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Should You Spank Your Child?

Discipline Boy Getting Time OutSpanking has always been a hot-button parenting issue. Those who disagree with it are often vocal about the negative effects corporal punishment can have on a child, and those who use it might argue that, done properly, it’s a quick and effective way to both deter and discipline unwanted behaviors.

My stance on the issue is that kids should not be hit or spanked. But this does not mean I encourage you to spoil your child. Quite the opposite, in fact. There are many other methods of discipline that work as effectively and cause less damage.

To be clear, I am not a supporter of wishy-washy parenting and too much vague-talk. Children need to have very set boundaries and then consequences when those boundaries are crossed. Some parents might feel that spanking is an instant undesired consequence that will make the child think twice about misbehaving again.

Here’s why I think spanking isn’t the answer:

  1.  This is a big one. If you use physical discipline to punish your children, a huge amount of control is necessary so the child does not get injured or emotionally scarred. As you are most likely going to be angry when your child has done something he shouldn’t have, it is quite possible you might lash out in anger. I think most of us can probably agree that this is a dangerous scenario.
  2. Spanking sends the message to the child that problems should be solved using force. It confuses children if we tell them not to hit their siblings or friends and then we give them a swat for hitting someone on the playground. This sends a very mixed message that they will not be able to process.
  3. Spanking can create a good cop/bad cop dynamic, particularly if one parent is the usual “spanker.” The other parent will use the age-old “Wait till your father gets home,” which then makes the child more fearful of the other parent. 

One of the reasons people believe spanking can be effective is the fear factor: kids are terrified of being hit because they know it hurts, and because the parent is so much bigger than them. But in my opinion, fear is not a healthy long-term method to get children to listen, respond, and  do what is asked of them. Respect should be the goal, not fear.


So if you’re not going to resort to hitting or spanking your children, what do you do?

The main rule with discipline is to be absolutely clear with your children in terms of what is expected of them and make sure you communicate these expectations in a way they can understand.

If you’re dealing with a toddler who draws on the walls, say “I do not want you to draw on the wall with your crayon. If you do it again, you will get a time-out.” And then stick to your word and give him a time-out if he does it again.

Sometimes children are not sure what you want, even if you think it should be obvious. This is especially true when you ask them to “behave.” This is not enough instruction. Take the situation where kids are acting out in a restaurant. Instead of saying “behave yourselves!” tell them exactly what you want: “I want you to sit down in your chair,” or “I want you to say please and thank you when the waiter comes to the table.” Make sure they look you in the eye as you instruct them.

Consequences are also very important. Doing nothing about bad behavior is not an option. It’s important that you and your spouse come up with a concise plan about what the consequences are for certain behaviors and then stick to them every time. The clearer you are about how you handle unwanted behaviors, the less likely you are to respond with a knee-jerk reaction like yelling or hitting.

Some examples would be:

  1. Leaving the playground after one warning
  2. Giving an age-appropriate time-out
  3. Requesting help with cleanup if a mess has been deliberately made

Positive reinforcement is also a very important tool in raising happy and successful children, and it encourages wanted behaviors and discourages unacceptable behaviors. Showing your children that you love and accept them and want to spend time with them will make them feel more secure and less likely to act out.

Want more ideas about how to have a clear plan of action for discipline? Find out how to create a plan in Kids: The Manual.

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Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
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My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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