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.