts that are more severe than spanking. The bottom line is that the study found a link between harsh physical punishment and mental illness. It did not find a link between spanking and mental illness. Unfortunately, web sites and other media were not as careful as the authors and spanking become the focus, not harsh physical punishment. This sloppy reporting only serves to make good parents who spank feel needlessly guilty and worried.

The study found a link or association between harsh physical punishment and mental illness. The study does not even prove harsh physical punishment causes mental illness. Harsh physical punishment may cause mental illness, but there are other possibilities such poor, dysfunctional parenting which may lead to the use of harsh physical punishment and to the children's later problems. Also we need to keep in mind that mental illness is complex and can have many causes. Not everyone who has mental illness was harshly treated as a child, and not every child who is harshly treated develops mental illness. Having said that, is anyone really surprised that the harsh treatment of a child can lead to later problem. Any sort of mistreatment, whether it is physical, verbal, or emotional can lead to later problems. But saying that physical mistreatment can lead to later problems is not the same as saying that spanking leads to later problems. Often slapping a child in the face or sometimes shoving a child is not the same as occasionally spanking your child. And to say that verbal abuse can lead to later problems does not mean you should never scold your child. A scolding is not the same as insulting a child or swearing at a child.

We should have free and wild-ranging discussions of what is good and poor parenting but let's be honest in our discussions. Let's stop confusing physical abuse and mistreatment with spanking.


  1Straus, M. A. (2009). Differences in Corporal Punishment by Parents in 32 Nations and its Relation to National Differences in IQ.


  2Afifi, T. O. et al. (2012) Physical punishment and mental disorders: results from a nationally representative US sample, Pediatrics peds.2011-2947; published ahead of print July 2, 2012, doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2947, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/06/27/peds.2011-2947.

This material is copyrighted by Paul J Preston, 2004-2014. All rights reserved.