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Should I Spank?

Is It Ever Alright to Spank?

Over the years in my work with children and families I have heard many parents say,“ I spank my child when they misbehave; it works,” and then add defensively, “I was spanked when I was a child and I am well adjusted.”

Spanking was a “hot topic” when I was a new mother 30 years ago and it is still one today. When a child is out of control we feel limited in our ability to control the situation. Spanking does often stop the behavior for a short time, which calms the immediate situation. While it stops the behavior it does not teach what we do want to see the next time.

Sal Severe, Ph.D, and author of the book How to Behave So Your Children Will Too! writes, “A spanking can result in good behavior, just as a candy bar can buy peace and quiet in the supermarket. Using candy to quiet a tantrum is a temporary solution- you will be feeding your child a lot of candy to keep him quiet in the further. In the same way spanking is a temporary solution.”

As a parent, we all want to teach our children how to behave as a future member of society. When we spank we are teaching our child that hitting is the way to solve a problem. We are also teaching them that when I am older or bigger I can hit too, and finally we are teaching them that although we say hitting is wrong…our actions show it is alright. This behavior is confusing to the developing child who wants to emulate his parent.

If we understand that discipline means to teach and we acknowledge that we want to teach our children what to do rather than what not to do, then spanking is not an effective method of discipline.

When your child is out of control, remember that it may be a normal part of the development of self… growing independence. It may also indicate a child who is over stimulated or dis-regulated. Knowing ahead of time what triggers your child will help you in your response. Children with disability often have trouble with regulation throughout the day. Setting up boundaries, routines and limits ahead of time will help you to think through the issue before acting, and will help your child anticipate what to expect. Prevention is key to positive behavior. As they grow, consequences for poor choices are necessary, but if the consequence correlates with the offense i.e. loosing the toy when you throw it, then behavior can be changed.

“A child who is spanked is likely to remember your physical force far longer than what he did wrong. Therefore hitting a child imparts no lasting lesson about the right way to behave.” Parenting, A Guide to Positive Discipline, by Paula Spencer.

If you are interested in learning more about positive discipline and strategies that work, sign up for our next Positive Parenting Class which will be offered again in February. You can call your counselor for more details.

How to Follow Your Child's Lead.

Following Your Child’s Lead

What does it mean to follow your child’s lead when engaging in play?

Although the concept is easy to understand, the practical application is difficult. We have many “schemas” or play plans already completed in our minds. We know what we can do with Legos or blocks or how to place the animals in the zoo or barn. We have had past experience with these toys and feel competent at completing our game plan. Our children however, still enjoy experimenting and randomly placing a variety of toys in many different areas and seeing how it looks or feels. When we interfere with this experimentation the child looses his motivation and creativity. In other words, we spoil their fun. Do that too many times and they don’t want to play with you or worse, they think YOUR way is the only way.

When playing with your child, allow them to begin the sequence of play and then follow what they have started, add language or a movement, but don’t change the plan or move from the original idea even if it doesn’t fit with your comfort zone. Jean Piaget, child psychologist, reminds us that children 0-2 are in the sensorimotor stage and learn by physically exploring their environment. Later when the child is 2-3 he enters the preoperational stage that Piaget explains is characterized by the use of symbols. A block may become a remote control or a telephone and a box may become a spaceship or train. Parents need to stand back and observe what type of play their child is engaged in and enter it cautiously. Many of our children who have disability or delay, have trouble with functional play, so observing what they enjoy or how the explore will help you shape the environment and build on what motivates them. Look through the eyes of your child then get down and play! If a child is building a block tower and then knocks it down over and over again for the pleasure of that experience; let them. If after a time you want to add to that experience, add a animal that sits atop the tower or use that animal to knock down a tower. You can also comment on what he is doing or ask questions to illicit language and help him decide on the next action. As a parent you can learn a lot from your child’s play. When he is learning about the world around him you are learning about how your child interacts with the world.

Following your Child’s Lead in Play Includes:

  1. Standing back and observing the play

  2. Entering it by imitating your child’s actions or adding just one other idea into the play

  3. Commenting or offering words to use as the play unfolds

  4. Putting yourself into your child’s perspective and “see” their play as they do

  5. Accepting their play, and shaping the environment to encourage development.

About this Blog

The HRC Blog will be a place for sharing information on special topics of interest such as family support, early childhood development, etc. Submit blog entries to Nancy.Spiegel@harborrc.org.

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