Spanking Debate: A Generational Divide

Laura and Todd Mansfield of Portland, Oregon, are against spanking, and have made a conscious decision as parents not to use it to discipline their two sons, 6-year-old Connor and 3-year-old Drew.

"I'm like, 'How can I do that to my child?'" Todd Mansfield told "Good Morning America." "It does hurt me more than maybe it hurts them, but beyond that, I just didn't want to do it. I knew there other ways."

The Mansfields, who run a radio program called Parenting Unplugged Radio said that after reading studies that show long-term negative effects of spanking, they started using alternative methods when the kids misbehave.

"I do think that spanking can be used as a form of abuse," Laura Mansfield said. "I do think that it can."

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But Laura Mansfield's parents have a different view, and their opposing position came to a head when her parents on two occasions spanked Connor and Drew without their parents' knowledge.

The most recent case was when the boys spent a weekend at their grandparents and Drew was caught pulling up his grandmother's flowers in her garden, and both boys got spanked.

"She grabbed my 6-year-old, who at the time was holding a handful of bulbs, and spanked him," Laura Mansfield said. "She then proceeded to chase my 3-year-old and catch him and spank him as well.

The Mansfields were furious and confronted her parents.

"I think she was exhausted and desperate and didn't know what else to do," Laura Mansfield said.

Laura Mansfield's mother did not want to talk about the incident because she said it was out of character for her.

Laura Mansfield's father, Macy Wall, spanked her and her siblings growing up and said he doesn't see spanking as something detrimental.

"I guess our general tendency amongst my contemporaries would be that it's being blown out of proportion, that what the heck," Wall said. "You know, we all got our fair share of spankings growing up. So what's the big deal? We don't feel traumatized. Our friends don't feel traumatized."

But the Mansfields disagree, and feel that both of them suffered as adults after being spanked as kids.

"It creates a fear aspect in it," Todd Mansfield said. "So then I'm making my decisions based on, 'Am I gonna get spanked?' I'm not trying to grow myself as a person."

And they don't want their sons to feel the same way.

"It's bad to do," Connor said. "And you're just hurting people instead of, like, talking to them about it."

The whole family is now in counseling, and the grandparents have come to understand why the Mansfields were so angry. But they say it can be difficult for grandparents who care for grandchildren.

"I guess that's a little bit of the edge that comes with being a grandparent," Wall said. "You've raised your own children. You think you've done an OK job. Your child may disagree with you at some level. But if you trust a grandparent, then, you know, [is it right] putting limits on what a grandparent can do and not do?"

Ann Pleshette Murphy appeared on "Good Morning America" this morning to give her take on spanking.

She said spanking was never okay, and cited research that showed it increased aggression, bullying and lying, adding that it eroded trust and instilled fear rather than respect.

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