Editorials

Giving guidance on child discipline

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7230.261 (Published 29 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:261

"Safety valve" effect of spanking.

I have read the article on child discipline and the effect of
physical punishment on the child. One of the apparently forgotten effects
of spanking a child is the effect on the parent. I found that spanking a
child who persisted in unwanted behaviour had two effects - firstly it did
stop the unwanted behaviour in the child, and perhaps more importantly, it
provided a structured outlet for parental anger. If an unwanted behaviour
persisted past three warnings that it was unacceptable, including a clear
warning that a spanking would result, I found that spanking the child
limited the physical damage I could inflict. The structured response to
unacceptable behaviour imposed a limit on me as well as on the child.

I wonder if there have been any studies to examine the increase or
decrease in damage to children as a result of parents having no structure
to limit their aggression towards children. I am aware of the anger I felt
towards irritating children when I was tired and irritable myself, and
believe that the structured response to the childrens' discipline
prevented me from harming them in ways that are truly unacceptable.

Competing interests: a parent of four children all of whom were spanked at
some time, although the frequency of spanking diminished from the first
child to the last.

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 January 2000
George Bruce Alcorn
Rural G.P.
Riverton, South Australia
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