January 4, 2013
By Steve Hendrix
George Holden envisions a world without spanking. No more paddling in the principal’s office. No more swats on little rear ends, not even — and here is where Holden knows he is staring up at a towering cliff of parental rights resistance — not even in the privacy of the home. When it comes to disciplining a child, Holden’s view is absolute: No hitting.
“We don’t like to call it spanking,” said Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University and head of a newly formed organization aimed at eliminating corporal punishment in the United States. “Spanking is a euphemism that makes it sound like hitting is a normal part of parenting. If we re-label it hitting, which is what it is, people step back and ask themselves, ‘Should I be hitting my child?’ ”
For centuries, of course, the answer to that question has been yes for a huge majority of families. We’ve been unsparing of the rod, spanking our children just as we were spanked by our parents. And there’s precious little evidence to suggest we feel much differently today. While the percentage of parents who say it’s okay to occasionally spank a child has declined marginally in recent years, that “acceptability level” still hovers between 65 percent and 75 percent nationally.
And surveys that measure actual behavior reveal even higher rates of moms and dads willing to whack. Depending on how you ask the question, most surveys show that between 70 percent and 90 percent of parents in this country spank their kids at least once during childhood. In 2013 America, spanking a child is about as common as vaccinating one.
But Holden and a growing number of children’s advocates still believe the time is right for a serious effort to end corporal punishment. For some in the burgeoning stop-hitting movement, the goal is nothing less than a total legal ban on spanking in all settings, as has been passed by 33 nations in Europe, Latin America and Africa (soon to be 34 when Brazil becomes the largest country to outlaw spanking in final action expected this year).
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