A child misbehaves by poking, kicking or hitting another child. The parent grabs him by the arm and slaps or spanks him for hitting that child. Is there anything wrong with this picture?
Spanking teaches children that violence is the solution to behavior problems. Essentially when we talk about discipline we are talking about teaching the behavior that we would like to see and correcting the behavior we don’t in our children. What better way to teach our children than to model that which is considered respectful, fair and appropriate. Slapping or spanking a child is a behavior not considered respectful or even civil so why would we subject children to that?
There are many advocates for corporal punishment (spanking) that argue that children who misbehave (or seriously misbehave) will only respond to spanking and that parents who do not spank such kids “spoil” them. As stated above, spanking teaches kids that violence is okay.
One of TV’s more popular advice experts, psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, notes on his website that research has shown that “long-term consequences of spanking can include increased aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and delinquency.” Of course, proponents of spanking say that this is only true of abusive kinds of discipline, and that all spanking doesn’t fall under that umbrella.
Still, no matter what immediate benefits that spanking may bring (stopping the misbehavior) to parents want to accept these potential long term consequences of modeling violence as a solution to conflict?
In many cases parents spank because they simply don’t have an ideas or approaches to stop the misbehavior that does not include spanking. Many parents simply raise their children in the manner that they were raised. Often times parents do things without even being aware that they are repeating a behavior they were taught as a child.
Parents need skills! So said famed child psychologist Haim Ginott. Books like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, which is based on his ideas, may help teach parents how to set limits with their kids and express their own feelings appropriately.
So how do parents break the “spanking cycle”? A good way is to become informed about the alternative ways of discipline. These alternatives may be more time consuming and frustrating but on one ever said parenting was easy.
Take the time to talk to your child. It may take a while for your child to respond to “talking” but with consistency and firmness in your approach it can be a much more satisfying and educational moment for both you and your child. Use natural consequences to teach your child that their behavior has consequences.
Whether the child is 3 or 9, taking the time to express and communicate your displeasure with a behavior honestly is a rich learning moment. It may not feel that way at the time, but by honesty and sincerely expressing your discontent in language that reaches your child, you are showing real concern and engaging your child in a way that teaches him respect and good communication.
The consistent show of respect and patience in listening to your child explain his behavior will teach your child the importance of dignity and compassion during those times when it matters most.
You will be exhausted and it will take likely far greater effort than a spanking, but the benefit will far outweigh the inconvenience of fatigue and extra time spent. You don’t have to be perfect as a parent; you just have to be willing to take each disciplinary experience as a learning one for you and your child.
The Responsive Parenting online parenting course