Spank or not to spank? Children are like sheep easily led and vulnerable.

Spank or not to spank?  Children are like sheep easily led and vulnerable.

Please Don’t Spank

Sylvia Rimm
Q: Is spanking an argumentative boy bad practice if all else fails? Time-outs haven’t worked well for this child.

A: It’s tempting to spank a child who argues with you constantly. Sometimes you’d even like to shake him. You probably lose your temper with him regularly, and I’m sure you wonder how and why he pushes limits incessantly, thinking he knows more than everyone.

What we know about spanking is that, although it may appear to stop a particular behavior, it has a secondary effect of making the child more aggressive with others. Your son isn’t likely to become more aggressive with the spanker because he’s afraid, but he’ll likely take his anger out on others on the playground or in the classroom.

Some parents of argumentative children joke with their child, calling him or her a lawyer. Please do not do this. Although it may appear that’s what he or she aspires to be. Children know lawyers are supposed to win their cases, so they’ll live up to this label by arguing until they win.

I’ve developed an anti-arguing routine that works very effectively, both for parents and kids. It gives children the opportunity to be heard and parents the chance to be positive and firm. Many parents have told me it’s made a big difference for them. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 pages 41-42 in my book, “How to Parent So Children Will Learn” about how to conduct this anti-arguing routine:

— When arguers come at you (they always choose an inconvenient time because they instinctively know when you’re vulnerable), remind yourself not to say yes or no immediately. Instead, after they’ve made their request, ask them for their reasons. If you’ve asked for their reasons, they can never accuse you of not listening. Also, you’ll feel better by not cutting off their expressions of feelings, and they’ll feel better because they’ve had plenty of time to talk (talking makes them feel smart).

— After you’ve heard their reasons, say, “Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you in a few minutes” (for a small request, later for a larger one). There are three marvelous benefits to the second step of this arguing process.

First, it permits you to continue to be rational (that’s what you wanted to be when you accidentally trained your arguers). Second, it teaches children to be patient. Third, because arguers are often bright, manipulative children, since you haven’t yet responded with either a yes or no, they know that their good behavior will increase the likelihood of you saying yes. Therefore, while you’re taking time to be rational and while they’re learning patience, these lovely, dominant children will be on their best behavior. How nice!

— Think about their request and their reasons. Don’t be negatively biased by their pushiness. If your answer is yes, smile and be positive and enthusiastic. Arguers rarely see adults smile.

— If your answer is no — and you do have the right and obligation to say no sometimes — then say no firmly. Include a few reasons as part of your refusal. Absolutely never change your decision, and don’t engage in further discussion. Don’t let them make you feel guilty. It’s healthy for children to learn to accept some no’s from the people who love them.

— If children begin to argue again, review with them calmly that you’ve heard their request, you’ve listened to their reasons, you’ve taken time to think about them, you’ve given them your answer and your reasons, and the discussion is now over. Don’t get back into discussion of the initial request.

— If they continue arguing and they’re not too big, escort them to their room for a time-out. If they’re too old for you to time them out, go calmly and assertively to your own room and close and lock your door. If they beat on your door, ignore them. Relax with a good book. Ultimately, they’ll learn that parents have earned the privilege of saying no. They’ll also learn that they may continue to have the opportunity to remain children. They may not appreciate the latter at the time. However, your home will become a more pleasant and positive place in which to live, and your children will find that you are positive, fair and rational — but not a wimp — and they’ll respect you.

For a free newsletter about “How to Parent So Children Will Learn,” send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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