Mom Talk: Should You Spank?

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By Lyz Lenz

I don’t tell my daughter “no.” And it’s not because I’m a lenient parent, which I probably am. It’s because at 9-months-old, she hardly moves. She sits very happily, chewing her stuffed octopus, or rolling around on the floor with her plastic snake.  Except for a brief bout with hair-pulling, which we survived using redirection, she isn’t even that ornery. No food spitting, face hitting, or toy throwing.


My husband and I read a lot of books about parenting and consequently, we think we know everything. It’s made us really annoying. Together we planned on using redirection discipline techniques, which basically amount to showing your kid a shiny toy every time they try to scratch the mole off your neck (okay, we have gone through that phase).

But, when you are elbows deep in a dirty diaper and your baby tries to roll away across grandma’s new carpet, holding up a shiny toy isn’t an option.

Over the holidays, there were lots of diapers changed on the floor and, each I laid her down and took off her diaper, my daughter laughed and tried to roll away. Each time, I used my free hand to hold her down and say “NO!” in my firmest, meanest voice. But without fail, she laughed right in my face.
Even though she’s only 9-months-old, I’m sure she’s not being mean. I didn’t arrive at this conclusion because I’m a crazy doting mom, but because my daughter isn’t strong-willed at all.  I think my daughter honestly believes this whole “No” thing is one big awesome game. Too bad grandma’s carpet doesn’t feel the same way.

And this is where my book learning is starting to break down. Both my husband and I repeat the same pattern—when our daughter wiggles during diaper time, we hold her still, say “no” firmly, and repeat as necessary. So far, we’ve had limited success. Friends have advised that now is time to start using some corporeal punishment, such as a small hand smack. The most recent polling information shows that over half of all parents spank their children and one in five parents admit to spanking their child “with a belt, a hairbrush, a stick, or some other hard object.”

Although, I believe firm rules are necessary to raising a kid who doesn’t suck, I’m completely too chicken to start spanking my baby. Fortunately, my husband agrees, although he argues she’s not ready and if she were, this would not be the time to bring out the spanking.

But friends have accused us of “coddling” our child or, worse, “spoiling” her. While I don’t parent by democracy, part of me is afraid they’re right. After all, I was raised with my parents spanking spoon—emblazoned with the proverb, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”— hanging on our kitchen wall. Just the sight of that thing was enough to scare me into not smashing Play-Doh into my sister’s hair. I’d like to think that if more parents took firmer approaches to discipline the word “sexting” wouldn’t exist. But smacking the bum or hand of a happy nine-month-old just seems egregious.

What do you think? When is it (if ever) okay to start spanking?

About the Author:
Lyz Lenz is a writer, a mom and a midwesterner. Although, not in that order. She lives in Iowa and on the web at

A recent poll shows that over half of all parents spank their children. But is it right?

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