updated 2/7/2007 10:34:12 AM ET 2007-02-07T15:34:12

To spank or not to spank? That is the question we asked our readers.

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Since a California legislator proposed a state bill that would make spanking a child under the age of 4 a misdemeanor, parents and experts have been debating what's the best form of discipline.

While most parenting experts come out against physical punishment, many parents take a different view. In an poll, nearly 90 percent of our readers said there's nothing wrong with the occasional smack on the bottom, and the messages in our mailbag overwhelmingly support spanking, usually as a last resort.

Scott from Denver, writes, "Associating pain with physical danger is very important. I reserve spanking my 2-year-old daughter for any behavior which can cause her serious negative, or even deadly, consequences."

Read on for more reader responses:

A swat on the behind isn't going to scar a child for life. We're living in a society that is spoiled rotten enough as it is. Where is respect for one's elders when our children hold us hostage with the threat of calling child services on their own parents forbeing parents?
— Don, Oklahoma City, Okla.

It all depends on your child. You HAVE to match the discipline to the child. Spanking should be the last resort when nothing else works. Also, if controlled spanking does not work, do not continue to spank. You have to spend the time to find what works and make a discipline chart so that all parties know the boundaries. ... Also, you have to revisit the plan periodically to asses the effectiveness and make any needed changes.
— Rhonda

I feel that an occasional swat on the behind to get their attention, and convey to them that their is an urgency to start behaving, is just fine. There is a big difference, I believe, in the concept of spanking as opposed to striking or beating. Most good parents, I feel, know the difference and the ones who don't may need to get help, but not arrested.
— Larry, Phoenix

When our daughter refuses to help with house work claiming that it is too heavy we take the same approach as Mr. and Mrs. Pope. She gets push-ups for not lifting. We tell her well if it's too heavy we need to strengthen those muscles. We also have her on the treadmill and she gets 1/4 of a mile for back talking. We have used this approach with her for about since she was 8 and it has worked well on our behalf.
— Jon, St. Paul, Minn.

As an adult who was spanked as a child, I thought I was all for spanking. That is until I became a mother. When my daughters misbehaved, I just could not bring myself to hit them. This might sound crazy to some, but when I would tell my daughters that their behavior was unacceptable and disappointing to me, this usually took care of the issue. … For me, I choose not to spank because it hurts me to think that I would ever strike my children. … For those who choose to use spanking as a form of discipline, I cannot judge them. Spanking is personal decision to be made by the parents.
— Sherry, Charlotte, N.C.

The best technique is to instill some assertiveness in those whiney mothers I see who spend all their time begging their unruly kids to "pleeeese" behave. Whiney, unassertive mothers give away the social pecking order and make life miserable for everyone. My hat is off to all assertive, strong, dominant mothers who set the family tone. Hurray!
— Ed, Atwater, Calif.

We use a variety of methods for our boys, usually resorting to spanking when we need to send a very powerful, startling message. Usually, though, we use timeouts and, as they get older, grounding and/or loss of privileges. I do not feel, however, that it is anyone’s right to tell another person how to raise their children.
— Jennifer, Muncie, Ind.

Not hitting, not slapping, but spanking works. Spanking is a controlled form of discipline, not an emotional outburst, or reaction to being angry — that is called hitting. There is a huge difference between spanking and hitting and those who use spanking as an effective disciplinary measure will have no problem defending the practice. California, and all states, already have laws preventing abuse. It is a huge overstep of the state to think they can and should legislate parenting.
— Chris, Omaha, Neb.

If you find yourself spanking the children under 5 and unable to find better ways to handle them, you need to have medical assessment of the problem.
— Donna, San Jose, Calif.

I never have to spank my daughter. I have a "Count to 3" rule. Usually after "2," she stops her bad behavior immediately. If I reach the number 3, I take away the privilege that I warned her about before I started counting, usually for only a day. No matter how much your child cries, you must be consistent and keep your word.
— Mike, San Diego

If spanking is done in love and not anger, I have found it to be very effective with my four children. Even with the toddler, a very small swat on the diaper (enough to make a noise) and a firm "no" make him obey. Outlawing spanking is not going to curb abuse. People who abuse their children are generally not law-abiding citizens anyway.
— Joy, Los Angeles

I have three grown sons. I spanked them, occasionally using a belt. I always knew ahead how many times I would strike them and never exceeded that number. I never failed after a spanking, to sit them on my knee and tell them that I loved them and explained what they had done wrong. They turned out fine and well adjusted.
— Mike, Plymouth, Mich.

To spank or not to spank? I think that is a parental question that should be left up to the parents. They are the ones responsible, after all. I agree educating parents is a must. If I had taken a parenting class before my daughter was born, I could have avoided a lot of problems.
— Bryan, Lake Worth, Fla.

As usual the "soccer moms of America" continue to lead our youth of this country down the path of non-accountability for their actions, which translates to them believing that they are untouchable in the real world. Don't believe me? Take a look at the youth population of our jails. It has dramatically increased with the "time out” generation.
— Richard, Covington, Ga.

Spanking is the ONLY effective method of child discipline. There is a difference between hitting and spanking, yet most "experts" think they are the same. Spanking is also biblical and ordered by GOD. If God says it is OK, we should be listening. ... My wife and I both believe in spanking and even at 2, my daughter understands that there are consequences for wrong actions.
— Greg, Alabama

The article provided some great tips for discipline. However, I have a concern about the suggestion to use push-ups for punishment. Doing this is likely to cause children to link physical activity to adverse consequences, potentially resulting in adverse feelings towards physical activity — certainly not something we need with the rising obesity rates in our children.
— Lindsay, Scotia, N.Y.

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