The topic of corporal punishment for kids is one that has generated much controversy and debate. Research shows that spanking is being practiced in many homes while child health and development experts point to research that indicates that physical punishment is not effective and puts kids at risk for a number of negative outcomes. A developmental psychologist and associate professor at the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Texas at Austin as many as 83 percent of kids in America have been punished physically by their parents by the 5th grade. But there are signs that many are moving away from corporal punishment of children, says Victor Vieth, Executive Director Emeritus at Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, in Winona, MN. "There is a clear trend away from corporal punishment," says Vieth. "Many faith-based communities are moving away from it."  Using corporal punishment on their kids is something they view as a personal decision for many parents. They see it as an important, effective, and useful tool in teaching kids how to behave, and many who believe that physical punishment has merits feel defensive when corporal punishment is labeled as ineffective and potentially harmful. 

Why parents spank

But for parents on both sides of the debate, putting emotion aside--along with any criticism or judgement--and looking at the research is perhaps the best approach.  Spanking kids and using other forms of physical punishment is a risk, not a guarantee that kids will develop problems. It's much more accurate to look at corporal punishment as a safety issue, says Deborah Sendek. We have made a lot of changes to keep children and adults safer in our days. ‚ÄúThere are a lot of things that happened ten or twenty years ago that we don't do today, like not use car seats or bike helmets," says Sendek. "People smoked and drank while pregnant--doctors even recommended it. But today, I would not put a child on a bike without a helmet. We've made changes." Parents who were spanked as kids may want to take a hard look at their own experiences, suggests Sendek. Spanking may indeed stop kids in at that moment but research show that in the long run, pain and fear can prevent kids from learning the lessons the parents are trying to teach them. "Spanking doesn't teach kids to behave the way parents want them to, and can have the opposite effect," says Dr. Gershoff. " Punishment--corporal or otherwise--is not the alternative while failing to discipline ids can indeed lead to children becoming spoiled and unpleasant. A better approach is to take the middle ground, where there is a combination of firm and loving discipline without the pain or fear of spanking. It's worth noting that people who are, say, in jail or kids who are delinquent are likely to have been spanked just as much if not more than kids who are obedient or adults who are not breaking the law as for the argument that not using corporal punishment will lead to bad behavior.