HMN Advisory Board Member

by Peggy O’Mara, Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award-winning writer, and independent thinker. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out her email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.

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. I believed that I had to hit my children in order to control them and control seemed so important then. But it just didn’t feel right.

Giving up spanking required me to be willing to acknowledge, in conflicts with my children, that my own attitudes or beliefs may be contributing to the conflict. And, I had to learn to talk to my children in a new, more cooperative way–this took time.


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 had to learn how to rebound from anger and to reconcile with my children afterwards. Not easy tasks.

When we can appreciate that our children also have good reasons for their behavior, as misguided as it may appear, it allows us to approach them with compassion. That way we are more likely to frame our arguments as suggested by Haim Ginott decades ago:

  • 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.


Despite the irrefutable evidence that links spanking to mental illness, as well as the examples of 46 countries that have outlawed corporal punishment of children, over 90% of us in the US still continue to spank. We mostly spank children under five and we do so infrequently, once or twice a month.

Most of us who spank do so because it was done to us, because we expect ourselves to be able to control our children’s behavior, and because we don’t know what else to do.

Perhaps you want to stop spanking, but think you must wait until you have figured out something better to do. However, it is stopping spanking in itself that allows you to find other solutions. Here are some alternatives to punishment.