"Good Morning Britain" recently hosted two parenting experts for a fiery debate on the topic of spanking as a form of punishment.

One of the experts, Katie Ivens from the Campaign for Real Education, had some pretty strong words about why she believed physical punishment was not only OK but part of a healthy "tactile relationship":

"I'm saying we have a tactile relationship with our children; we hug them, we kiss them, we breastfeed them, and so on," she explained.


GIF via Good Morning Britain/YouTube.

Using an example from her own life, in which she described firmly "shaking" her kids to deter them from running into the street, Ivens argued that physical punishment not only works but is good for kids, the same way breastfeeding or hugging them might be.

Yikes. Unsurprisingly, Ivens' advice is not grounded in any sort of scientific facts. (The CRE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Studies on spanking show it has a negative effect on children.

Joan Durrant, a child clinical psychologist and researcher from the University of Manitoba, puts it simply: "The research is really unequivocal at this point."

Though some of the benefits of breastfeeding may be exaggerated, it's still a healthy, normal, and fruitful way for a mom to bond with her baby, all while providing vital nutrition. Spanking, on the other hand, has never, ever (did we mention ever?) been shown to have a positive outcome for children, according to Durrant.

Kids who are spanked are more likely to: show higher levels of aggression, display poorer mental health, have a worse relationship with their parents, perform worse in school, and have slower cognitive development.

"Any outcome that has ever been associated is a negative one," says Durrant. "The only thing [spanking] can do, and unreliably so, is make a child comply in the immediate situation. But the child doesn't learn anything from that."

If the science is so clear, why does physical punishment remain so prevalent?

"Good Morning Britain's" own informal poll, for example, showed over half of its viewers thought spanking was perfectly fine.

"We hand down this belief across generations," Durrant explains. "We tend to think that whatever happened to us, that's the norm, that's the way it should be. So we carry it on." She adds that corporal punishment can also be prescribed by certain religious beliefs, which are hard to change.

It's understandable why some parents would resort to hitting or spanking, especially when it comes to our kids' safety. Being a parent means being constantly on guard to keep your kids safe — so it's not hard to understand why Ivens would give her children a good shake with the intention of deterring them from running into oncoming traffic. But that doesn't mean it's the right or best way to handle that situation.

The fact remains that spanking or shaking your kids is just not a good long-term strategy and will actively work against building a healthy relationship between parent and child. There are better, healthier ways to teach your kids to avoid danger and let them know when they've done something wrong.

Durrant suggests parents embrace the role of teacher and mentor rather than disciplinarian.

"Two things that are most critical to children's learning and the parent-child relationship are what I call warmth and structure," she says.

Warmth means making your kids feel safe and supported. Imagine trying to study calculus while walking through a minefield — some environments just aren't conducive to learning. While stopping harmful behaviors in kids is important, helping them learn why and how to regulate their own behavior is the better long-term approach.

Structure means understanding that learning takes time, kids' brains can't change overnight, and simply yelling, berating, or hitting cannot speed it up. It's far better to exercise consistency in your teaching, and better yet, to consistently model the behavior you want your children to learn.

"So if one thing we want them to learn is how to regulate their emotions, the last thing we should do is show them how to hit people," Durrant says.

Hitting is not part of a healthy tactile relationship. It's not like snuggling, holding hands, or breastfeeding.

It has never, ever been shown to do anything to improve the parent-child bond, and it is counterproductive for long-term learning. It's time to listen to the science and consider effective alternatives.

It may be harder during those moments of intense frustration, but a calm and loving approach is better for everyone in the long run.

You can watch the full "Good Morning Britain" interview below:

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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