Six Alternatives to Spanking
Elizabeth Nelson, MSW
The Indiana Department of Child Services mandates that adoptive parents cannot spank adopted children. But is that really the reason that we should not spank our children?
Some of those who believe spanking a child is a necessary form of punishment may refer to the Bible for justification. There are several passages in the Bible, specifically in Hebrews and Proverbs, which mention and advocate spanking. In fact, the very word discipline-derived from the Latin word disciple-can be translated as “follower of the master’s teaching”. Ah, but that would imply that discipline should teach something. Teaching requires a little creativity and a lot of persistence. It also requires continually evaluating the process and tailoring each process individually to the child. Every child has their own currency, and that currency is likely to change often, which is why discipline techniques must also change and evolve. A few alternatives to physical discipline are outlined below.
We all respond to the principle of positive reinforcement
. Kids are no different. They are certain to be pleasers and the behavior, you, as a parent, reinforce is the behavior that they will continue to exhibit. Thus paying particular attention to your children’s ideal behavior is important. At the very least, parents should spend an equal amount of time praising behavior as they do chastising for poor behavior
The when/then principle works really well teaching children to be responsible, obedient and accountable. For example: when you have finished your home work, then you may play outside. This principle is so effective because it gives no room for alternatives.
The you hit/you sit principle works well with younger children. Repeating this principle each and every time it is needed allows your child the opportunity to serve their punishment without any arguing. When the child hits another child (a common issue with toddlers), they must sit. Utilizing these simple principles takes the guess work out of discipline.
The choice principle gives the child a choice, but both choices are acceptable to the parent. This works well with all ages of children particularly when you know that the task at hand is not a preferred task. For example, “Do you want your peas on the plate or in a bowl?” The child has a choice but it is clear that one way or another, they will eat their peas. If the child balks at the choice, the parent can quickly state “Either you can choose or I will choose”.
The strength based principle
can be difficult on some days. Every day, every child exhibits some good behavior, something worthwhile. Even the most challenging of children have their good moments. Looking to the strengths
instead of the deficits, can totally change your mind set as a parent. Simply, finding those strengths can do wonders for a child’s self esteem.
Embracing natural and logical consequences
can be invaluable tools. Natural consequences occur as a natural result of behavior (you touch the hot stove, you get burned). Logical consequences
are those directly tied to the transgression (you are 20 minutes late from curfew tonight so you must be 20 minutes early tomorrow). Often times, when the punishment is closely tied to the crime, the lesson is learned and remembered.
By using creative interventions, each time you discipline you are teaching a new skill; not simply stopping an undesirable behavior for the time being. Spanking is a short term fix. It may stop the behavior but it does nothing to teach the child why their behavior was inappropriate. Respecting a child enough to develop these interventions will teach them to respect you as a parent and more importantly, in the long run, to respect themselves.
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