Should I spank my child as a form of punishment? Re-thinking parenting and discipline.

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There are many thoughts around this aspect of parenting known as discipline. It is probably the least favorite part of any parent’s job but it is a necessary “evil.” The most controversial aspect of discipline is probably around physical punishment. Are there times when this is appropriate? Are there other ways to train my child without violence? We will be addressing some of these thoughts so parents can be informed and love on their children in the best way possible!

There is this adage “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This seems to be a common justification for using physical violence as a form of discipline for children. For those who identify as Christians, there are multiple Bible verses that seem to support that stance like in Proverbs 13:24 that reads “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

It is clear that the God of the Bible and our Heavenly Father values discipline and correction. Obviously, I am not against the need for discipline. Children and even adults often need to learn healthy ways of living by experiencing negative consequences for certain behaviors that are contrary to a healthy society.What is being brought into question is the use of physical violence as the optimal choice to teach those lessons.

The purpose of discipline is to teach valuable lessons and a form of correction for unhealthy ways of living.The common thinking is that by associating pain with the discouraged action, kids will learn not to do that behavior because they do not want to re-experience the pain. It is a classic behavioral therapy intervention and intuitive way people learn through associations. The main intent of discipline, especially from parents, is that of love for the training and development of their children. So what is not considered discipline? In administering correction out of other intentions that are not in the best interest of your child especially when it is fueled by anger and frustration. Discipline that flows from negative emotions can turn discipline, which was intended for a good, into something that quickly escalates into something that is traumatic and abusive.

A recent article from the monitor on psychology (May 2019) published a chapter titled “Physical Discipline is Harmful and Ineffective: A new APA resolution cites evidence that physical punishment can cause lasting harm for children by Eve Glicksman. Some of the highlights in that article include research that supports that children do not need pain to learn. The statistic show that up to 80% of mothers spank their child in ages from kindergarten to third grade so clearly this is a common parenting practice. It is quite shocking that we do not condone physical aggression with adults for correction and yet we have this double standard that it is OK to use violence on vulnerable children who cannot protect themselves. The intuitive thought is that young children cannot be reasoned with and therefore need the physical pain to teach them a lesson; this is simply not true. There are a lot of negative consequences associated with the aggression that actually models to children that it is OK to use violence when someone is upset in order to resolve conflict. What we are unconsciously teaching our children is that the biggest, meanest, and physically strongest people get to run the show instead of resolving issues through love and respect. I can only imagine a very scary world that devalues people into primal instincts and using violence as the answer instead of love and communication. Violence can also break trust and contribute to antisocial behaviors. There are other studies that conclude there are kids with a tendency for deviant behaviors that manifests into juvenile offending, substance abuse, and mental health problems that is activated by physical abuse (Fergusson & Lynskey, 1997).

So what are the other alternatives to training and discipline? The reason why spanking and other corporal punishment interventions are tempting interventions is because they are quick and easy to use. So the alternative ways to deal with these problematic behaviors will require parents to think strategically and to plan ahead.This means understanding patterns of when your child is more likely to act out and having a game plan on ways to distract or preoccupy them. One of the effective techniques that incorporates things like time-outs in a more mindful way is called “Time out from positive reinforcement” or TOPR. This technique offers ways to increase skill development and self-regulation without jeopardizing the trust between the child and parent. For more information on these TOPR guidelines, you can click on this link. Other ideas of parenting have been explored in a previous blog which you can read up here.

In conclusion, spanking and other forms of physical violence is strongly discouraged as a disciplinary intervention.The spirit behind discipline is to provide love through correction and training without the use of violence because of all the negative consequences. It requires parents to be creative in how to tackle troublesome behaviors but you will be rewarded greatly by maintaining the trust and love between your child while still addressing the problem. For more entries like this, please visit me on my blog.

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