The Instigator
Llyod_The_Love
Con (against)
The Contender
tenyearsoflight
Pro (for)

Should You Spank Your Kids?

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/20/2017 Category: Society
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 349 times Debate No: 106007
Debate Rounds (4)
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Llyod_The_Love

Con

Hello! Spanking children has been a controversial topic for decades. This debate will be about the effects of spanking children and if it should be used as a discipline tool.

Round 1: Introduction (We will introduce our main arguments with evidence)
Round 2-3: Rebuttals (This round is exactly as it seems. We will go head to head making counterarguments to the main argument)
Round 4: Conclusion (We will conclude our arguments. No new arguments or evidence should be made in this round)
tenyearsoflight

Pro

This debate is about whether it is acceptable for parents to spank their kids. Since CON said that he wants to "introduce our main arguments with evidence" in round 1, but neglected to do that himself, I guess I'll go on ahead and get started.

There are four broad points to consider: (1) spanking is the historical norm, (2) context matters, (3) most of the so called "evidence" that spanking is harmful is not really evidence at all, and (4) emotional outrage at what people now call "child abuse" does not an argument against spanking make.

But before we get started, we need to clear some things up. First, spanking and physical or emotional child abuse are not the same thing. It's totally reasonable to say that some spanking is abusive, but not all. Second, I am only arguing that spanking is acceptable, not that it should be the only form of discipline. Third, I don't have to prove that all spanking is acceptable, only that *reasonable* spanking is acceptable. So, I'm not arguing for anything that leaves bruises or anything like that. Fourth, personal experience here matters, but it's not the only thing that matters. We were all children once and our parents may have had different ways of disciplining us. You or I may have been overly spanked -- I was -- but judging this debate fairly means separating yourself from those experiences.

1. Spanking is the historical norm.

Thought more common to spank boys than girls, spankings are often administered by parents or older siblings typically with a hand, belt, or other appropriate implement. Generally, spankings are used for aggressive, dangerous, reckless, or otherwise undesirable behavior.

In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker elucidates how gratuitous violence historically characterized the nature of parents' relationships with their children. Spanking is the historical norm in human society, with evidence of it coming from the earliest forms of organized religion and prehistory. For example, Proverbs 13:24 is a passage often cited by fundamentalist Christians as evidence that God directs parents to spank their children, and many interpret "spare the rod spoil the child" literally. (1) That's not to say that children should be beaten with a rod, but that's how a lot of people think about it.

In ancient Egypt, China, and the like, through 20th Century America and Europe, corporal punishment was regarded as not only acceptable, but a necessary aspect of correcting misbehavior. It was common in schools, churches, and the like. (1) Spanking was even a theme in pop culture, such as in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", and Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations", as well as "Oliver Twist". It was a common practice in nearly every boarding school throughout England and the United States until very late in the 20th century, if not within the last few decades.

2. Spanking is appropriate in the right context.

Spanking can be appropriate in the right context. For example, one article in Time explains how spanking can be done in a reasonable, responsible, non-abusive manner: "A child should always receive a clear warning before any offense that might merit a spanking and understand why they are receiving this disciplinary action. If he or she deliberately disobeys, the child should be informed of the upcoming spanking and escorted to a private area. The spanking should be lovingly administered in a clear and consistent manner. Afterward, the lesson should be gently reiterated so that the child understands and learns from this teachable experience." (2)

Just because some parents are abusive when it comes to spankings (as my own parents could be), doesn't make all spankings bad or abusive. It just means that spanking can't be done absuively or unreasonably. Here's one parent's experience, from an article published on CNN: "My wife and I disagree about spanking. She thinks you should never use violence to discipline a child. But the result of that is my kids sometimes torment mommy to test [her] boundaries. They want to see just what they can get away with and how far they can push before she cracks and loses her cool. It's excruciating to watch." (3)

What spanking does is establish clear boundaries with deliberate, tangible consequences. Time outs, corner time, etc. may all be fine in some cases, but children who misbehave and especially those who are especially defiant aren't going to correct their behavior just for being told how "disappointed" their parents are in them. It depends on the kid, and just because one kid responds to spanking doesn't make it a one-stop method of behavioral correction. Rather, it's just one option that should be used sparingly and when appropriate.

If spanking really WAS abusive, would a majority of Americans approve of it? I don't think so. While public opinion is NOT a barometer of what is or is not moral or acceptable and I am not representing it to be, there is some collective wisdom in the majority of at least Americans (4) approving spanking. ABC NEWS explained that "[t]he public by a 2-1 margin approves of spanking children in principle, and half of parents say they sometimes do it to their own kids, an ABCNEWS poll found". The majority of all people cannot be in favor of child abuse, so all spanking can't be abusive.

There is even some evidence that spanking is beneficial. For example, young children spanked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those who have never been hit, a study has found. According to the research, children spanked up to the age of 6 were likely as teenagers to perform better at school and were more likely to carry out volunteer work and to want to go to college than their peers who had never been physically disciplined. (5)

3. The scientific literature has no clear consensus on whether spanking is harmful.

In a meta-analysis conducted by researchers evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids. The researchers specifically wanted to address two concerns often raised about the body of research linking spanking to childhood problems. Scientific American explains that "[t]he first is that much of it has evaluated the effects of physical punishment in general, without homing in on the effects of spanking specifically"and because physical punishment can include tactics such as hitting with objects, pinching and biting, this "lumping problem" may ultimately exaggerate spanking"s risks. The second concern is that many published studies are "cross-sectional," which means that they evaluate the effects of spanking by collecting data at a single point in time, making determinations of cause and effect difficult." (6)

The problem is that the research out there just isn't good enough to draw clear conclusions from. There are three main limitations: First, spanking isn't isolated from other physical and emotional abuse such that any correlation that is evidenced from spanking research can't be used to show a causal connection between spanking and negative short or long term outcomes. (6) Second, most of the research out there uses a mysterious definition of 'spanking' and considers hitting a kid anywhere on the body to be "spanking". Obviously that's misleading and would corrupt the resulting data produced. Third, mediating effects are never considered by any of these studies. To illustrate, in order to "rule out the possibility that spanking is only associated with bad outcomes because poorly behaved kids are the ones getting spanked, researchers can use statistical methods to control for the influence of temperament and preexisting behavioral characteristics", but the research as it stands hasn't really bothered to do that. So, given those limitations, there really isn't a coherent consensus on the subject from the scientific literature. There's a lot of pomp and bellicosity, but little more.

4. Emotional outrage at spanking is not proof that spanking is actually harmful.

Ostensibly, there is scientific evidence that spanking is bad. Studies (7) such as one recently published in the American Academy of Pediatrics purports to find negative behavioral and cognitive outcomes for those children who were spanked. Studies like this are often cited whenever something like the Adrian Peterson incident make the news. (8) But, the emotional outrage associated with those clear incidences of abuse (as was the case respecting what Adrian Peterson did) is not evidence that all spanking is harmful or abusive. It's just evidence that people don't like to see actual child abuse, and that actual child abuse is wrong because spanking and child abuse are not the same thing.

So, I've shown that (1) spanking is the historical norm, (2) context matters, (3) most of the so called "evidence" that spanking is harmful is not really evidence at all, and (4) emotional outrage doesn't mean that spanking is bad. Vote pro.

1. http://www.cnn.com...
2. http://time.com...
3. http://www.cnn.com...
4. http://abcnews.go.com...
5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk...
6. https://www.scientificamerican.com...
7. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org...
8. http://theweek.com...
Debate Round No. 1
Llyod_The_Love

Con

I apologize. This is my first debate so bare with me here.

Your four points aren't really that strong. Here's how:
(1) The historical norm is irrelevant and unreliable. Slavery was a historical norm. Lack of women rights was a historical norm. Using that as a reason is no better than me saying we should start slavery because it was a historical norm.
(2) Context does matter. I do agree with you on that. The kind of context I am talking about is the general "Smack your child on the bottom a few times because of his/her wrong doings."
(3) Using a testimonial and unreliable sources such as CNN to prop up your argument is a step down on the evidence scale. On the other spectrum there is statistics and studies which I will cite at the end of my argument.
(4) This is correct but the evidence you used is incredibly weak. You are using an authority fallacy. Majority of Americans using and agreeing with spanking does not make it okay and a good way to discipline. But yes I do agree some forms of spanking is not considered to be child abuse.

First off I will like to explain that spanking only helps in the moment. While spanking might fix their behavior in the moment it will only add fuel to the fire. When you add too much fuel the fire overwhelms the environment around it. The child will most likely go unresponsive and numb to the numerous spankings, even if you explain to them why they are getting spanked. It is no better than hitting a spouse because they did something you didn't like. When its an adult it is called assault, disgusting, and unlawful. But when it's a defenseless tiny kid suddenly those same adjectives don't apply? Of course, I am not suggesting that it is the same thing but it is similar.

---Evaluation of Claims---
"For example, Proverbs 13:24 is a passage often cited by fundamentalist Christians as evidence that God directs parents to spank their children, and many interpret "spare the rod spoil the child" literally. (1) That's not to say that children should be beaten with a rod, but that's how a lot of people think about it."
Using the bible as a way to raise your children can be harmful since it's nature of being vague. The interpretation you are talking about may be the most common one, but there are lots of others that each has another completely different meaning from the other. There's a fairly common interpretation where the rod is actually a guiding tool used to herd sheep. Spare the "Guidance" spoil the child. Using this controversial and vague passage as a tool for raising children is just not plausible to begin with.

"In a meta-analysis conducted by researchers evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids."
There are concerns for this meta-analysis also. The results could easily be skewed by them picking the weakest of studies since they did not actually tell what studies they analyzed and because of the umbrella term "studies." In this context, studies can mean anything from statistics formed by a team of experts to 1 high school kid making a biased blog and using the wrong terms.

Citation: https://news.utexas.edu...
Citation: https://www.brookings.edu...
Citation: http://www.ocd.pitt.edu...
tenyearsoflight

Pro

I don't think that CON understood my arguments, because he talked past them in all of his responses.

I had four points of consideration: (1) spanking is the historical norm, (2) context matters, (3) most of the so called "evidence" that spanking is harmful is not really evidence at all, and (4) emotional outrage doesn't mean that spanking is bad.

He has four rebuttals...

He first claimed, (1) that "the historical norm is irrelevant and unreliable" and then claimed further that some other things that were bad were also the historical norm (i.e., lack of women's rights and slavery). He may as well have talked about marriage, masculinity, the tendency to cook food before we eat it, etc. Those things are the historical norm, too. We're not talking about either women's rights or slavery, and one doesn't have to support slavery or oppose women's rights to think that spanking in some contexts is an appropriate form of discipline.

Likewise, CON doesn't have a reason why either the historical record of spanking being practiced since the beginning of time is irrelevant, or unreliable. So, I've already won that point. But, I'm going to go further: the fact that spanking has been going on, and yet despite that humanity has continued to progress and evolve over time while spanking remains a constant, is strong evidence against any purported harm that spanking causes. So, the historical record is relevant and reliable.

Second, CON agrees with me that context matters. He agrees that we're only not talking about abuse, and he concedes implicitly that there is a difference between spanking and child abuse (when he said "I do agree with you on that. The kind of context I am talking about is the general "Smack your child on the bottom a few times because of his/her wrong doings.""). So, I'm glad we've come to a consensus that spanking isn't abusive.

Third, CON claims that using "testimonial and unreliable sources such as CNN to prop up my argument is a step down on the evidence scale". It is facially obvious that this is an ad hom fallacy by definition (attack the source, therefore the evidence is invalid), and therefore should be discounted. So, I'm winning that point, too. But, even if it wasn't discounted, CON ignored the point I was making and in so doing dropped my second argument that context matters. The CNN testimonial of a parent's experience when he spanked his kids versus when his wife did not was cited for the purpose of illustrating that spanking can be appropriate in the right context. He has provided neither evidence nor reasons to suggest that the parent's experience is invalid, or that spanking was inappropriate in that context as he would have to in order to win that point. In that CON failed to actually rebut my argument, I am winning my second context matters argument.

Fourth, CON claims that I am "using an authority fallacy", which I am not. I explicitly said above that I was NOT citing public approval of spanking as evidence of spanking's being appropriate or moral. So, CON failed to understand why I referenced spanking's public approval rating. What I said is that the fact that a majority of people approve of spanking proves that spanking is not recognized as abusive. Importantly, he ignored my third point entirely, and talked past the main point of my fourth argument that emotional appeals against spanking are not actual evidence that spanking is harmful. So, I'm winning that point too.

As to CON's actual case.... he really only has one argument. His only real argument is that "spanking only helps in the moment". He agrees that spanking might "fix" the behavior of unruly children "in the moment", but then goes on to claim without evidence of any kind that spanking will "only add fuel to the fire". That is not an argument. It's an idiomatic appeal to emotion based on pseudoscientific consensus which I have already undercut in my third point above. Nothing he said was enough to overcome my third point.

In the first round above, I explained why the so called "science" behind researching the short and long term effects of spanking isn't reliable and why there is no real hard and fast evidence that spanking causes adverse behavioral or emotional outcomes (which, I can only infer that CON means when he says 'add fuel to the fire'). The meta analysis I referred to illustrates the limitations of the present scientific literature on the subject of spanking, and cautions against reaching the very conclusions that CON is trying to reach. So, I have evidence that the only evidence out there to support his claims is bunk, and he doesn't even have evidence to support his claim. My claim is warranted, his is not. I am winning that point, too.

After he talked about "adding fuel to the fire", CON made one final... albeit unstructured and fairly strange remark about a biblical reference I made in the first round. Recall that in the first round I referred to a verse from proverbs as an example of historical use of corporal punishment, and as an example of how that practice has continued even today in certain religious contexts. I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT state or imply that the particular verse or any other aspect of that or any other religious text should be used for the purpose of raising children. So CON's response (i.e., "Using the bible as a way to raise your children can be harmful since it's nature of being vague.") is totally non-responsive to what I wrote in my first point because he is rebutting a claim that I never made. I only said that spanking is the historical norm, not that parents should raise their kids according to the good book.

So, in order to win this debate I had to argue that spanking was sometimes appropriate. That's all I had to argue. I have established and CON agrees that spanking has some benefits (in his words, he concedes that spanking "helps in the moment", which is consistent with the CNN testimonial of a parent's experience with spanking which I cited). I have shown and CON agrees that spanking is not abusive, either (which he conceded when he agreed that there was a difference between spanking and child abuse). CON has articulated no harms whatsoever to spanking beyond the idiomatic abstraction of "adding fuel to the fire" a harm as vague and unclear, as it is speculative and lacking in evidence. So, I have won this debate and he has lost this debate. Vote PRO.
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