During the tapings, I listened to many women talk about the incredible stress they were under and how their goals for their sons were to keep them in one piece. I started to wonder if perhaps this was the one case where spanking might be tolerable; when someone is at the end of their rope, and a life is in danger.
This case was built further when I had the opportunity to chat with former NBA all-star Michael Ray Richardson during a private dinner. He looked directly at me and asked "If you're a parenting expert, then what do you think about spanking?"
We ended up having a great conversation about how his single mother who was raising seven children in an urban American city, "whooped him so badly, it kept him off the streets." He talked about respecting and fearing his mother, which probably kept him alive. He mentioned the times he was hit so hard that he still has disturbing flashbacks all these years later.
I can concede that if spanking is the only way to keep someone away from the jaws of gangs or away from a criminal life, it may be the lesser of the evils. I suppose it is better to be more afraid of your parent, than the gang members knocking at your door; however, this scenario speaks to a small percentage of the population.
There is the comment I often hear in my workshops where spanking gets defended: "I got spanked as a child and I turned out okay." I guess that depends on your definition of "okay." Many of my clients have explained how much they hated parents who spanked them. There are undoubtedly a great many adults who were spanked as a child, and may outwardly seem "okay," but they certainly aren't as good as they could be.
Unhappiness is one negative side-effect of being raised with spanking. Having been spanked as a child is also a risk factor for mental illness, addictions and even sexual problems.
Spanking might scare children into stopping a behavior, but it does not get them to think rationally or want to cooperate. It also doesn't teach people how to manage big emotions or develop conflict skills.
The worldwide view of scholars and the United Nations regarding spanking, or corporal punishment as it is usually referred, is pretty clear. There is the "Convention on the Rights of the Child" which was established by the United Nations in 1989. In it, Article 19 requires States to protect children from "all forms of physical or mental violence" while in the care of parents or others. The organization UNICEF has publicly stated their interpretation of this Convention is that corporal punishment should be removed from all homes and educational institutions.
To this date, 29 countries around the world have banned spanking in homes and schools. Canada and the U.S. are not one of those countries. Many
states have abolished corporal punishment in schools, but quite a few in the southern U.S. have not yet.