Instead of Hitting

34 alternatives to spanking your child

Peggy O'Mara
5 min readJan 24


Photo by Fizkes

I started out hitting my kids. I would lose my temper when their behavior got out of my control, and I would hit. I never felt good about it, but I didn’t know what else to do. I thought it was effective because afterward I had regained control of the situation, but it just didn’t feel right. When I saw the slogan, “People are not for hitting and children are people too,” I knew I had to make a change.

Giving up spanking required me to acknowledge that my own attitudes and beliefs often contributed to conflicts with my children. And, I had to learn to talk to my children in a more reciprocal way — this took time. It was like learning a new language. I learned the language from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in their book, How to Talk So Kids Can Listen and Listen So Kids Can Talk.

Talking in a new way

Learning to talk to my children in a new way meant that I had to get comfortable with strong emotions and be willing to talk about anything. I also learned how to rebound from anger and to reconcile with my children afterwards. No easy tasks.

When we can appreciate that our children have good reasons for their behavior, as misguided as it may appear, it allows us to approach them with compassion. This way we are more likely to frame our arguments as Haim Ginott, author of Between Parent and Child, suggests:

  • Express nuances of anger without nuances of insult.
  • Talk to the situation, not the character of the person.
  • Disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Change a mood, not a mind.

Just say no to spanking

Despite the irrefutable evidence linking hitting to mental illness, over 90% of parents in the US still continue to spank their children. We mostly spank children under five and we do so infrequently, once or twice a month. A study in Pediatrics correlated a relationship between harsh physical punishment (pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting) and increased risk of:

  • mood disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • alcohol and drug abuse/dependence



Peggy O'Mara

Peggy O’Mara is an award winning journalist. She was the Editor and Publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. Her focus is Family, Health, and Justice.