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Spanking is responsible discipline for unruly children


QUESTION: I have never spanked my 3-year-old because I am afraid it will teach her to hit others and be a violent person. Do you think I am wrong?

DR. DOBSON: You have asked an important question that reflects a common misunderstanding about child management. First, let me emphasize that it is possible – even easy – to create a violent and aggressive child who has observed this behavior at home. If he is routinely beaten by hostile, volatile parents, or if he witnesses physical violence between angry adults, or if he feels unloved and unappreciated within his family, that child will not fail to notice how the game is played. Thus, corporal punishment that is not administered according to carefully thought-out guidelines is a risky thing.

Being a parent carries no right to slap and intimidate a child because you had a bad day or are in a lousy mood. It is this kind of unjust discipline that causes some well-meaning authorities to reject corporal punishment as a method of discipline.

Just because a technique is used wrongly, however, is no reason to reject it altogether. Many children desperately need this resolution to their disobedience. In those situations when the child, aged 2 to 10, fully understands what he is being asked to do but refuses to yield to adult leadership, an appropriate spanking is the shortest and most effective route to an attitude adjustment. When he lowers his head, clenches his fists, and makes it clear he is going for broke, justice must speak swiftly and eloquently.

Not only does this response not create aggression in a boy or girl, it helps them control their impulses and live in harmony with various forms of benevolent authority throughout life. Many people disagree, of course. I can only tell you that there is not a single well-designed scientific study that confirms the hypothesis that spanking by a loving parent breeds violence in children.

QUESTION: We hear a great deal these days about the demise of the nuclear family. Do you think these reports are exaggerated?

DR. DOBSON: Unfortunately, no. I’m convinced that the threat we’re facing in the area of family breakdown is very real. It’s a trend that involves a huge number of people in the United States and around the world, and their ranks are growing exponentially.

According to the census figures released in May 2001, the nuclear family has continued its downward spiral that began in the early ‘70s. Indeed, it is now in an unfettered free fall.

Our local newspaper in Colorado Springs, The Gazette, shouted the news in 72-point type: “Nuclear Family Fading.” The Boston Herald, in a column written by Don Feder, carried the headline “Nuclear Family in Meltdown.” Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society said, “We are moving toward a post-family society.”

Sadly and ominously, these assessments are true. This God-ordained institution, which has prevailed in almost every culture on Earth for more than 5,000 years, is unraveling right in front of our eyes.

Here are some of the most disturbing findings from the report: Households headed by unmarried partners grew by almost 72 percent during the past decade, most of them involving people living together out of wedlock. Households headed by single mothers increased by more than 25 percent, and those led by single fathers grew by almost 62 percent.

For the first time ever, nuclear families dropped below 25 percent of households. A third of all babies were born to unmarried women (33 percent), compared to only 3.8 percent in 1940. From other studies we know that cohabitation has increased by 1,000 percent since 1960. We are also seeing a growing number of unmarried women in their 20s and 30s who, like actress Jodie Foster, are choosing to bear and raise children alone. Clearly, there is genuine cause for alarm where the welfare of the traditional nuclear family is concerned.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO. 80903; or Questions and answers are excerpted from The Complete Marriage and “Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House. Copyright 2007 James Dobson Inc.