Pope Francis says spanking is OK and why he’s wrong.

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Pope-Francis-smiling-warmlyToday, popular Pope Francis appears to have endorsed spanking as an acceptable form of punishing children with some conditions:


“One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them,’ ” the Pope said. “That’s great,” Francis continued. “He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on.” USA Today online.


The Pope is not alone, some polls have reported that an astonishing two thirds of Americans believe that spanking children is acceptable.


However, psychological research on the topic of spanking is “very clear and consistent about the negative effects on children,” according to Sandra Graham-Bermann, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan.


Spanking is associated with a large number of bad outcomes for children including increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems. Spanking can also lead to escalating physical struggles between parents and children that spiral out of control. According to psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD, “Physical punishment doesn’t work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous.”


Many people believe that spanking teaches kids right from wrong, but it actually does the opposite. It teaches kids:


  • Might makes right.
  • Physical aggression is an appropriate way to solve conflicts between people.
  • You don’t need to “use your words.”

Psychologist Alan Kazdin of Yale University points out that spanking is not an effective form of disciplining children. “We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”


There are many alternatives to physical punishment that do work.


See these previous posts:


1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan


The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan Kazdin.


The Explosive Child by Ross Greene


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.


for guidance on discipline that does not rely on spanking and other forms of physical punishment.



*This post is based in large part on an article that appeared in the APA’s Monitor on Psychology in April of 2012. Click the link to see this article.

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