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Child Discipline Article Disses Credibility of Social Workers

Photo courtesy of the Washington Examiner.

Jeers to the Washington Examiner for running “Smacking your kid is good for him,” an article that disses the credibility of social workers.

The article cites a recent study from Michigan’s Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts institution, that says children who received corporal punishment performed better in school and were more likely to go to college and do volunteer work. 

Writer Thomas McAdam then goes on to say Dr. Benjamin Spock, psychologists and social workers in the last half of the 20th century unwisely advised parents to stop using corporal punishment altogether. He said these groups made that  recommendation without “valid scientific research.”

That is wrong. According to the National Association of Social Workers the “weight of evidence” has repeatedly shown physical punishment of children is not as effective as other means of behavior management. 

According to NASW policy: 

“The use of physical force against people, especially children, is antithetical to the best values of a democratic society and of the social work profession. Thus, NASW opposes the use of physical punishment in homes, schools, and all other institutions, both public and private, where children are cared for and educated.” 


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  1. Note that article author Thomas McAdam writes as the Louisville Public Policy Examiner, not the Washington Examiner. (Washington is where ya’ll are located and it thus appears at the top of the page.) But the jeer is well deserved nonetheless!

  2. Letter of the law or spirit of the law:
    The vast majority of professionals agree that child buttock-battering isn’t healthy. A marginal few (mostly religious fundamentalists as those at Calvin) think that child bottom-slapping is good. They use the same selective literalist interpretation of the Bible as was used to justify “witch”-burning, depraved torture methods for those accused of sin and heresy, slavery, racism, wife-beating, oppression of women and a host of other social ills.

  3. Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    It’s a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  4. While I appreciate learning that a story like this exists and the position the NASW takes: I would like to know if further action is taken. For example, will the editors of this paper receive a response from the NASW?

  5. To all the professional Social Workers,
    I admire your work as I have family and friends with MSW’s in various fields. So I have an honest question about the above. I have three younger brothers, 11 cousins and we all received some type of corporal (physical) punishment. (And usually, helpful appropriate discipline.) Among the 15 of us are doctors, a dentist, an accountant, consultants, a fireman, housewives, a high-tech mechanic, and I’m a stay-at-home dad with two adopted daughters. Most of us grew up in a church-attending environment, and 20% of us served in the military.
    Knowing my family, I would guess that all would say that: a) they turned out “fine”; and b) most have used the same techniques on their kids. None of us have been arrested, charged with child abuse and/or domestic violence. Many of us do charitable work, including overseas medical work, and volunteering as I did, in places such as New Orleans after Katrina.
    So, given the lack of empirical data and references stated above, how is that we – and most of the people I’ve met living in seven different states – as recipients of spanking – turned out to be functioning, rational, religious, self-sacrificing contributors to our country and the world at large?? It seems to me that the evidence of my family adhering to the biblical verse “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, was the BEST method.
    Thanks in advance for your thoughtful response.

  6. It’s interesting that the policy statement quoted above frames this as an ideological question rather than an empirical one. Why don’t you provide some citations to support the empirical claims made here? Not just books, but something that can be checked immediately?

    Also, I understand Dr. Spock never actually took a sweeping anti-spanking position, notwithstanding how that’s become associated with his name. And not all critics of that position are religious fundamentalists. Some are evidence-based researchers who take a nuanced, evolution-informed position emphasizing that reasoning should always be tried first.

    A few years ago I read Murray Straus’s book _The Case Against Spanking_, and was taken aback to read, a few chapters in, “If you’ve gotten this far in the book, obviously I’ve convinced you that spanking is never necessary and is always a bad idea” (or something to that effect). My reaction was, “What?? No, I’ve gotten this far in the book because I want to know everything you have to say, and may find some of it useful even if I don’t buy your entire argument.” If Straus assumes people will stop reading his book if they’re not totally convinced within the first couple chapters, does this mean that’s the way he is too? If so, it tells me something about his intellectual attitude and paints it as somewhat less than robustly open-minded.

  7. “According to NASW policy,” but I cannot locate this policy. The link provided goes only to the NASW homepage. When I Google these quoted words, only a couple of blogs pop up. Where exactly is this quote from?

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