There’s no need to resort to spanking. Here’s why spanking your child isn’t necessary to discipline and instill good behavior (and what to do instead).
Rarely in any parenting topic do I 100% believe something to be right or wrong, even if I don’t follow it. From time outs, to bed-sharing to helicopter parenting. These are all parenting methods that I acknowledge their functions for each family. Do what works, I would say, just as I would do what works for my family.
But spanking is different.
And yet I’ve held off on writing about spanking because I didn’t want to get you mad. If readers represented the US, 65% of you reading this right now would approve of spanking.
It’s difficult being in the minority for something like this.
We also have a misconception that people who don’t spank must be permissive. We’re modern day parenting wusses who oblige our kids too much. Yet that’s so far from the truth. I’m neither permissive nor a wuss with disciplining my kids.
But I also don’t spank.
Why spanking your child unnecessary
Much has been said about the effects of spanking on kids. I won’t discuss that. It’s easy for us to say our parents spanked us and now we’re fine, and vice versa. That debate can continue from both sides. Let’s just agree that we’re all fine, whether our parents spanked us or not.
Why then is spanking your child unnecessary?
Spanking is reactive.
And that reaction usually reflects the parents’ fears and anger. Not the desire to protect, correct or otherwise teach our kids. Spanking hardly comes from a place of self-control where parents have taken a step back. Taking a step back means we won’t resort to spanking. We’ll turn to other means of discipline (more on just how to do that later).
Spanking is short-term.
Spanking seems to solve the problem. If a child is misbehaving, then spanking can make her quiet. But this is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Spanking doesn’t provide the opportunity for parent and child to learn from the situation. It’s a quick fix, a cop out. Speaking of which…
Spanking isn’t a learning opportunity.
A child doesn’t have the chance to reflect on his actions and how to make better decisions in the future. He can’t learn right from wrong on his own initiative and instead acts from fear of repercussions. He won’t learn how to regulate behavior and manage emotions. Things like how to focus elsewhere, calming himself down, spending time alone, or labeling his emotions.
Spanking doesn’t let kids own up to their mistakes.
Kids will obey because parents say so. They may not understand why their misbehavior was wrong, only that it warranted spanking.
Spanking shouldn’t be a last resort.
Parents sometimes say they reserve spanking as a last resort, for really inappropriate behavior. But considering how reactive spanking is, I’m not surprised it’s used as a last resort.
Most parents spank when a child does something bad enough to elicit an extreme reaction. You wouldn’t spank over spilled milk because it doesn’t draw a strong reaction as touching a hot oven.
In the end, spanking happens because of our (re)actions instead of our kids’.
Spanking is disrespectful.
I mean, come on. You’re using physical force to teach a lesson, regardless of how soft or hard you swat at their hand or bottom.
Instead, consider these alternatives:
Take a break.
Before resorting to spanking, step back and give yourself a time out. When I’ve felt the pull to spank my kids, I walked away a few times to keep myself from going ballistic in front of them. Take two minutes and go to your room, breathe.
“Punishment” is most effective when natural consequences follow your child’s misbehavior. Rather than spank, enforce something that must happen because he misbehaved. Did he throw a tantrum and wreak havoc with his toys? Place those toys away because he has now lost the privilege of playing with them for a week.
Say no firmly.
We forget how powerful this method can be. Get down to your child’s eye level, pull on your serious face. And in a low, firm voice, correct his misbehavior.
Draw your child in.
Instead of a time out, have a time in. Engage with your child on why he misbehaved. Anger and threats hardly help my son calm down, nor do they teach him any useful lessons. I help him calm down and discuss his misbehavior by drawing him in.
Conversely, ignore your child.
Conversely, ignore your child. About to snap? It’s okay to ignore your child for a few minutes and tune him out. You’re human and are incapable of shielding yourself from the pull of your emotions. Wait for him (and yourself) to regain composure, even if you have to place him in a room or walk away.
Have age-appropriate expectations.
Sometimes I forget my kids are still kids.
Silly, I know, but when you’ve had 30+ years to hone life skills, it’s easy to assume our kids should too. But they’re kids, and wanting to make a beeline to the car is an impulse they have that we don’t. They’re living in the moment—we’re thinking of safety and danger.
Instead, hold tight to your child’s hands when crossing the street. We can prevent many spanking-instigated episodes when we remember their developmental stages and ages.
Was it your fault?
You just noticed your son got his hands on the kitchen knife. A few seconds late and he could have sliced his fingers, sending you to the emergency room. You’re filled with fear and frustration all jumbled together and are ready to spank.
But take a step back: Why was the knife there? It’s unlikely your son climbed onto the kitchen stool and unlocked the safety latches. No, you probably left it there within his easy reach. Teach him a lesson on safety, but sometimes we’re the ones that could use a reminder too.
Sounds like work, doesn’t it? But that’s the point. Spanking is a one-time deal that resolves the issues that moment. But you child doesn’t learn much moving forward.
Understanding our kids and using the opportunity to teach is more effective. Kids will think for themselves and make calculated decisions with your guidance. They’ll understand not only that they shouldn’t misbehave, but also why. And it shouldn’t be out of fear of getting spanked.
Want to read more? Check out these related topics:
- How to Be the “Bad Guy” and Still Parent Effectively
- How to Avoid Saying Yet Another Empty Threat
- The Difference between Distraction and Redirection (and Why I Prefer One Over the Other)
- Do You Tell Your Kids ‘No’ Too Often?
- Before You Get Mad at Your Kids, Read This:
What do you think of spanking? What are your reasons for doing so or not doing so? Have you found them effective? What other ways can parents discipline without spanking? Let me know in the comments.