There was a time in America when some people were treated as property, forced to do whatever other people wanted, abused without any ability to respond, and unable to obtain their freedom. Such behavior was legal and considered appropriate by the people practicing it.

When we look at the people who exhibited that behavior we think with repulsion, “What could they possibly have been thinking?”

I’m not referring to slavery 150 years ago. I’m referring to the abuse heaped upon millions of children daily by well-meaning parents who don’t realize the long-term damage being done by spanking and other forms of punishment.

Corporal Punishment Doesn’t Work


Research has shown that corporal (physical) punishment not only doesn’t stop the behavior it was intended to stop, it produces a host of negative consequences. These studies have linked corporal punishment to adverse physical, psychological and educational outcomes.

Researcher Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph.D., in a 2002 meta-analytic study that combined 60 years of research on corporal punishment, found that the only positive outcome of corporal punishment was immediate compliance; however, corporal punishment was associated with less long-term compliance. Corporal punishment was linked with nine other negative outcomes, including increased rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health problems, problems in relationships with their parents, and likelihood of being physically abused.

Time recently described a new study published in Pediatrics that confirms the results of many earlier studies, “As five-year-olds, the children who had been spanked were more likely than the non-spanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals.” (Emphasis added.)

We’ve discovered from our work with over 13,000 clients that most self-esteem beliefs are formed from interactions with parents during the first six years of life. Spanking produces the dysfunctional behavior described in the studies quoted above because it leads to such beliefs as: I’m powerless. I’m bad. I deserve to be punished. There’s something wrong with me. The way to be safe is to have power over others. Violence is an acceptable way to handle disagreements. The way to keep from being punished is to not get caught. I’m not good enough.

Despite all the evidence showing the negative consequences of spanking, many people still argue that it is a useful and appropriate tool for parents. One such person is Dr. James Dobson, a psychologist who Time called “the nation’s most influential evangelical leader.” He argues "

[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." (Emphasis added.) (From his book, Dare to Discipline, pages 6 and 7.)


Answering the question: “I have spanked my children for their disobedience, and it didn’t seem to help. Does this approach fail with some children?”, Dobson replied:

“The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t motivate a child to avoid the consequence next time. A slap with the hand on the bottom of a multi-diapered thirty-month-old is not a deterrent to anything. Be sure the child gets the message — while being careful not to go too far.” (Emphasis added.) (Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide)

Now you may be thinking, I don’t spank my child and I don’t know any parents who do; it isn’t really that common anymore. In fact, it is a lot more common than you might imagine. According to the Center for Effective Discipline, in the 2006-2007 school year, 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment. A recent survey in the UK showed that seven out of 10 parents used corporal punishment on their children.

Yelling Also Can Be Abusive

But that’s only half the story. A lot of people who would never physically abuse their children abuse them emotionally on a regular basis. Such people can grasp the brutality of hitting a defenseless child, but think nothing of screaming at their child, uttering such common phrases as: “What’s wrong with you?” “Are you stupid?” “How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t you understand English?” “If you were a good child you’d obey me.”

Our work with clients also has showed us that such emotional abuse often leads to as many negative beliefs about ourselves as physical abuse, including many of the same beliefs that spanking produces, plus I’m not capable, I’m not competent. Mistakes are bad. I’m not loveable. I’m not worthy. I’m inadequate.

There’s an important distinction to be made here: Physical and emotional abuse, as painful as it might be in the moment, has no long-term consequences. But the abuse inevitably leads children to form negative beliefs about themselves and life, that in turn lead to a wide variety of behavioral and emotional problems for the rest of their lives. (Thousands of clients have stopped their chronic anxiety, eating disorders, needing the approval of others, lack of confidence, etc. by eliminating the childhood beliefs that cause such debilitating problems.)

Why do we hit or yell at our children? The answer most parents probably would give is “Nothing else seems to get my children to listen.” Would you hit or yell at your friends who frustrated you because they wouldn’t listen to your advice? And if that’s not appropriate, what makes it okay to do it to defenseless children?

Shouldn’t Children Be Disciplined If They Don’t Obey?

Think of a time when you were disciplined by your parents. … Did you think: I’ll never do that again, or did you think: I’ll make sure I never get caught doing that again. … Did you learn anything from the punishment other than to make sure you don’t get caught? … Did it instill a moral sense of right and wrong and the desire to do what’s right, or were you just angry with your parents? …

rch has shown that spanking and browbeating sometimes can work to produce immediately compliance, but there is no learning involved. If they really worked to permanently change behavior you’d only have to use them once or perhaps a few times. It’s weird to me that parents justify hitting and yelling as a way to get their children to listen, and then keep doing it over and over because their children don’t listen! That reminds me of the old saying: Insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over expecting to get a different result.

Do We Really “Own” Our Children?

Many parents feel they are legally and morally justified in forcing their children to do whatever they arbitrarily decide they want their children to do, just because they are the parents. They hate the question “why?” because they usually don’t have an answer. If their children disobey, it’s okay for them to punish their children until they “cry.” Their justification: “How can we possibly get our kids to do what we want if we can’t spank them or yell at them?”

If a master’s absolute dominion over his slaves was justified by the argument that the slaves were “owned” by their masters, isn’t that the implicit argument that justifies punishing children? (Obviously, parents don’t consciously think that about their children, but think about it for a moment, isn’t that the implicit assumption out of which most parents operate? Don’t they think: “Who are you to tell me how to parent? They are ‘my’ children.”)

If we ever are going to raise a generation of children who don’t have the negative beliefs and day-to-day problems so many of us have today, the first thing we are going to have to do is realize that physical and even emotional abuse results in lasting damage. Not the actual abuse itself, which is over in a few minutes. But the meaning children give that abuse results in crippling beliefs that stay with them and cause them suffering for the rest of their lives.

This post is not meant to make parents feel guilty who didn’t realize the consequences of their behavior or who just don’t have any effective parenting skills. It is meant to destroy, once and for all, the idea that parents “own” their children and have the right to spank or scream at them for disobeying.

Please help get this post into the hands of as many parents as possible. Let’s do whatever we can to hasten the day when everyone looks back at these early 21st century parenting practices in America and says: “What could they possibly have been thinking?”

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  3. coolmom342003 March 2, 2012 at 11:59 am - Reply

    when i was a child i was spanked(beaten) until i was past a grown woman no never came out of my mouth never did nor stop(god forbid) nor help never talked about it i cant help but wonder(know) why my parents thought they owned me hell once your able to hurt somone repeatably and no responsibility is brought out for you then you’ll think i own this person shes a toy for my amusmement a robot at my disposal now i will say children teenagers when they get too haughty need discipline you know just to let them know that it is unacceptable to act that way now i dont know how to do this kind of discipline i dont know how its sad i had my rights taken away for so long i have no idea what good and bad punishment is now i tried with my kids not too go to far and i did pretty good pretty good but then my mother one of the many abusers started telling me what i could do and couldnt do and shamefully i listened to them oh we would fight about it but still the damage was done so yes corporal punishment is super harmful but plain discipline nothe only reason i know the difference is because of ideas i’m still at my parents beck and call they call that honoring i call it servitude maybe i’m wrong i’m a grown woman still at home with her parents cant drive i have a husband though but theres not enough for everyone he hollars a lot but he is getting better thank goodness i still work hard at this home in fear and servitude i am sure i need to quit griping they dont hurt me anymore i’m living with my neices and they drive me nuts their father my brother let them more or less get away with a lot its so sad their up-bringing is so hard on me chaos and anarchy is among us now so if u pray please i’m now asking for help all his children have been abused too by their mother who was on drugs so now i have to and my parents have to deal with the funk of freedom but abuse sucks so yeah pray for us thank you

  4. Olivia August 5, 2011 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Thanks for your article.

    Others have raised the important point of what to replace “spanking” (or assault as I would rather term it) with.

    Time-out for example has been much critiqued as abandoning children to their big feelings (though parents may sometimes need to take time to regulate themselves and their emotions in order to respond calmly to their children).

    The more parenting books I read, the more I see the current advice as falling into 2 camps – “power over” or “doing to” parenting and “doing with” or “joy based” parenting.

    The first is based on a more authoritarian or obedience/compliance model of parenting, whereby love is witheld if certain desirous behaviour is not forthcoming from the child. I am not suggesting parents doing this are at fault; I think the vast majority of us were raised with this model. It is just different and in my view leads to more struggle.

    I’m firmly in the latter camp, in that my intention at least (do not always manage it of course) is to support my children to want to “behave” of their own free will, not because I manipulate them to. I also trust that they will want to do this.

    I think a lot of the parent-child struggle (and the questions about what to replace “spanking” with) come from the fact that we can not, in actual fact, force (however nicely) anyone to do anything, even a child, without a cost to ourselves and their selves.

    I think a lot of us parent in this way from fear. We are often terrified of (a) what others may think of us and (b) raising psychopaths or just children that do not behave “well” if we do not “get” them to do things. We need a lot of reassurance and trust to be reassured that this is not in fact the case and we can feel free to connect with ourselves and with them calmly and joyfully without it leading to “uncontrollable” children.

    Through books and parenting coaches out there, and through my own children, I am learning that there is a different way and I am so happy to have found it.
    In my experience though, it is possible to have a joyful connection with your children and not to have to shame them into being people other than they are.

    The key I am learning is to focus on ourselves rather than our children… when we are in touch with our own emotions and can be fully present for our children then we can be fully present for them and we can respond to them with love and calm instead of stress and yelling. For some of us (like me!) there is a lot of unlearning to do in terms of how we were ourselves raised.

  5. Fleur Lees August 4, 2011 at 11:49 am - Reply

    It breaks my heart to hear that so many children across the world are still targets of corporal punishment in order to make them behave… There are so many great alternatives out there to help parents deal with behaviour and to aid communication and emotions in children, that it is awful to know so many are still resorting to physical, harsh and punitive punishments in the name of discipline….

  6. Becky May 23, 2010 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Ever since my daughter was born I have been saying, “she’s a person, even though she’s so young.” I try to Never take anything from her hands, I ask her first to hand me things. When I have had to take things, for her safety, I tell her I’m sorry that I acted that way and that I understand that it is very frustrating. I ask her if she feels angry. Then I distract her to something else. My daughter is 13 months and ALWAYS hands me anything I ask her for even if she cries while doing it. She respects me and I LOVE that!

    I have had lessons as well. I am thankful this information is in my life in the early stages in her life. The times I have not acted respectfully to my daughter have sent me crying for days sometimes. I cried out to God for options and He has been faithful.

    Morty, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for what you are sharing. I used your free belief eliminator video and I am even more happy with how it has freed me to treat my daughter, myself and my husband with respect and unconditional love. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! If there is anything I can do to help you spread your work let me know. I am a voice artist and am actively living your techniques so that others can learn through the example I can set with my life. AND Thank You from my daughter.

    • admin May 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for being the parent you are and for the positive difference you are making in your daughter’s life. I’m thrilled that we have been able to help.

      If more parents treated their children the way you describe treating yours, we’d be out of business in no time. Which is our goal.

      You can help to spread the word with your friends, on Twitter, in Facebook, emails, etc. Tell people your experience of eliminating beliefs and send them to our free belief-elimination website:

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Regards, Morty

  7. Blake Lefkoe May 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Great article dad! I wholeheartedly agree with you and enjoyed reading your blog as well as the comments. Thanks for raising me and my sister with unconditional love, respect and patience. Good luck getting this out into the world, glad you ‘re making a difference in the lives of the next generation.

    • Olivia August 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      Now that’s the kind of message I hope my kids will write in 30 years’ time :-)

  8. Keith Walker May 11, 2010 at 12:12 am - Reply

    Beautifully said! Thank you for your words, your work, your voice! Thank you for being!

    • admin May 11, 2010 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Keith,

      I really appreciate your comments. Thanks.

      Regards, Morty

  9. Maggie Macaulay May 7, 2010 at 6:01 am - Reply

    Hi Morty –
    Great post! Shelly came to south Florida and did a workshop several years ago through the International Network for Children and Families and our local team, RCB South Florida. It was a pleasure to be in her seminar and to meet her.

    A link to your post will be in an upcoming May issue of Parenting News You Can Use, our free weekly e-zine for parents and teachers. We want more people to see your article! Anyone wishing to subscribe can visit We teach the Redirecting Children’s Behavior Course which offers hundreds of alternatives to spanking and yelling. We talk at length about the impact of corporal punishment and provide skills to replace punishment.

    Thanks again for speaking out so powerfully in favor of doing it a different, peaceful way!

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      Hi Maggie,

      I forwarded your message to Shelly.

      Thanks so much for offering to reprint my post in your newsletter. The more parents who see it the better.

      Thanks so much for the work you are doing also.

      Regards, Morty

  10. Dennis May 6, 2010 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Hi Morty,
    While I find most of your methods and insights tremendously helpful. I am going to have to disagree with you on a few points here. You have quoted Dr. James Dobson here and yes, he does says that in his book, but by taking things out of context and only presenting a very limited “sound byte” I think it is not a truly accurate opinion of his intentions .
    #1, there is a need to separate the yelling from the physical, and Dr. Dobson would be the first one to point that out. He very distinctly separates the two, and he makes it very clear that the corporal punishment is NEVER to be done in anger. Of course, this is easily abused and as parents we need to develop the necessary skills to be loving first in any disciplining of our children. To not correct properly is as unloving as abuse, and also invites rebellion and many of the other negatives you have pointed out.
    As a matter of fact, there are new studies that are showing that after all these years, there is merit to corporal punishment . There are blind study tests that support Dr. Dobson and to not recognize them and leave them out is disingenuous. Let’s put all the evidence on the table, and use the scientific method to utilize critical thinking for the best outcome. Please be fair to us, and to Dr. Dobson and include the new studies in your presentations, on these most important issues.
    As far as the “ownership” issue, that too is critical. If we recognize that we are not “owners” but rather stewards of our children, and we are accountable for our actions, we would achieve much good. We can do that if we truly learn to scrutinize and ALWAYS act in love. Isn’t that always the best method? Love requires disciplining ourselves first.
    In love, Dennis M……….

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Dennis,

      My primary concern with corporal punishment, and even yelling at children, does not stem from studies.

      We have worked with over 13,000 clients who had a wide variety of problems, serious ones like eating disorders and depression, and everyday ones like procrastination and worrying what people think of us.

      We’ve discovered in every case that the source of the problem is beliefs (and sometimes conditioning). How do we know that? Because when the beliefs have been eliminated, the problems disappear and don’t return.

      When we search for the source of the negative beliefs, such as I’m not good enough, I’m not important, I’m not worthy, etc., we find 99+% of the time the source is interactions with parents.

      Yelling produces almost as many negative beliefs as corporal punishment, so I am not picking on the latter. Not being around much of the time leads to I’m not important.

      Hitting anf yelling are the two worst parenting practices from the standpoint of negative beliefs but they are certainly not the only practices that lead to negative beliefs and low self-esteem.

      Children require the experience of unconditional love. A child 3-4 years old cannot experience unconditional love if he/she is being hit or screamed at, no matter what the parent’s intention.

      Thanks for the dialogue.

      Regards, Morty

  11. James May 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Morty,

    This one really hit home for me as this is what I see has lead to a lot of my negative beliefs around rejection and fear of failure. I am now just in early adulthood starting to address this and really understand the damage that was done by the constant negative re-enforcement handed down by my parents. Having been told constantly that I wasn’t good enough or doing well enough (even though I was a straight A student at school and through university).

    I have noticed a huge improvement since leaving my parents place and concertrating on changing my negative beliefs but I really don’t think most parents even realise the amount of damage they are doing with mental/emotional abuse.

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Hi James,

      Your story is a common one.

      And yet as I tell my clients all the time, ultimately what your parents do to you does NOT affect your later life; the meaning you give what they do does. And you can now change that meaning (the beliefs) whenever you want.

      There is no need to live with a fear of failure and rejection. Eliminate the beliefs that cause them.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regards, Morty

  12. Janet Robinson May 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Hello Morty,
    Thank you for this article. Child rearing is the most important thing in life. Nothing compares. If our children grow up not loving themselves, they have a heap of problems ahead. How can anyone in their right mind think that inflicting pain on children is acceptable? That’s how wars are started ! How can we believe that violence gets us what we want? How ludicrous! Sorry. I could go on and on.
    Thanks for bringing this up.

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for reading all my material and for taking the time to comment so often. I really appreciate the dialogue.

      Have a great day.

      Regards, Morty

  13. Terry Tillman May 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Morty,

    A friend of mine in London has a charity that is doing wonderful work in this area. check out:

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm - Reply


      Thanks for the suggestion. I got the contact info in your email.

      Love, Morty

  14. Salim Lalani May 5, 2010 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Very nicely presented. How KIDS should be prepared for the 21st. century?.Is LOVE enough?

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Salim,

      No, love is not enough. Although it certainly is a pre-condition, for without unconditional love nothing else will work.

      More support to come.

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Regards, Morty

  15. Jerez May 5, 2010 at 9:28 am - Reply

    I was switched at a very early age. By an otherwise sane grandmother who raised or helped to raise me and my brother. My brother took his own life by age 30. I have suffered depression all my life but don’t know this is necessarily the reason. I understand my fathers family had depression and suicide but I hadn’t known my father from age 2.

    So I do wonder what is at the core of my depression.
    My grandmother, other than flying off the handle switching was so remarkably sane otherwise. She did suffer migraines and I have as well. In those days little was available for that pain and I wonder if she was just not in her right mind when she dud this. For me, I learned to be very cautious. I never knew what would ignite her to go on the warpath.

    I’m glad tho to see you talking about this and Dobsons work also upsets me. He misleads so many parents. I never hit or yelled at my children. It was terrifying for me.
    Keep up the good work!!

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Jerez,

      Depression is due to many more beliefs than would be formed from spanking and even yelling.

      Yet there are a lot of problems that cab be traced to beliefs formed from punishment.

      Thanks for sharing your own story.

      Regards, Morty

  16. Leah Hansel May 5, 2010 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Bravo Morty,
    No form of abuse, whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual is acceptable against ANYONE – I applaud you for speaking about a subject that is highly controversial and perhaps it will allow others to see another way of being in the world. Maybe through peaceful co-creation and thoughtful & considerate communication we can come to the place where violence is never the answer….
    With much Appreciation,

    • admin May 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Leah,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. If we can get enough people interested, we might be able to change the law and eventually, some minds.

      Regards, Morty

  17. Josh May 5, 2010 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Thank you, Morty, for pointing out a basic point that so many people miss: Parents do not OWN their children. We would never treat other adults the way we treat our children; we wouldn’t even treat other peoples’ kids the way we often treat our own. Parents get an obligation to protect and love their children when they bring them into the world, but children have no such obligation. The simple event of being born cannot place you under any obligation. Obligations require consent and an infant cannot give consent.

    I used to believe that spanking was the best way to discipline because of a religious dogma under which I was raised, but after learning the irrationality of that system of belief I have moved to other ways of relating to my children. Despite changing when they were young, the fallout of negative beliefs is already there.

    I still have too many bad habits, but I have noticed that my children are 100 times better “behaved” when I am loving and don’t yell, scream or berate them, and when I spend time with them. I’ve also noticed many of the “problems” we’ve had resolve themselves naturally as kids get older.

    It’s sometimes difficult to properly show love to your kids thanks to negative parenting beliefs. Morty and Shelley’s book on parenting was helpful in shedding light on those beliefs. I recommend it as a great resource in your parenting library. I would actually love to see a set of videos for eliminating the 4 negative parenting beliefs in that book.

    I always try to ask myself whenever I deal with any of my 4 children, why do they have to obey me? Is it a matter of immediate safety, like running with scissors or not playing in the street? Or is it simply something that -I- want done right now? And if it is simply what -I- want, then why do they have to obey me? I don’t own them; they own themselves. And just as I don’t have the right to force another adult to comply, so it is with my children. Children need love and attention just like they need food and water and they will resort to “acting out” to get it. Hitting or humiliating them will only hurt them physically and emotionally.

    Finally, whether studies showed spanking to be effective or useless is irrelevant. Hitting is not an acceptable form of persuasion in any other area of society, why is it somehow ok with kids? Dobson is quoted in the article as saying, “[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely.” Ok, pain “purifies.” So why don’t we spank disruptive employees until they cry? Why not beat up rude people until they cry? Why not hit people that take longer to learn things and make them cry? Again, regardless of the studies, violence is not an acceptable form of persuasion in the rest of life, why is it acceptable with weak, defenseless children?

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Josh,

      I hope everyone who reads my post also reads your comments.
      You make so many useful points I could write an entire blog post discussing them.

      Glad you found the parenting e-book Shelly and I wrote useful. Her CDs will be available soon.

      Sounds like you are doing your best as a father and your kids are lucky to have a parent with your attitude toward parenting.

      Regards, Morty

  18. Doris May 5, 2010 at 7:53 am - Reply

    I really appreciate your insights about parenting and I hope that many people find new ways to treat their children after they release their own limiting beliefs.
    In order to build new patterns I found Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg extremly helpful. We can find free material at the libraries, as well as online, to get started.

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Doris,

      Thanks for your suggestion of reading material that has alternative ways to interact with children. I’m not familiar with Rosenberg, but there are a bunch of useful books, including the books by Faber and Mazlish.

      Regards, Morty

  19. Steve May 5, 2010 at 5:23 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article and the caring of our children. However, the premise of the article is flawed, as is the research cited.
    First, no punishment or discipline should ever be done in anger as the yelling and spanking you discuss is described. What has been described in every citing of abusive spanking in your article reflects on a dysfunctional parent who is out of control and not trained in discipline. There is a right way and a wrong way to do discipline of any sort, especially corporal punishment, which is very appropriate when used correctly.
    Second, no parent owns children, but is given a sacred trust to raise them. The issue that must first be dealt with is understanding the Creator & Sustainer’s position on his gift to parents. Without first submitting one’s intention to the Author of life, no form of discipline can be effective.
    Yelling at a child is not equivalent to corporal punishment. Yelling is always done in anger and often out of control. Proper corporal punishment includes neither anger nor lack of control.
    Next, there are more severe issues from parents to children who are dealt with in anger. Yelling and angry thrashing of a child are not the cause of child dysfunction, but are symptoms of the dysfunction of the parents and probably a lesser issue in the total effect of parental influence.
    Further, you have not dealt with the issue of training parents. You would never let an untrained person drive, yet we do no real training for parenting. There is a right way and wrong way to train a child through discipline and punishment. Most parenting is simply a reflection of how an untrained parent treated us.
    In addition, Dr. Dobson, who you maligned, is probably one of the most qualified and well researched experts in the field. He has also an extraordinary experience as a practicing clinician.
    Finally, my parents did use corporal punishment in our family but never in anger. It always, and I say always, resulted in a closer and more loving relationship with them when it was over. I dreaded it, not for the physical pain, but for the way I had disrespected them or done wrong. It was a deterrent to bad behavior. I look back with thanks at proper upbringing, including corporal punishment. I also had excellent training for raising my children, which was quite unusual.
    I submit that the yelling and thrashing of children is wrong, but only a symptom, not the cause as stated in the blog. Further, I submit, from experience as a son and a father, that proper corporal punishment is both effective and healing in the areas of both relationships and behavior.
    I support proper loving corporal punishment.

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to express your views.

      Let me respond to a few things you said.

      First, you said I maligned Dr. Dobson. I didn’t say a single thing about him. I quoted him and gave the source of the quote and also said Time magazine called him the most influential evangelical. If you think he came across badly, then it must have been his own words that produced that impression, because if you reread my post, it wasn’t based on anything I said.

      I agree with you that parents don’t own their children. What I said was that the behavior of most parents implies that they believe that. How else can one justify forcing another human being to do what you want instead of what he wants, when he is not hurting anyone with his behavior? What gives a parent to right to impose his will on a defenseless child if he’s not “the boss,” someone with absolute authority to do whatever he wants with the child and the child has no recourse?

      You said your punishment as a child was a deterrent to your “bad behavior.” First, all of the studies I’ve seen indicate it has a short term deterrent, but the child doesn’t learn about what’s appropriate and what’s not, only don’t get caught doing what the parents don’t like or you’ll get into trouble. And if the parents aren’t around and you are sure you won’t get caught, there is no “inner”deterrent.

      Second, what is “bad behavior” if not behavior parents don’t like. There is no objective definition for a a child’s bad behavior. And most of what parents tell children to do is arbitrary, for their own benefit, and not for the benefit of the child. As I said, parents hate the question “why?” because they usually have no answer except: I said so.

      You are free to support corporal punishment if you’d like, but all of our 13,000 clients who were spanked have told us that that was a major source of the negative beliefs they have about themselves, such as I’m not good enough, I’d bad, There’s something wrong with me, I’m not lovable.

      This is a very controversial issue and I appreciate the dialogue. I am open to learning from the comments of my readers. I hope you are too.

      Regards, Morty

  20. Riel May 5, 2010 at 4:44 am - Reply

    Afro-Americans constitute about 25% of the American population, but about 50% of the prison population. Can I therefore conclude that Afro-Americans are spanked more often? If you say yes I’ll ask for evidence; if you say no, the spanking argument falls flat. Drawing conclusions from research is only valid if the spanked grouped is compared to the unspanked group and the difference in behaviour is statistically significant ant only if all other significant factors are the same, . The results of the unspanked group was not published, the factors that were the same was not reported so itis dangerous to draw conslusions. Actually it is virtually impossible to keep all relevant factors the same in any complex system such as human interaction or society. At most we can say that there are indications that spanking may have detremental effects. It is dangerous in the socual sciences to have or to postulate single cause and effect relationships. It is just as dangerous to present anything as a single solution; not spanking= higher self-esteem. At most we must ask ourselves:”What set of problems are we more comfortable to live with?” rather than what is the “solutio.”
    Above does not in any way reflect my opinion of spanking – it is only a cautionary note.

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Riel,

      Thanks for taking the time to express your views. I appreciate the dialogue.

      First, I never said all people who receive corporal punishment go to jail or are violent. A tendency to voilence is one of the many consequences.

      Second, I didn’t say that not speaking would result in higher self-esteem. I did say, based on my experience with over 13,000 clients, that spanking and yelling at children produces negative self-esteem beliefs.

      That’s not a theory, it’s a report from thousands of people. Is that an absolute fact. No, new knowledge is always possible.

      But when thousands of people with a host of problems, such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, procrastination, etc. find the beliefs that cause those problems (when the beliefs are gone, the problems disappear too and don’t come back), they realize that the source of most of the beliefs are interactions with parents. And the interactions forming the most negative beliefs are spanking and yelling/criticism.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

      Regards, Morty

      • Riel May 6, 2010 at 12:22 am - Reply

        I don’t want to start a thread of I said that and you implied this; I find it counter productive. Maybe this story will illustratethe point better.
        It is told that at the beginning of Hitler’s political career he had to, like so many others find any soap-box to get his message out. One day he was holding forth in a park and his speech was all about the woes of Germany at the time (and there were many) and he concluded every statement with”the Jewa.” To one side of the gathering an old Jew was standing and every time Hitler said “the Jews” the old Jew wouls nod in agreement and say “The Jews and the bicycles.” After a while Hitler became irritated withthese comments and he asked “Why the bicycles?” , the old Jew replied “Why the Jews?”

  21. Sally Phillips May 5, 2010 at 3:44 am - Reply

    Thank you Morty. I totally agree with you. I was ‘smacked’ myself as a child. It sounds a harmless enough word, doesn’t it? But it’s actually hitting which is physical violence and this then teaches the child to be violent in some way.

    Mostly I was smacked for things I did which I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do. Presumably the message was ‘You don’t do that. Don’t do it again’. I became introverted and was then bullied in secondary school (11-16 in UK).

    I have a nine year old daughter. When she was very little I found my instinct came out of nowhere to smack her when she was defiant. I did it once out of sheer exasperation, trying to get her dressed for nursery. She looked at me as if to say “What are you doing? You hit me! You are supposed to love me. You are my mum”. She didn’t get dressed. I felt awful. I never smacked her again.

    I am afraid I do shout at her sometimes though. This is when I have asked her nicely several times and she still won’t do something, eg. brush her teeth to get ready to leave the house.
    I don’t enjoy shouting. It’s a horrible energy. I always feel exhausted afterwards.

    I have noticed that saying “It’s time to do ………….” is usually the best way for her to know that she needs to do it now. If I say “Please can you do………………..” she usually dithers for another half-hour and several reminders.

    When my daughter has temper-tantrums she usually hits me and my husband. We never hit her back. We always say “No, we don’t hit people do we?”. I would like to have more tools for dealing with these situations!

    I do EFT myself, but can never do this in the situation, as my daughter is too angry usually, and sometimes so am I.
    Thank you!

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Hi Sally,

      Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience as a child and a mother.

      It sure isn’t easy being a parent a lot of the time. Sounds like you are certainly trying hard to do the best for your daughter.

      Punishment never works in the long run. Shelly intends to provide some useful tools shortly.

      Regards, Morty

  22. Reuben May 5, 2010 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Hello Morty. Thanks for your post. I agree with the majority of what you had written, but it would have been more complete had you provided proper / appropriate forms of discipline. There is a lot said about discipline and obedience in the Bible and no doubt other manuscripts as well.

    As for myself and my siblings, we grew up in a very strict, disciplining home where unfortunately our father let the belt sing through the air. However, none of us have turned out aggressive.

    I hope you write another post continuing on the subject, providing helpful tips on proper / appropriate discipline. I don’t believe it would be healthy to allow a child’s behavior to run rampant without some form of discipline / correction.

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 10:57 am - Reply

      Hi Reuben,

      I will write more and Shelly will provide a lot more detail in her CDs than I can in a blog post.

      But for the moment, I will ask one question: Why do children have to be disciplined? Because they won’t do that their parents want? Why don’t the children discipline the parents for not doing what they want? What’s the difference? What makes the parents the “boss”?

      Why is children coming to the table when parents call them more important than playing? Who says?

      We have a lot of assumptions about parenting, discipline, punishment, etc. that need to be re-examined.

      By the way, not everyone who is spanked becomes aggressive. But they all form some negative beliefs that take their toll later life.

      Thanks for the conversation.

      Regards, Morty

  23. Leila May 5, 2010 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Hi Morty, my parents didn’t ever hit us as children or scream at us, but they weren’t perfect and were absent a lot. Therefore, we had seventeen young people looking after us over a period of sixteen years. I sometimes wonder how they got us to behave. If what you’re proposing was common place knowledge there would have been less likelihood of that sort of thing ever happening. Here’s to the second half of the twentieth century.

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Hi Leila,

      There are a lot of mistakes parents can make in addition to punishment. Not being around a lot usually leads to the belief, I’m not important.

      Notice you used the word “behave.” That means to do what someone else wants us to do.

      THAT is what we need to start questioning. That implies ownership.

      Regards, Morty

  24. Dmitri May 5, 2010 at 2:40 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great post but the problem does not end here. Most parents just don’t have a clue about what to REPLACE that damaging behavior with. Moreover, they don’t know how to UNDO the damage they’ve already inflicted on their kids’ ego. The abusive behavior will surely creep back in over time if it’s now replaced by the right behavior and skills.

    As you correctly pointed out in one of your videos, what parenting university did my parents go to? It is SO sad that this crucial life skill is being ignored by the conventional education system.

    But there is help out there. To all those interested I’d strongly recommend to consider the Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) by Thomas Gordon. I’m using it myself and am truly amazed by the change in my two kids (6 and 10) and in myself.

    • Joy May 5, 2010 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Wow thanks for the reminder about Thomas Gordon’s system. I had forgotten about that. I discovered him and his work years ago and put it into practice and also shared it with a number of people. It really works. since I am now again working with youth and parents I will resurface this material and review it again.

      • admin May 5, 2010 at 8:54 am - Reply

        Hi Joy,

        Thanks for joining the dialogue.

        There are alternative to punishment. We have to make sure every parents knows the negative consequences of punishment and the alternatives.

        Regards, Morty

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 8:10 am - Reply

      Hi Dmitri,

      Thanks for responding.

      As I said in response to an earlier post, Shelly is created a CD course that will explain the importance of beliefs in raising children, describe the type of behavior that leads to negative beliefs, and suggest techniques that will lead to positive beliefs.

      There are other courses available that can be useful, including Gordon’s.

      Regards, Morty

      • Dmitri May 5, 2010 at 9:52 am - Reply

        Thanks, Morty!

        I’m sure it will be a great complement to Gordon’s and, most likely, others’ parenting systems.

        Look forward to it.

        All the best and thanks for your work,

  25. Alex Newell May 5, 2010 at 2:14 am - Reply

    My goodness, what a powerful post today! I had physical punishment both at school and at home. Fifty years later it still rankles.

    Morty I feel more concerned when I see kids being shouted at angrily over trifles than I do by a slap, I don’t know why.

    The physical pain and humiliation of corporal punishment is bad enough but being screamed at seems WAY worse somehow

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 8:07 am - Reply

      Hi Alex,

      I agree. That was one of the points I tried to make: that many people can see what;s wrong with physical punishment but don’t realize emotional abuse can have just as lasting negative effects.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      Regards, Morty

  26. Alex Newell May 5, 2010 at 2:13 am - Reply

    My goodness, what a powerful post today! I had physical punishment both at school and at home. Fifty years later it still rankles.

    Morty I feel more concerned when I see kids being shouted at angrily over trifles than I do by a slap, I don’t know why.

    The physical pain and humiliation of corporal punishment is bad enough but being screamed at seems WAY

  27. Lakshminarayanan May 5, 2010 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Hi Morty,

    I really appreciate your blog on the adverse effects of spanking and/or yelling at children. However, I would be very happy if you could provide some insights or pointers to the right techniques that can help us get our children do what is good for them e.g. keeping good personal hygiene, maintaining a clean bed etc.

    Many thanks and regards,

    • admin May 5, 2010 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Hi Lakshminarayanan,

      My wife Shelly who has been a Lefkoe Method facilitator for years is in the process of creating a CD package that will provide a bunch of parenting tools that lead to positive rather than negative beliefs. That treat kids with dignity and respect.

      It should be available in a few months and we will announce it to our entire list at that time.

      Thanks for your response.

      Regards, Morty

      • sandy May 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm - Reply

        This is a very important topic, I believe.

        I raised three children, and I did not spank them, and the times I yelled out of my own frustration were as traumatic for me as for them. I found that sitting down and talking with them about the importance of the task I was asking them to do, and enlisting them in the family home upkeep worked best. And leaving them a note with tasks that they could check off worked well. I always asked myself, how would I want to be treated? How would I want this communicated to me? And then I also learned what motivated each of my three children and made agreements with them based on their currency. It teaches better life skills for living with the world at large, I believe. Lots of praise for what they do, whether it is perfect or not helps, and not redoing what they have done because it’s not perfect for you helps motivate them to keep doing their assigned jobs. Treating the family like a business where everyone has jobs to do is another technique. Having family meetings to discuss issues but mostly to praise accomplishments also helps. Consistency is most important, doing what you say you will do in every case is important to help children feel safe and understand boundaries.

      • Lakshminarayanan May 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the update Morty. Looking forward to the announcement.


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