Effective Methods of Discipline: Why Spanking Doesn’t Work
Back in the day, it was not uncommon to hear about children being spanked as a means of punishment. Some adults who were spanked as children say that since they turned out fine, there must not be anything wrong with physical punishment for inappropriate behavior.
We now know, however, that there are many reasons why any type of corporal punishment should NEVER be used. In addition to the fact that it is now considered to be a form of child abuse, which may be punishable by law in some states, it is also now widely understood that it is completely ineffective in teaching children more appropriate behavior, self control and good decision making. Adoptive parents are required to sign a document stating that they will never use any form of corporal punishment with their child.
In addition to the legal ramifications, the following are additional reasons why physical punishment is ineffective as well as potentially harmful to children:
- Teaches children that violence is acceptable.
- Teaches them that it is OK to bully people who are weaker and smaller.
- Creates an atmosphere of fear and tension in the parent-child relationship.
- Produces negative emotions for both the child and the parent.
- Can erode respect for the parent.
- Not effective in the long term.
- Does not offer an opportunity to correct mistakes or make better choices.
- Focus is on negative consequences, rather than rewarding positive behavior.
- Focuses on shaming and blaming the child.
- Associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior and aggression in children.
Use of discipline, on the other hand, can be very effective in teaching children right from wrong, self control and good decision making, while also strengthening the bond between parent and child. Use of effective discipline techniques can have the following impact:
- Helps a child to learn self control.
- Holds children accountable for their behavior.
- Empowers the child to correct mistakes and make better choices.
- Focuses on positive reinforcement for desired behavior.
- Focuses on preserving the child’s self-esteem.
- Creates an atmosphere of trust and communication between parent and child.
Some methods of discipline that can be effective include:
- Set consistent rules, limits, and boundaries. Remember that it will take time, repetition and modeling of appropriate behavior.
- Make certain that other caretakers are consistent with your established rules and boundaries.
- Remain calm when your child has a tantrum, rather than escalating with him. If he is screaming, try speaking with him in a much softer voice than usual, while making eye contact with him. This will get his attention and be much more likely to de-escalate his behavior than yelling at him would.
- Emphasize and praise desired behavior. Behavior charts, where a child receives a star or sticker every time he performs a task that is expected of him (ie: completing homework, using proper hygiene, making their bed, setting the table, etc.) or makes a good choice, can be very effective. Reward the desired behavior with time together doing a special activity that your child enjoys, like having a pizza and movie night, going bowling, etc.
- Withhold a privilege for unacceptable behavior, with an opportunity to earn it back over time with improved behavior.
- Help your child to come up with alternative solutions to the problem she is dealing with.
- Take the time to recognize what may be triggering your child’s behavior, and help her to figure out a better way of handling the situation.
- Avoid power struggles with your child, and choose your battles carefully.
- For misbehavior, use “time in”, rather than time out. This means instead of sending your child to her room for a period of time, keep her in the room with you for a period of time, without the benefit of any games, electronics, TV, etc.
- Use natural, logical consequences for undesirable behavior, while remaining loving and empathic toward your child. Love and Logic is a parenting style that teaches this method of dealing with difficult behavior, where the child directly experiences the consequences of his own choices and behaviors.
When parents are calm and in control in the face of behavioral challenges, children feel safer and more secure. We now know that while physical punishment may extinguish behavior temporarily, it does not teach or reinforce desirable behavior, and the negative impact can be long-lasting.
Using appropriate methods of discipline will positively impact your child’s self esteem, increase his ability to learn self control, and give him the opportunity to learn from his mistakes in the safe environment of your family.