When spanking is at the heart of controversy, so are the myths. Ron Prinz weighs into the debate in a South Carolina newspaper

Spanking and corporal punishment can set off a firestorm of debate under any circumstances.

Add a high-profile NFL case, and we have a recipe for a vigorous public dialogue about parenting, child abuse and best practices.

Public debate is healthy. Unfortunately, this one tends to be marked by myths and distracting generalities.

Myth No. 1: All spanking is child abuse and therefore should be banned. Fact: Most spanking episodes in fact do not rise to child abuse.

Myth No. 2: Parents who spank are bad parents, and spanked children will suffer poor outcomes. Fact: Parents who spank represent a very broad spectrum, ranging from effective to abusive. Generally speaking, children fare well if their families provide a warm, structured and safe environment with appropriate encouragement as well as discipline and limit-setting — whether parents spank or not.

Myth No. 3: Parents who do not spank are effective parents. Fact: Not necessarily. There are many other elements that go into what makes parents more or less effective.

We have all seen an out-of-control child running amok in the grocery store. And we have heard bystanders comment, “What that child needs is a good lickin.”

However, we also have observed parent-child struggles where the young child acts up in the market, is yelled at, continues to act up, gets slapped or spanked and a few minutes later acts up again.

In such common scenarios, the fundamental question is not whether to spank. Instead, it is how parents get into such predicaments and how they can extricate themselves or, better yet, prevent such events.

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