The case against spanking- How my experience echoes decades of research
spanking has the same detrimental effects on your brain as abuse
By Karen Braveheart
Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior.
They’re mistaken. It harms them for life.
This blog is for parents who believe spanking doesn’t harm their kid because “they turned out fine” and they were spanked as a kid.
This blog is also for parents who want to learn another way to discipline their kids instead of spanking them.
A parent should never spank their children. Ever.
Spanking a child should be outlawed everywhere in the world. Today, it’s outlawed in 65 countries, but not the United States.
It’s 2023, and some states still allow spanking in the home and surprisingly allow schools to spank their students- your children.
If someone tried to hurt my child- the hoops are coming off, ie, mother bear is coming out.
my munchkins, ages 9, 7, and 5
Domestic violence is a crime so why isn’t spanking aka corporal punishment a crime? If someone hits an innocent child, they should go to jail.
“Some scholars have described spanking as children’s “first experience of being the victim of a deliberate physical attack.” Discover Magazine
The latest neuroscience (Alex-hyperlink this article please to the word neuroscience pls) “Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children" shows how detrimental spanking is to a child’s mental health. I dare you to show me one evidence-based brain scan that shows spanking is positive for a person’s mental health.
It has negative consequences to your child’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
How do I know?
I was the kid who was spanked.
I got spanked and hit more than my sister. I shielded her and took the brunt of it from my abusive father.
me (left) and my sissy in our apt in Queens, NY. The vinyl sofa covering was my mom’s idea
Every time he spanked me, it was the same.
He’d get mad for any or no reason and ordered me to turn around.
He then spanked me
It made me feel humiliated
It made me feel like a worthless piece of shit
It made me feel shameful for simply breathing
It made me feel bad at the core of who I am
Why was I even alive? I would think to myself
It made me hate him
I lost all respect for a man who would spank his daughter the way he did to me
This is love?
My dad taught me to equate love with fear
"Love has no fear in it. True unconditional love feels peaceful inside"
I would see this glean in his eye after he spanked me
Like it made him feel better about himself. Disgusting
I never understood why a father would teach his daughter that it’s ok for a man to hit them
That’s violence not love
It made me into a commitment phobe- never wanting to get close to a man, even though I was always in long term relationships
It made me hate him
I lost all respect for a man who would spank his daughter the way he did to me
It made me not trust men.
They were bigger and stronger than me, and they hurt me
Do you want your child growing up like this? If you spank them, you’ll scar them for life.
Learning true forgiveness- I stopped talking to my dad for 3 years and then one day….
When I was 27, I made a choice to stop talking to my dad. I didn’t send him a birthday card, call him, or see him for three years.
There was no room in my life for his abuse.
I chose to love myself here and completely cut him off.
My dad and me at my law school graduation one year before I cut him out of my life
The only time I saw him was to help take him to doctor appointments and for his surgeries. Not a word was exchanged.
It was during this time that I found a therapist and healed. I took my power back.
"I realized that a dad who exhibits true masculine energy provides safety, security, confidence, support, and protection"
Instead, my father’s energy was toxic- unhealed trauma from his own childhood wounds- carried down to the next generation due to subconscious thought patterns in his brain.
He was abused by his mother, an overwhelmed woman who emigrated to the United States, from what is now Ukraine, to escape persecution. She single handedly raised six babies on the lower east side of NYC with no money for running water or shoes for her kids and an absent husband who was an alcoholic and a cheater.
He treated me the same way his mom treated him.
I learned how to give myself safety, security, confidence, support, and protection and healed the masculine energy inside me.
"I'm a cycle breaker and you can be too"
Then the call came.
I had just gotten back to my office in NYC from a court appearance when my dad called and asked me to come to his house. I let it go to voicemail.
My mom then called me to tell me that his health was deteriorating. I don’t remember what made me pick up the phone and return his call, but something inside me said do it.
He sounded different. He said that he had something very important to tell me and wanted to do it in person. He asked if I could come to his home and meet.
I told him that he’d have one shot at this. If he blew it, the next time I’d see him would be at his funeral.
I meant it.
My dad and me
That weekend, I drove the two hours from NY to NJ to visit my parents.
I found him sitting outside in their backyard crying. I stood there. What came out of his mouth was a complete shock.
He was sorry for everything. He apologized for the way he treated me. This was the one time that he ever acknowledged his wrongdoing and apologized to anyone.
And I could tell he meant it. I saw it in his eyes. I told him that if he ever said an unkind word to me or hit me he’d never see me again in this lifetime.. And from that day forward, he was a changed man to me. He was respectful, kind, and polite.
He died several years later on my birthday, September 16th, when I was pregnant with Ryan.
My dad and me (aged Kodak photo)
"I learned the power of forgiveness"
A Harvard brain MRI study for the last 50 years shows spanking is the same as abuse
A Harvard brain MRI study for the last 50 years shows spanking is the same as abuse with lifelong detrimental impact on a child’s mental health, Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children.
Research has long underscored the negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development, but 2021 research, shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats. -Harvard
“The findings are one of the last pieces of evidence to make sense of the research of the last 50 years on spanking,” says researcher Jorge Cuartas, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who coauthored the study with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues."
With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.”
The study, “Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children,” published in Child Development, and supported by the National Institute for Mental Health examined spanked children’s brain functioning in response to perceived environmental threats compared to children who were not spanked.
Their findings showed that spanked children exhibited greater brain response, suggesting that spanking can alter children’s brain function in similar ways to severe forms of maltreatment.
The study looked at 147 children, including some who were spanked and some who were not spanked in the beginning years of their lives, to see potential differences to the brain.
By using MRI assessment, researchers observed changes in brain response while the children viewed a series of images featuring facial expressions that indicate emotional response, such as frowns and smiles.
They found that children who had been spanked had a higher activity response in the areas of their brain that regulate these emotional responses and detect threats — even to facial expressions that most would consider non-threatening.
“Perhaps surprisingly, says Cuartas, spanking elicits a similar response in children’s brains to more threatening experiences like sexual abuse. “You see the same reactions in the brain. “ Harvard
"Spanking a child should be a crime in every country especially the US"
- It starts with your choice- If this blog resonates with you, and you'd like to make a change in the way you parent your child, that's huge! Once you make a choice, you need to commit to it 100%
- Take the time to think about how you parent in moments of stress with your child. How do you react? What is the tone of your voice, and what do you say? Most importantly, really look at your child- what is their emotional reaction to what you're saying and doing in a stressful parenting moment
- To learn more about the Prodigi Kids Self Worth Parenting Paradigm, read our free eBook. You'll gain a deeper understanding of how to raise your child with core beliefs of self worth and the neuroscience behind it
- Read our blog "Discipline vs. Punishment," which does a deeper dive into exactly how our model built on love and discipline builds positive self worth. In it, I discuss how "teachable moments" and "love boundaries"- 2 terms I coined, when used daily with your child, lead to happier, healthier, and more connected relationships
- Bring our products into your home to encourage a more loving engagement with your children and support our mission to make our Self Worth Parenting Paradigm the norm!
About the Author Karen Braveheart, CEO
Karen Braveheart is an attorney turned entrepreneur and mom of three who deeply cares about making the world a happier place by changing how we raise our children. Learn more