The Controversial Question of Spanking at Bedtime: Is it Helping Your Child Stay in Bed?

This article delves into the divisive topic of spanking at bedtime, with a particular focus on how it affects toddlers to older children.

In a sea of contrasting opinions, it is crucial to rely on evidence and best practices to ensure that your child is not only going to bed but also sleeping well.

This article is worth reading because it provides nuanced insights and suggests alternative approaches to establish a peaceful bedtime routine.

What Triggers Bedtime Struggles in Toddlers?

Toddlers are at an age where they are exploring boundaries and developing independence. This drive for exploration can lead to bedtime struggles.

They may refuse to go to bed or get out of bed multiple times, sometimes to go potty, or simply because they want to avoid bedtime.

Understanding what triggers your toddler can help in crafting a bedtime routine that eases them into sleep without the need for spanking.

Is Spanking an Effective Way for a Toddler to Go to Bed?

Many parents resort to spanking when their toddler refuses to go to bed or gets out of bed frequently.

However, spanking at bedtime may create a fear-based compliance rather than a genuine understanding of bedtime’s importance.

It can also make it difficult for the toddler to fall asleep, as the stress from getting a spanking can be counterproductive.

What Do Studies Say About Spanking at Bedtime?

Research on the subject of spanking in general often points out its ineffectiveness as a disciplinary method.

It tends to be linked with adverse effects on the child’s mental health.

No studies specifically focus on spanking at bedtime, but the general findings on spanking shed light on why it might not be the best approach for ensuring that your child goes to sleep and stays in bed.

Sleeping Well: The Importance of a Calm Bedtime

A calm bedtime is crucial for everyone, especially children, who need adequate sleep for healthy growth and development.

Spanking at bedtime can disturb this calm, making it difficult for your child to fall asleep or sleep through the night. This disrupts the aim of having them go to bed and sleep well.

What are the Best Nighttime Routines for Toddlers?

Building a consistent bedtime routine can be an effective alternative to spanking. This could include a warm bath, reading a book, and some cuddle time.

A bedtime routine provides the toddler with cues that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

The aim is to make bedtime a better experience without resorting to spanking or other punitive measures.

How Does Spanking at Bedtime Affect Older Children?

While older children are generally more capable of understanding the concept of bedtime, spanking at this stage can instill feelings of shame or fear.

Spanking can also be damaging to the parent-child relationship, fostering resentment and affecting the child’s emotional development.

Quora and Public Opinion: What are People Saying?

Public opinion on this subject is divided. A quick browse through Quora reveals that some people swear by the effectiveness of spanking, while others decry it as an outdated and harmful practice.

Regardless of public opinion, it is important to consider the best interests of your child and the research available on the topic.

Should I Change My Mind About Spanking?

Changing long-held beliefs is never easy, but sometimes necessary for the betterment of your child-rearing approaches.

If spanking at bedtime is causing more problems than solutions and affecting your child’s ability to sleep well, then it may be time to consider alternative strategies.

Are There Legal and Ethical Concerns Around Bedtime Spanking?

Depending on where you live, spanking can have legal ramifications. Some jurisdictions categorize it under child abuse.

Beyond legal concerns, there are also ethical questions to consider, such as the emotional and psychological well-being of your child.

What are the Alternatives to Spanking at Bedtime?

There are multiple non-punitive strategies that can be equally, if not more, effective in establishing a peaceful bedtime routine.

These include positive reinforcement, setting clear boundaries, and using timeouts rather than spanking, yelling or hitting

A more empathic approach fosters a supportive atmosphere that helps children understand the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Tips for a Calm Bedtime Routine for Toddlers and Older Children Struggling to Sleep

Creating a calm and consistent bedtime routine can greatly improve your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are some tips tailored for both toddlers and older children:

1. Create a Bedtime Schedule

  • For Toddlers: Make sure you establish a specific time for bed and stick to it every night.
  • For Older Children: Allow some flexibility but ensure that bedtime doesn’t vary widely from night to night.

2. Limit Stimulating Activities

  • For Toddlers: Keep playtime gentle and avoid high-energy activities an hour before bedtime.
  • For Older Children: Limit the use of electronic devices and screen time at least an hour before going to bed.

3. A Soothing Bath

  • For Toddlers: A warm bath can help relax the body and signal to the toddler that it’s time to wind down.
  • For Older Children: A quick warm shower can have the same calming effect.

4. Dress Comfortably

  • For Both: Make sure your child wears comfortable PJs that aren’t too tight and are appropriate for the season.

5. Reading Time

  • For Toddlers: Read a simple, soothing story. Keep the tone gentle.
  • For Older Children: Encourage them to read a book or read one together. Avoid suspenseful or action-packed stories right before bed.

6. Calming Sounds

  • For Both: Soft, relaxing music or white noise can be helpful. Make sure the volume is low.

7. Dim the Lights

  • For Both: Lower the lights in the room to create a calming atmosphere and signal that it’s time to sleep.

8. Talk and Cuddle

  • For Toddlers: A few minutes of cuddling and gentle talking can help ease the transition to sleep.
  • For Older Children: This could be a good time for a brief chat about their day, making sure to keep the conversation light and positive.

9. A Transitional Object

  • For Toddlers: A soft toy, blanket, or other comfort objects can help.
  • For Older Children: Some may still appreciate a comfort item or specific pillow.

10. Reassurance

  • For Toddlers: Reassure them that you’re nearby and everything is okay. You may want to sit outside their room for a few minutes.
  • For Older Children: A simple “Goodnight, I love you” can go a long way in providing reassurance.

11. Deal with Fears or Concerns

  • For Toddlers: If they’re afraid of the dark, a soft nightlight can help.
  • For Older Children: Discuss any fears or concerns earlier in the evening, so it’s not a point of focus at bedtime.

12. Avoid Food and Drink

  • For Both: Avoid giving food and especially caffeinated drinks before bedtime as they can interfere with sleep.

By incorporating these tips into your child’s routine, you’ll not only help them go to sleep but also improve the quality of their sleep, thereby aiding their overall development.

Summary: Things to Remember

  • Spanking at bedtime is a controversial method and can be counterproductive for both toddlers and older children.
  • A calm bedtime routine is vital for sleeping well, and spanking can disturb this calm.
  • Public opinion on the subject is divided, but it’s essential to consider evidence-based practices for the betterment of your child.
  • Legal and ethical considerations around spanking should not be overlooked.
  • Alternative strategies like positive reinforcement and setting clear boundaries are effective and less harmful ways to instill a good bedtime routine.

By focusing on non-punitive methods and understanding the needs and triggers of your child, you can create a bedtime atmosphere conducive to sleep without resorting to spanking.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Is spanking an effective way to make toddlers go to bed?

A: Spanking may produce immediate compliance due to fear, but it is generally not an effective long-term strategy for teaching a toddler to go to bed. The stress from the spanking could even make it more difficult for the child to fall asleep.

Q: What do studies say about the effects of spanking?

A: Studies generally point to negative outcomes associated with spanking, such as adverse effects on a child’s mental health. While there are no specific studies focusing solely on spanking at bedtime, the overall negative outlook on spanking is pertinent.

Q: Are there alternatives to spanking at bedtime?

A: Yes, there are many alternatives to spanking that can be equally effective in getting children to go to bed. These include setting up a calm bedtime routine, using positive reinforcement, setting clear boundaries, and opting for timeout methods.

Q: How does spanking at bedtime affect older children?

A: Spanking older children can lead to feelings of shame and fear, and may damage the parent-child relationship. It may also make it harder for the child to fall asleep and stay asleep due to stress or anxiety.

Q: Is it legal to spank children as a disciplinary measure?

A: The legality of spanking varies by jurisdiction. In some areas, it could be categorized under child abuse. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the laws in your jurisdiction regarding child discipline.

Q: What does public opinion say about spanking at bedtime?

A: Public opinion is divided on this issue. Platforms like Quora reveal contrasting views, some defending spanking as effective, while others denounce it as harmful and outdated. The key is to look at evidence-based practices rather than relying solely on public opinion.

Q: Is a calm bedtime important for a child’s health?

A: Absolutely. A calm bedtime routine is crucial for quality sleep, which in turn is vital for a child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development.

Q: Can spanking at bedtime interfere with sleep quality?

A: Yes, the stress and anxiety generated from spanking can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep and may lead to frequent nighttime wakings.

Q: How can I make bedtime a better experience for my child?

A: Consistency is key. Establish a calming bedtime routine that your child looks forward to, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath. This helps signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Q: Can changing my approach to spanking improve my child’s sleep?

A: Changing from a punitive method like spanking to a more empathic approach can significantly improve your child’s sleep quality and emotional well-being. It also fosters a better parent-child relationship.

External Resources:


Scholarly Articles

  1. Gershoff, E. T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2016). Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(4), 453–469. Link
  2. Owens, J., & Jones, C. (2011). Parental Knowledge of Healthy Sleep in Young Children: Results of a Primary Care Clinic Survey. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32(6), 447–453. Link


  1. “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Dr. Richard Ferber
  2. The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night” by Elizabeth Pantley


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics – Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Tips for Better Sleep

Online Platforms

  1. Quora: Is it okay to spank a child for not going to bed?
  2. BabyCenter Community Boards – Bedtime Routines and Sleep Training

Government Resources

  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – The Importance of Bedtime Routines for Children

These references cover various aspects related to spanking, bedtime routines, and child sleep issues. They offer evidence-based insights that could be useful for parents looking for information on these topics.




This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.