I was Spanked as a Child and I’m Grateful

If you know me now, or even knew me as a teenager, you might be surprised about the kind of child I was. I did well in school and participated in many different activities, but I had a temper. A very serious temper. It took very little to set me off and quite a lot to calm me down. It started when I was a toddler and grew in intensity through early elementary school. My parents like to say that I was passionate, but I remember feeling completely out of control when I got upset.

I remember would get into trouble for something totally typical, like talking back or fighting with my sister and my parents would tell me to go to my room. This was their attempt to stop the meltdown before it began. I obviously don’t know how often, but plenty of the time, they were too late. I wouldn’t go to my room because “it wasn’t fair” or “I didn’t do anything wrong.” I’d scream, yell, hit. I once scratched my mother’s arm until it bled. Eventually I would go to my room, and often times I’d scream that I hated my parents (purely in an attempt to make them feel bad) and then I’d slam my door.

The punishment system in our family was pretty straight forward. Minor offenses were time in your room, major offenses were a spanking with an open hand, always over clothes, always on the butt, never in anger. It was never unclear what merited which punishment, I knew the rules.

And I got spanked a lot.

Each spanking was done in an order. The punishing parent came in after a few minutes of quiet time in your room, discussed what had happened, doled out the spanking and gave me a few minutes to get myself together and then life went on. I was never in pain, I never felt abused. I trusted my parents and knew how very much they loved me. And I loved them too.

After a few years, I eventually learned to control my temper and I believe, undoubtedly, that it was because of the punishment system in our house. Because there were consequences, including spanking, I was able to slowly learn to use my words, calmly, instead of my actions and fists. I can tell you with all honesty that time outs alone would not have worked for me, they didn’t work for me and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

At 18 I graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA. I received the most scholarship money out of anyone from my 500 person graduating class. I went to a top 40 college and graduated in 4 years. I went on to get a teaching credential, then a doctoral degree from the #1 ranked program in the country for my field of study. I don’t say this to brag, I say this to show you that unlike the studies that are so often cited these days, spanking didn’t stunt my IQ. It didn’t effect my academic performance (except maybe that I’ll never know when to use affect or effect), it didn’t cause my self-esteem to suffer. I have achieved great things, even with my horrific upbringing.

I am currently very happily married. I have a baby that I love with ever fiber of my being. I have my life together, I am calm and content. Again, I’m not bragging, I’m saying it to show you that unlike the most recent study’s results, I’m not a drug dealer, I am not clinically depressed nor psychotic. I am a well adjusted 29 year old. And I believe that I am who I am because of my parents and because of how they parented me.

These studies are tremendously frustrating to me because there are so many confounding factors that are ignored- parental education, socio-economic status, history of abuse unrelated to spankings, all of which influence the development of a child. You cannot lump all forms of corporal punishment together because spanking, in a controlled, non-angry manner is not the same as beating your children. You know how I know this? Because I received the former and I am GRATEFUL for it.

Furthermore, those studies did not find a causation, they found a correlation, but you won’t find a single article that says that. The way they are splashed about on news sites and blogs, as though these studies discovered that spankings are the only cause of all problems, is horribly misleading. It’s like saying that high school makes girls’ breasts grow when in reality, the timing of breast growth tends to fall near the start of high school but nothing about high school is actually causing said growth.

I do not expect the anti-spankers to suddenly run out and embrace corporal punishment, but I’m writing this in the hope that they’ll stop acting as though my parents abused me. I hate reading about how spanking is the worst thing you could do to a child because I had outstanding parents and it is an insult to them to imply that they were anything else.

When discussing parenting, it’s not about black and white. It’s about doing what is best for your children and for me and my family, that meant a punishment system that included spanking. It worked for us and instead of stunting me, I credit it as a large part of how I became a successful adult. It’s easy to have an opinion about something you’ve never experienced, it’s hard to set aside preconceived notions and open your mind to the possibility that there are other options, other ways of doing things.

Parenting is all about finding what works for you, what keeps your children safe physically, mentally and emotionally. And I am grateful every day that my parents were so successful at doing just that.

15 Responses to “I was Spanked as a Child and I’m Grateful”

  • Very well written Katie. I completely agree with you. There are ways to punish with spanking that are effective and not abusive.


  • I agree with this 100%. I was spanked in a similar manner and I am a very well-adjusted adult(also happily married and a doctor, but not a mommy). More often than not, the idea of the spanking was enough to keep me in line.


  • SoMo:

    Did your parents ever show you how to act when you were angry? I ask, because I was spanked and I was a very angry child. I don’t think my spankings were like yours.

    My son has a temper and my oldest daughter is always screaming how it is unfair. I give the kids different things to do instead of being angry. I give Sam words so that he can express his outrage in a more controlled manner. I explain to Amber that what she thinks it unfair just means that she is not thinking the situation through. Many complained about my anger when I was a child, but they never gave me another alternative.

    It is funny how parenting evolves. When I had one kid I swore I would never spank. I had another kid and I started spanking, because there was less time to talk things through. Now, with my third kid I am trying to balance everything. My kids have been spanked, but it is less than it was before. We do a little of everything, spanking in extreme cases, time outs (which they cry more than if they were spanked) and privileges taken away. It all has to work together.

    My question to you is at what age do you believe you will start spanking?


    Katie Reply:

    @SoMo, I was given great guidance from my parents of how to manage my anger. I am such a more even keeled person because I learned to discuss the things that were upsetting me before they became a true issue.

    I don’t know if I will spank. I’m not really pro-spanking as much as I’m not anti-spanking. We have to learn what works and what our children need and adjust our parenting as things evolve. I can’t imagine making any decisions about punishments yet, but I won’t take any reasonable ones off the table yet either.


  • The difference is that you were never spanked in anger. My parents routinely lost control, not just of me but of themselves. I have vivid memories of running to my room and being grateful that my bedroom door was in an alcove that allowed me to put my back to the door and my legs to the wall to keep my father out. Yes, I was a difficult child. Of that I have no doubt, but spankings were always delivered in anger or frustration and often with a brush or a belt.

    Corporal punishment, (effectively shaming) when delivered calmly and consistently can be effective. Nothing is faster than a swat or a grab to keep a hand away from a hot stove. I was never so impressed when a friend informed her pre-school aged daughter that continuing unacceptable behavior was going to earn her a spanking. Child continued behavior, was informed they were going to the restroom (we were at an IHOP). I watched them walk to the bathroom together. I later learned they went into a bathroom stall, the spanking was delivered, and a mom and chastened child came back to the table. It absolutely does work.

    But chasing a child down or administering a beating when the parent has lost control is what is wrong with “corporal punishment”. All I learned was that my parents were bigger than me and could hurt me. They were to be feared and their love had limits. IT would be a lot more useful if these studies would focus on that.


    Katie Reply:

    @The Nice Lady, I agree entirely. Spanking out of anger is not the same and should be frowned upon. Children shouldn’t fear their parents and punishment should never be given to provide satisfaction to the parents.


  • Tia:

    What a great topic. I too was spanked as a child, but I deserved it every time and it was never done out of anger. I’m a successful, well-adjusted adult with a great relationship with my parents, and the “studies” that show that spanking is awful for kids drive me nuts with their correlation=causation argument (along with TV rots your child’s brain, but that’s an entirely different corelation=causation rant!).

    I’m not sure how I missed it, but I didn’t know you just finished your PhD, I just knew you finished school. CONGRATS! What a huge accomplishment!


  • I agree. Thank you. I was spanked, I have spanked. Calmly, after warnings, for specific, known offenses, and not in anger. I have also lost my temper and yelled and/or swatted/grabbed an arm inappropriately. I understand the difference and so do my children. For the latter, we talk and I apologize. I hope that’s teaching them that anyone can be wrong and amends can be made. I don’t know. No one is perfect.

    On the other subject (affect/effect), you may want to spank me for this, but I use to mess it up all the time and now I always get it right, so let’s see if this helps.

    Effect is a noun, so if you can put “the” in front of it, you use it. Remember it because of the double “e”. Th”e” “e”ffects of spanking have not been proven. Affect is a verb, it can never be used with “the.” Some argue that spankings affect IQ. 😉


    Katie Reply:

    @anymommy, So you’re saying I used the wrong one earlier? Damn. 50/50 chance.


  • Bella:

    I was spanked and actually preferred that to the lecture/discussion where it was clear that they were disappointed in me and my actions.


  • oh I read that silly article too! I agree with you! I was spanked, my brothers were spanked – we are all WELL adjusted adults who do VERY well!


  • Have you seen the Michael Pearl instructional Child Spanking videos. It’s pretty twisted. He even recommends using 1/4 inch PVC for beating kids.

    The video is here but be prepared to cringe….. http://doodiepants.com/2012/07/08/michael-pearl-epic-beard-productive-child-beating/


  • Katie~I too was spanked as you were by my mother: the rules laid out ahead of time with the punishments for breaking said rules known in advance (time outs, spankings, groundings, etc) and never spanked in anger. We (the children) were given life skills–in communication, coping, anger management, impulse control etc. When we were spanked (which was rare) WE knew we deserved it!
    Now with my dad (step-dad for me, bio dad to my brother & sister) it was different: unpredictable, no clear rules, no life skills, and a build up of his own anger that lead to us being “punished” for unclear things.
    Clear difference: with my mom, we were punished with a spanking; with my dad we were beaten for unclear reasons. Neither happened often. But all 3 of us look back on my mom & her parenting with gratefulness. It’s another matter with my dad, from whom we are all estranged.


  • ~Katie~:

    I was spanked in a similar manner as well and have always felt that this had a very negative impact on my future development. I would be sent to my room to wait for it, ostensibly to give me time to think but I really think so that my father could calm down. Then he would come and explain what I had done wrong and spank me over his lap. It was done in what I guess you would call a loving way, or at least it was free from any anger on the part of my dad. But the whole experience was terrifying for me! And in a way that has been very hard for me to shake. To this day I have trouble processing feelings of fear and anxiety and easily slip into a mindset in which I feel I have done something horribly wrong and need to be punished.

    I wonder to what extent this is a function of the severity of the spankings themselves. My father never used a belt on me or really anything more than his hand. I have vague memories of having my pants pulled down once, but every time I can clearly recall was over clothes. But the spankings were hard, hard enough to hurt anyway. And they went on for more than just a few smacks. Is this so very different from your own experience? I’m a new mother now myself and am discussing discipline strategy with hubby. It just seems so strange to me that people can have such different reactions to and outcomes from the same experience.

    Be well!


  • David:

    I was spanked as a child, in what I could describe as two different methods. “The running spank”, one smack on the butt, usually from my mom, as a last resort, when I wasn’t listening. Sort of a shock therapy. I have no problem with this, and no doubt deserved it at the time. However, I was also “Shame spanked” by my father. Made to pull my pants down, climb on his knee and count till I was sobbing. Although this only happened a couple times, the shame and subsequent rage plague me to this day. I know he loved me, and could not count the sacrifices and efforts he made for me if I tried. However, the rage remains, and despite the scales of justice balancing heavily in his favor, I at times must restrain myself from taking vengeance physically upon him. This is sad. Discipline is necessary. Shaming your child is not.


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I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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