Is Spanking An Effective Way Of Disciplining?

By Josh Lockhart, PHEc

Does spanking your child work? Or does it not work?  Is it an effective tool for disciplining your child and teaching them to be obedient?  According to a University of Manitoba Professor, Joan Durrant, the answer to the question is: spanking does not work.

Answering questions from Stockholm Sweden, she said that spanking, and other types of physical punishment, displays an aggressive conflict resolution model; which is a very ineffective model for resolving conflict because of its negative outcomes. It erodes trust in the child. It creates hostility and resentment towards the parent.  Also, physical punishment may create the environment for lying, as a child may begin lie in order to avoid being punished.

According to Durrant’s team research, the consequences of physical punishment in later life range from mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety; to drug and alcohol use; to damage done to the brain itself.

Durrant believes that parents need to use healthy and constructive measures when disciplining a child.  These constructive approaches help strengthen relationships and it shows children that they do not need to resort to violence to release anger and frustration.

Durrant says that “each year in Canada, more than 18,000 cases of substantiated physical maltreatment occur because the parent set out to punish the child.  If we just stop hitting, we can begin to stem this tide of violence.” She continued, “of course, hitting should not be replaced by yelling, name-calling, etc.  It should be replaced by effective, constructive discipline based on providing a safe, secure learning environment and the information and support that children need to progress to the next stage of understanding.”

To support parents Durrant has developed a manual for parents to utilize and grow their toolbox. You can download Durrant’s Positive Discipline manual at It is full of helpful tips of how to equip ones parenting toolbox. The best part is it is FREE!

My wife and I, for example, used some of the tips in the manual with my daughter. One day she was pretending to be Rapunzel from the Disney movie Tangled.  She got a hold of a frying pan and pretended to fight the bad guys.  Entertaining to watch, and thankfully she never hit her brother.  She then saw a fly on the window, and attacked it.  With the knowledge that she was just mimicking the movie, and having just recently seen me use a flyswatter, I understood some of her potential logic for hitting the fly on the window.  My wife and I stopped her and explained to her that glass can break, and then also got her to feel how hard the frying pan actually was, helping increase her understanding.  Some parents may have yelled, or done something else, in a similar situation.

It should be noted that parents who spank are not necessarily evil parents.  They may be resorting to the only conflict resolution model they experienced in life. They just need more tools in their parenting tool box.

Let us all increase our parenting tool boxes, and not resort to aggressive conflict resolution model of physical violence.  Let us all create environments that are safe for learning and growing.


Josh Lockhart works for the College of the Rockies in Kimberley BC. He is also a columnist with the Battleford’s News Optimist and a Co-Author with Notes On Parenting. Josh is currently a graduate student at Gonzaga University.