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To spank or not to spank? TODAY anchors discuss disciplining kids

July 22, 2014 at 2:09 PM ET

A recent New York court ruling that called spanking a “reasonable use of force” has stirred debate among parents over the still widely used form of household discipline.

It also brought forth admissions Tuesday from TODAY anchors that, in rare instances, they’ve taken a hand to their own kids.

“A couple of times, maybe two times, I have spanked my children,” Natalie Morales said. Each occasion stemmed from “extreme cases of, I thought my kids were going to run out in front of a car, or other things they were not supposed to do that scared the life out of me.”

Al Roker, who has three children, said: “I’ve probably spanked each one maybe twice.”

And he felt horrible every time.

“I apologized afterward. I said I’m sorry. ‘I’m sorry for what happened. I maybe overreacted but you scared Dad because I was so worried about you,’” he said.

Video: A newspaper story reports on a New York court ruling that a dad who spanked his child for cursing at an adult used reasonable force, dismissing the child-neglect proceeding against him.

Last week, a state appellate court in New York found that a father’s open-handed spanking of his 8-year-old son was “a reasonable use of force.” The spanking occurred in October 2012 after the child cursed during a party.

“Obviously, it’s not something you do on a regular basis,” Roker said of corporal punishment.

Both he and Natalie said they were spanked as children, and that the mere threat of a spanking was enough to force them to behave. Willie Geist said he also was spanked as a kid — “I think it was generational” — although he has never punished his own children that way.

“I have a deep threatening voice that is worse than any spank," he said. "It freezes them in their tracks, to say the least. ...

“I think that spanking a kid teaches them that that’s the way to resolve a conflict and that it ends right there with a physical confrontation.”

With that said, Willie acknowledged there have been times when he grabbed a child by the arm “to shake them a little bit.”

Watch KLG and Hoda video: Survey suggests spanking leads to aggression

While Tamron Hall does not have children, she recalled the impact spankings had when she was in a grade school that used paddles as a form of corporal punishment.

“I went to Catholic school and they’d go at it with us,” she said. 

“It was traumatic. I still feel it, but my mom was OK with it because it’s a nun.”

What do you think about spanking? Vote on it here.


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