The Road Less Taken: Is spanking necessary? - The Post

The Road Less Taken: Is spanking necessary?

Unacceptable − every way you look at it (photo: Pixabay)
October 19th, 2019 5:43 am| by Jessica Alexander

We were on holiday recently and I witnessed a fairly familiar scene. I don’t need to talk about where we were. It could have been Anywhere, USA or Wherever, Europe. It could have been on a beach, in the snow, in a restaurant or on the street.

A little bit passé
A family were eating dinner and a three-year-old girl was misbehaving. I don’t know how well behaved any three-year-old is supposed to be, but the father had finally had enough. He half stood up, raised the back of his hand and threatened to slap her in the face if she didn’t behave. He didn’t hit her then and there, but clearly she had been hit before.

I have seen this scene in so many different forms with all ages of children. My only surprise is how foreign it becomes to me every time I see it. It’s similar to the way one looks at an ashtray on a flight. “Really? People used to smoke on planes?” It seems hard to believe.

Clear Danish views
And yet, I was spanked as a child, as many people were from other cultures. I never really questioned it until I married a Dane and had children of my own. I discovered we had very different ideas of how to raise children and this completely changed my life.

While writing my first book, ‘The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide to Raising the Happiest Kids in the World’, I did some serious research into the subject of spanking and discovered some eye-opening statistics.

Spanking has been illegal in Denmark since 1997 and most Danes I’ve interviewed considered it “an extremely strange, almost unthinkable form of educating a child”. They focus more on managing problems with a ‘no ultimatums’ approach rather than focusing on how to discipline or punish.

Still strangely acceptable
Spanking, although perhaps not openly talked about, is still more or less acceptable in many countries. This includes many areas in the US, UK and Italy – to name a few.

And while physical punishment may work in the short term, there are mountains of evidence that show there are many negative long-term effects of physical punishment. It begs to question: is it really necessary?

Many who were spanked do it because they say “I turned out okay”. But this is like saying: “I smoked my whole life and I feel fine.” That doesn’t make it good for us.

Time for perspective
The truth is that most of us rarely question the way we were raised. Society has some very engrained ideas about what is okay and what is not, and we seldom challenge whether these ways are right or wrong.

Sometimes the most powerful change we can make is to be able to step outside ourselves or our culture and see things from another perspective.

I can’t help but wonder: if we were able to look from the perspective of Denmark, a country constantly voted as one of the happiest and most peaceful in the world, would the idea of spanking children feel like a slap in the face?

Jessica Alexander


Jessica is a bestselling US author, Danish parenting expert, columnist, speaker and cultural researcher. Her work has been featured in TIME, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic and The NY Times, among others. She graduated with a BS in psychology and speaks four languages. Follow Jessica on IG @jessicajoelle_ or jessicajoellealexander.com.