Spanking, Best Way to Raise Kids, Says Author
By Jason Pierce
April 12, 2002
(CNSNews.com) - A new book
that argues parents should avoid spanking their children and instead
form emotional connections with the kids is re-igniting the debate
over how best to raise children in modern-day America. One member of
the American Academy of Pediatrics calls the book, A Better
Childhood Without Discipline, "all theory," and insists,
"Nothing could be further from the truth."
Francisco-based clinical psychologist Dr. Theron Alexander explains
his theory of "connectedness" in the new book.
discipline can bring about only temporary obedience through the
rules and threat of punishment, connectedness forms the basis for
long-term results," Alexander said. "The absence of discipline does
not imply a lack of caring and guidance.
"Rather, it is the
creation of trust and a parent's belief in a child," he said. "This
teaches the child that he or she can depend on the parent for
Alexander adds: "Connectedness does away with
conflict in family life."
However, Dr. S. DuBose Ravenel, a
pediatrician in High Point, N.C., and a member of American Academy
of Pediatrics, serving on the AAP's section on developmental and
behavioral pediatrics, scoffed at Alexander's assertions.
laugh is the best response," Ravenel said. "I think what he is
expressing is all theory and nothing could be further from the
Alexander holds that mental illness, including
depression, is passed on from generation to generation, through
parents' flawed notion that spanking their children is the best way
to raise them.
"Mental illness has its conception in
childhood and [the] relationship with the parents, and often the
child's problems stem from the parent's problems," Alexander said.
"As a result, much of mental illness beginning in the childhood is
passed on from one generation to another.
"When children grow
up, they establish families, and often say, 'well, this is the way I
was raised, I will raise my children this way,'" Alexander said.
Spanking children as a means of discipline also sends mixed
messages to kids about their relationship with their parents,
"The relationship with the child is
damaged by conflict, and if you say to the child, 'I love you, I
care for you ... and I'm going to hurt you,' this doesn't make any
sense," said Alexander. "The child does not understand it.
Discipline, punishment, rules and regulations all mean that there is
lack of trust and confidence."
However, Ravenel said recent
research has shown, "disciplinary spanking has not been found to be
related to detrimental outcomes." He added, "parents who don't
combine a high level of discipline, especially spankings, with a
high level of nurturing have the worst outcomes.
shows that what [Dr. Alexander] says is not true," Ravenel said.
"Common sense clearly tells you the reverse of that."
the traditional use of corporal punishment as a means of discipline,
it is not now, and never has been useful, Alexander
"It's never been effective, and it's been
harmful," Alexander said.
"I think [spanking] is harmful,
and it teaches the wrong thing-that 'might makes right. If I am
bigger than you are, I can beat you up. You need it,'" he
Ravenel countered that physical discipline actually
creates closer bonds between parents and children.
argue quite the reverse-what it teaches a child is the reverse of
that," Ravenel said. "Children whose parents have displayed powerful
love and powerful discipline are the children who have the highest
level of trust and confidence in their parents."
added that focusing on techniques of childrearing, such as spanking,
is the wrong way to go about parenting. Instead, parents need to
find a balance between affection and discipline by which to raise
"I would submit that techniques are
relatively unimportant compared to the importance of parents raising
children with a proper balance of powerful love and powerful
discipline," Ravenel said. "A parent finds they can employ powerful
discipline and powerful love --they don't need to spank -- that's
"However, there is no evidence, none, that has been
published that shows that appropriate parental use of spanking has
been shown to cause any detrimental outcome," Ravenel
Since both parents work in many families, leaving them
little time to spend with their children, a 'connectedness' approach
to childrearing is more important now than ever, according to
"Parents are spending less and less time with the
children and often have turned to drugging the children to control
their behavior," Alexander said. "They don't provide the time,
affection and love the children need. There is a basic need for that
-- a concerned, close, affectionate, trusting relationship with
parents. And you can't do that by hurting, by control, by rules,
regulations and threats," he said.
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