//At What Age Should a Child Get Spanked as a Form of Discipline?

At What Age Should a Child Get Spanked as a Form of Discipline?

Here’s a debate topic parents, experts, and teachers talk about — at what age should a child get spanked? Or is spanking a child really an effective form of discipline? There have been contradicting opinions and studies regarding this topic.

Spanking is a disciplinary method of corporal punishment used by parents for centuries to instill obedience and discipline. But at what age is it appropriate to spank a child? Read further to learn more about what experts say about spanking.

Does Spanking Discipline the Child?

Let’s clear the air out and see what experts have to say about spanking as a form of discipline. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, spanking is not an effective way to discipline a child whether be it at home or at school.

Parents spank their children with the desire to teach a lesson or instill obedience, but the outcome will depend on the frequency of spanking and the delivery method. The answer to the question: does spanking discipline a child is IT DEPENDS.

A parent’s decision whether to spank or not their child is a matter of personal opinion and should be based on what works best for the parent and child. Like any other form of discipline, spanking a child has its pros and cons.

That is why you’ve landed this page, so you can carefully consider at what age should a child get spanked, also if it is an effective parenting method. But there’s one thing you need to remember regarding spanking. Never spank your child for these reasons:

  • Out of frustration
  • Anger
  • To cause fear and intimidation
  • To embarrass

If you’re a parent wanting to discipline your child, keep in mind that there are other ways to teach obedience and compliance other than spanking. Which will be discussed further in the following sections.

Related Read: Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting Style

What Is The Appropriate Age for Spanking?

As a parent, if you think physical discipline through spanking needs to be reinforced to your child, you at least need to know the appropriate age for spanking. Generally speaking, if a child is ready for potty training, they are ready to face and understand the consequences. In other words, they are developmentally ready.

It doesn’t really make sense to spank a child younger than two years old as they don’t understand the negative consequences of their bad actions. Also, spanking babies may harm them physically.

Studies found that subtle spanking is an effective discipline for children ages two to six years old. This is the age where children can comprehend why they are being punished through spanking.

As the child gets older, it is advisable to reduce the spanking and resort to other forms of discipline. Disciplining children through spanking is your decision as a parent, but at least consider your child’s age when implementing this type of discipline.

How to Appropriately Discipline Your Child Through Spanking

For centuries, regardless the race or social standing, spanking has been used by parents or grandparents as a form of punishment. Some use their bare hands, while some with materials like a belt, ruler, wooden spoon, cooking spatula, or other tools.

As much as possible, use two to three open-handed swats only, and of course, minimize the force. Do not use tools like belts as this may cause physical harm to your child. As a general suggestion, for the first offense of the child, resort to non-physical discipline. If your child repeats the act, that’s equal to two spanks.

If you resort to spanking to correct your child’s negative behaviors, make sure to make them understand why that particular behavior is bad. Spanking to discipline your child without an explanation has no teaching value. Here are other reminders on how to appropriately discipline your child through spanking.

Consider the Appropriate Age When Spanking a Child

When spanking is used appropriately, it can be an effective tool to discipline negative behaviors, especially in toddlers or young preschoolers. But, before you even consider spanking to impose discipline, consider your child’s age.

As mentioned earlier, a child younger than 2 years old may not understand the consequences of their actions. Thus, spanking as a sign of discipline for children younger than two years old is not effective. Also, spanking babies may cause physical harm to them, which should always be remembered.

What about if your child gets older? Do you still continue to spank? According to the American Psychological Association, it is recommended, as much as possible to gradually replace corporal punishment with other forms of non-physical discipline such as time-outs or losing privileges.

Offer an Explanation

Always offer an explanation to your child on why their behavior is bad. Spanking without any explanation, much like any other form of punishment in general, is not an effective way of imposing discipline on your child.

For example, the child played with the gas stove. If you spank your child, explain that playing with a gas stove is dangerous as they might get burned and that they shouldn’t play with it again. This way, your child understands why they shouldn’t play with a gas stove again.

Limit your Spanking

Do you know that a child spanked frequently are more likely to be more aggressive when they get older? In addition, frequent hitting or spanking is linked to mental health issues during adolescence or adulthood.

In fact, there’s a limit to the number of spanks. As a general rule, the number of spanks given to a child should only be equal to the number of times the same rule was broken. For instance, it’s the 2nd time you caught your child playing with the gas stove.

Spank while saying, “This is for the first time you played with the stove, and this is for the second time you played with it again. You should understand that playing with a stove is dangerous, never do it again”. Your discipline should be accompanied by an explanation as this can be a teaching moment for the child.

Never Spank Out of Anger or Vent Out

Here’s something parents should never do: to span a child out of anger, vent out, intimidate or invoke fear. If you had a bad day at work and your child has done wrong, don’t vent it out on them. Being physically aggressive, most especially without an explanation or affirmation of love to the child can be damaging to their mental health.

Spanks should never be given out of anger, fear, or any other emotion you may feel the urge to vent out. Similarly, it should never be used to intimidate the child. When administering a spanking, always follow up with an explanation and affirmation of love for the child.

What Experts Say About Spanking a Child

Experts from different academic sources have shown strong evidence that spanking a child has negative impacts on a child’s physical and mental health. The same is true when yelling or shaming a child.

So what do the experts suggest? Do not resort to physical punishment when disciplining a child. As much as possible, try other non-physical forms of discipline at first such as a time-out or removing privileges. Use spanking as last resort to discipline your child.

Experts say that spanking may also seem helpful short term, but is ineffective and harmful in the long run. A child who is spanked often may interpret that using physical force is a socially acceptable method of problem-solving, which in the end what they’s resort to.

The Negative Effects of Physical Punishment

As parents, you should know the negative outcome of spanking. Physical punishments like spanking or hitting may lead to negative outcomes in a child, like:

  • Physical abuse (especially in cases of severe maltreatment): If a parent gets carried away with emotions while spanking, they may hit harder and may not be aware of it, and is a risk factor to physical injury. Spanking with force is a form of child abuse and may lead to blisters and bruises.
  • Fear: Spanking teaches a child to feel fear towards you, not respect or listen to you. Instead of learning from their mistakes, children will feel hurt and resentful.
  • Increased aggressive behavior: If a child grew up in an environment where spanking is used as an acceptable way to solve problems, the child may harbor an aggressive behavior. This means fighting and hitting will be their way to solve problems in the future as well.
  • Distrust: When children are spanked every time they commit a mistake, distrust between the parent and child develops over time. Sympathetic guidance is needed to keep the trust between the child and parent intact.
  • Poor self-esteem: If a child grows up being spanked for their wrongdoing, it lowers their self-esteem. A child may think “If I weren’t such a bad child, I wouldn’t get hit”.
  • Parent-child relationship: Most parents who spank their children have a poor relationship with their kids growing up. Spanking undermines the bond between the parent and the child.
  • Other implications of spanking: Anti-social behavior, mental health problems, poor social-emotional development, poor self-regulation, poor cognitive development, the poor brain response


What Are Other Ways to Discipline Your Child Other Than Corporal Punishment?

Spanking is not the only way to discipline a child. While spanking may feel like the fastest way to correct a child’s behavior, the truth is, experts, say that corporal punishment has long-term consequences on kids.

As much as possible, use spanking as the last resort when other forms of discipline are not effective as you think. At the end of the day, you’ll realize that the other forms of discipline are more effective than spanking. Here are other ways to discipline your child without raising a hand:


A time-out like facing the wall is an effective way to instill obedience in a child. Time-out means not being able to interact with playmates, play with toys, or keep quiet for a certain period.

A time-out teaches a child how to calm down and regulate their emotions. It gives them time to think and reflect on their behavior. A time-put also increases in older and younger children.

Teach Your Child New Skills

Instead of scolding or spanking, teach new skills to your child that they would most likely cooperate with. Not only are they learning a new skill but also efficiently spending their time on something productive. Also learning a new skill can help build their independence, confidence, and self-esteem.

Think of teaching new skills that are appropriate to their age and interests. For example, you can teach four-year-old self-care skills like washing their hand or getting dressed. Learning a new skill can help in the overall child development.

Remove Privileges

Many parents find removing privileges as an effective way to discipline. After all, as human beings, we learn our lesson when what we love are taken away from us. Removing privileges like WiFi, TV, or cellphone time are effective methods of teaching the consequences of bad actions.

How long will you remove their privileges? It depends on you. But usually, 1-2 days of removing privileges can help them learn their lesson. Grounding is also a form of removing the privilege of going out to play or hang out with friends.

Let Them Do Chores

Another alternative to corporal punishment is letting them do household chores. Not only are you teaching your child a lesson, but also teach them life skills of working inside the house. Let your child do the dishes, clean up after the dog, fix their bed, and many more.

Of course, you should always consider your child’s safety when doing a certain chore and if it’s appropriate for their age. You wouldn’t want your three-year-old to wash the dishes right?

Ignore Their Screaming or Yelling

Children, especially toddlers who do not stop screaming, yelling, or having tantrums may sometimes just want your attention. What can you do? You can try to ignore their behavior. Only acknowledge your child once they start behaving as this teaches them how to be polite.

Positive Reinforcement for Child Development

If your child does a bad deed, punishment is a natural consequence. But good behavior also deserves a reward, which is called positive reinforcement. For instance, did a great job in cleaning up their room, they deserve a treat like ice cream. Or verbal praise for the positive behavior is good enough.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Spanks Should a Kid Get?

As experts suggest, the number of spanks a child should get is equivalent to the number of times the same rule was broken. However, for the first offense, a non-physical punishment is suggested such as a time-out or losing privileges.

Does Spanking Worsen Behavior?

Several research shows that physical punishment like spanking or hitting may worsen the behavior of a child. This also leads to antisocial behavior, increased aggression, or mental health issues.

Is Spanking Child Abuse?

If spanking leaves a bruise, scratch, or cut, this is child abuse by definition. Applying excessive force when spanking may lead to physical abuse.

The Takeaway

So what is the bottom line in all of this? Spanking may or may not produce positive results for your child. Also, the effectiveness of this type of discipline depends on how you administer the punishment.

Just remember to use this type of punishment appropriately and within a limited capacity. As much as possible, resort to other forms of discipline by taking away screen time or a time out.

As parents, you should be more patient in implementing discipline and obedience to your child. One last note, two years is old is the appropriate age for spanking. Parenting is hard but being more patient will have positive effects on you and your child.

By |2022-03-20T17:40:55+00:00March 20th, 2022|Parenting Tips|Comments Off on At What Age Should a Child Get Spanked as a Form of Discipline?

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