Disciplining Your Child Without Spanking

Disciplining Your Child Without Spanking

Learning to discipline your child and teach good decision-making skills is one of the most important tasks of parenting. While discipline is necessary in order for children to learn self-control and the consequences of poor choices, how they are disciplined is important to the development of their self- esteem and self-confidence. As they grow, develop and learn, they make mistakes and need some form of guidance. Parents have different methods of guiding their children and teaching them rules and responsibility, but not everyone agrees how these rules and responsibilities should be taught. A parents’ method for helping their child learn good decision-making skills and the consequences of poor choices is often referred to as their style or method discipline. One common, but controversial method of discipline, which is used by two thirds of American parents, is spanking.

A child must learn and internalize why something, like stealing, is wrong. Parents who spank their children are trying to punish bad behavior in hopes that it won’t be repeated. But current research shows that spanking isn’t an effective form of discipline; furthermore, it is damaging to a child’s mental health. Spanking causes children to be anti-social and aggressive. It often results in worse behavior as the child begins to rebel against the punishment. Spanking causes confusion, anger, shame and fear in children. Sometimes children aren’t able to link their wrongdoing to the physical punishment, making the spanking a pointless lesson.

There is no magical way to ensure your child will always make good choices. However, you can help your children understand what’s expected of them before and after they misbehave. You can use alternative methods to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior.

Calmly and concisely communicate rules and consequences
As children grow and develop they need to be reminded of your expectations. Have a calm and positive conversation about your rules and what you consider wrong. However, remember that too much explaining and discussion can make the situation worse. Children are not little adults and too much explaining can distract children and lead to argumentative behaviors.

Let natural consequences occur
If your son leaves his baseball glove at the field, and discovers that it is gone when he goes back for it, the natural consequence is loss of the glove. To replace it, the child must pay for the glove himself. Parents must remain firm, but kind, about their unwillingness to replace the glove. If your child refuses to do his/her schoolwork or project, don’t do it for him/her. Receiving a bad grade will be disappointing and teach them responsibility. Allowing the natural consequence to occur will help children learn the results of their behaviors.

Use positive reinforcement and rewards
Notice your child when his/her behavior is good. Remember that behaviors that are noticed and rewarded by parents tend to get repeated. Come up with a reward system for good behavior and communicate it to your child. For example, completing homework for an entire week earns extra computer time or a favorite dessert. Ask what your children what they would like as a reward, this will keep them thinking about the reward and behaving so they can receive it.

Use relatable or logical punishments
Use punishments that relate to the child’s “crime.” If your child refuses to put away his toys, then he loses the privilege to play with those toys the next day. This will help the child connect the wrongdoing with the consequence and learn to manage his behavior.

Use times outs sparingly
Timeout can be a way to interrupt or intervene in misbehavior; however, for some children timeout can feel like abandonment and punishment at a time when you are most needed. If a child is having trouble managing strong emotions such as anger or frustration, it may be important for you to stay close and reassure him/her of your love and care. This doesn’t mean that you give into whatever caused the meltdown, but you remain close and available so that you can talk about the situation once he/she has calmed down.

Take a timeout yourself if needed
Remember that sometimes you might need a timeout. Children can be very challenging to deal with sometimes, so if you find yourself losing it, take five minutes in your room or a quiet place. This will help prevent you from doing anything you will regret later.

Be kind and listen
Remember to be kind, respectful, patient and attentive to your child. Schedule some one-on-one time with your child where you can both relax and talk it out.

If you would like to speak to a family therapist for advice, reach out to us at Family & Child Development.