To Spank or Not to Spank?

A recent study by Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychologist and researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, says parents who spank their children risk causing long-term harm that outweighs the short-term benefit of instant obedience. "Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners, and even animals," Gershoff writes in a recent American Psychological Association Psychological Association bimonthly journal. However, Dr. Mark Bradford, psychologist and counseling program director at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo., defends mild to moderate spanking as a viable disciplinary option. Bradford has worked thousands of child custody cases in the legal system. "I have never seen a judge take a child away for mild, non-abusive spanking." Bradford does warn that no one legally or professionally condones excessive force in corporal punishment. Spanking in anger, leaving bruises or scars, is never appropriate, he says.

Yet there is a wide range of views in the psychological and medical professions.

Dr. Katherine Wurtz, a psychologist at Emerge Ministries, an Assemblies of God counseling center in Akron, Ohio, says using choices is a better option for school-age children. "You can tell children if they choose to misbehave in a certain way, they choose to lose a certain privilege, for example," she says.

Bradford agrees every child is different in regards to discipline. "Some children don't need spanking. But for many with a strong will, before age 7, it might be the best form of discipline.

"Reprinted by permission of the Pentecostal Evangel."

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