by Destry Maycock
Spanking is only a temporary solution to ongoing problems. Spanking usually leaves a child wondering what should I do differently so I don’t get hit again. Seldom are spankings followed by instruction on what the child needs to do or stop doing. It generally is nothing more than a release of the parent’s frustration directed toward the child. It teaches a child to comply because of fear rather than a sense of what is right or wrong. It teaches children that violence is an acceptable way to solve their problems. Children who are spanked often have a greater risk of low self-esteem, aggression, lying, cheating, depression and bullying. Spanking sets the example that it is okay to hit when a person is upset or angry. Below are ten alternatives to spanking that you might find helpful.
1. GIVE CHOICES. A choice gives some control back to the child on the parent’s terms. Parents who are really good at providing choices have children who are more compliant and good at making decisions. An example of a choice might be, “would you like to stay here and play with your brother without hitting or would you like to go play alone in your room? It’s up to you.” Be careful not to use a choice and a threat because there is really no true choice to be made when you do that. For example, “would you rather stop hitting your brother or get a spanking.” Provide two options for your child that you would feel good about if he/she chose either.
2. TAKE A TIMEOUT. It is perfectly okay to say, “I’m to upset to deal with you right now, I will talk to you about this later.”
3. GET SOMEONE ELSE INVOLVED. If you feel like your child has got you so angry that you may not be in control, then ask someone else to help you who is not as intimately involved in the situation. This reduces the likelihood that you will strike you child. The key is being able to recognize when you are approaching the point of no return and asking your spouse or someone else to intervene.
4. TEACH THEM WHAT YOU EXPECT. Instead of punishing them for misbehaving, teach them what they can do differently. “You know……. I really get frustrated when you throw your book bag and coat on the living room floor. Next time, please hang them up in the closet. Is there something we can do to help you remember this?”
5. RECOGNIZE THEIR POSITIVE BEHAVIORS. Too often parents only notice their children’s misbehaviors and disregard the things they do well. Reinforcing the positive with praise or privileges is a healthy way of establishing desired behaviors in your children. Catch them doing/being good. “Wow Taylor! I really like how you picked up all your toys without mom telling you to. That is what I call being responsible.”
6. TIMEOUT. The general rule is one minute for every year that the child is old. The setting where the timeout takes place isn’t as important as the fact that you are tying the misbehavior to the consequence. “David you know that I don’t like it when you lie to me. You need to go to timeout for lying. Let’s talk about what you can do differently next time to keep a lie from coming out after you get your timeout done. See you in six minutes David.” As for the setting, it should be place that is quiet and the child is unable to get your attention or be unintentionally rewarded. If a child is having a tantrum then their time should start when they have calmed down and can keep it under control for the duration of the timeout.
7. CONSEQUENCE. Providing a logical consequence is often very effective. Again you need to tie the consequence back to the misbehavior. “I would love to be able to take you to the store Sara but remember last time how you ran around the store and would not listen to me. Well, I’m just not up for that today so you are going to have to stay home with Dad. Maybe next time I will be ready to give it another try.”
8. PICK YOUR BATTLES. Pick the top four things that you just can’t tolerate and focus on disciplining them just for those four behaviors. This let’s your child know what is really important to you and you don’t come across and disciplining them for every little infraction. For some, fighting with siblings, lying, talking back and not following through with a request would be the misbehaviors they would focus on. This isn’t to say that you would neglect to intervene where your child’s safety could be compromised.
9. SET LIMITS. Instead of telling your children what to do try telling them what you are going to do or allow. “I will be happy to take you to Jason’s when you have finished your chores.” “I will talk to you about this when you can speak with a calm voice.” Remember that we have little control over what others do or how they behave and all we really control over is what we do and how behave. Telling your child what you will do or allow is a great way of setting limits.
10. STATE YOUR REQUEST IN THE POSITIVE. You may ask yourself what is meant by that? Have your ever noticed how we usually make or request or directives in the negative. “I’m not going to fix dinner until these dishes are done.” “You are not watching TV until you have completed your homework.” What is the first thing your child hears? NOT or what they can’t have. Which sets the stage for a battle. However, just by changing the structure of how you make request will increase your child’s cooperation. Try stating things in the positive by telling them what they can have or what you will allow. “ I will be happy to fix dinner when the dishes are done.” “You are welcome to watch TV when your homework is finished. They are less likely to argue when your are telling them what they can have or you will allow.
Destry has had over eleven years experience working with children and families as a professional Social Worker. He has also taught many parenting courses and studied the topic of parenting thoroughly throughout his career.