I don’t know. I ask that question a lot. There doesn’t really seem to be an alternative that works with certain ages. I do feel that it should be a last resort, when you have tried all other avenues, as it should never feel like the first thing Mom or Dad will do if I make a mistake. In fact, it should not be an answer if it is truly a mistake. I did a little child rearing, with the daughter of a man I loved dearly, and was never certain that I did it “right”. So, this is not an article to give advice as much as raise the question. What I have seen in the generations since Spock first spoke against spanking is enough to make you wonder if that set of instructions was right for the children.
I don’t believe an actual “beating” ever does any good. The once or twice that I actually spanked the child I was helping with had more to do with what would happen if she repeated the actions for which she was spanked. The first was running across a busy road without looking. She nearly got run over at the point at which I spanked her, as much for running into the road when I told her not to, and told her that had she gotten run over it would hurt much more than a spanking. The other time was when she kicked a playmate that was in her way. She had kicked her playmate in the eye, leaving a horrid bruise, and needed to know how much that hurt. I dare say the spanking hurt less than the bruised eye, but was enough to let her know that that was not acceptable behavior. At all other times, I preferred to use “time outs” or other means of expressing disapproval as I felt then, as I do now, that spankings were a last resort.
I do agree that violence often breeds violence, which is the argument against spanking to begin with, I simply felt that the only answer to her violence was to feel the consequences in a swift and effective way. One of my greatest concerns for this child that I loved as though she were my own, was that I wanted her to know that actions have consequences. I hope she learned that. And that is the rub, isn’t it? We never know that what we have tried to teach has actually been learned except with the living out of the life so affected. I know this hasn’t been an answer to the question, just a musing over what I did and whether it “worked”. I hope someday we will know the best and truest way to deal with each child so effectively that they will desire the way of love rather than the way of ruin.