Parents of toddlers frequently ask when it is appropriate to spank a child as a means of discipline. The use of physical punishment as a consistent disciplinary tool is inappropriate at any age. Hitting or spanking usually occurs when relatively healthy parents have been provoked beyond their limits and resort to physical means to relieve their tensions.
On the other hand, a rare swat across the bottom is unlikely to harm either the parent or the child. However, it should be understood that the child's attitude toward aggression in later life, whether directed toward him, or others, is strongly influenced by the pattern of limit setting and discipline to which they were exposed as children. Those children who were managed with kind firmness will treat others and eventually their own children in a similar fashion.
Knowing the limits of your tolerance for toddler misbehavior is key to an appropriate response. If you sense that you’re approaching your limits of tolerance, then a verbal response conveying your marked displeasure is likely to be an effective means of control.
For example (in a stern voice), “Tom, you need to listen to me. You cannot hit Samson (the dog). I will not let you do that. I love you, but I don’t like what you did.”