I realize that this is a controversial topic. These are my opinions based on my experience in my field of study, as well as based on my experience as a parent. I believe that we should all strive to gain knowledge through credible sources; then based on that knowledge, make loving decisions for our own lives and families.
The Research on Spanking
Spanking is widely considered an ineffective form of punishment. It is recommended that parents NOT spank their kids.
First off, let’s talk about the difference between PUNISHMENT and DISCIPLINE:
Punishment: A direct consequence for a certain behavior as a way to teach someone that they should not do that certain behavior; whether the behavior is good or bad is determined by the person in charge (in this case, the parents); the consequence may or may not be physical; the goal is to teach child to not commit this negative behavior in the future
Example: 8 year old child yells a swear word at his parent while parent and child are arguing. Parent tells child that speaking this way to an adult is wrong, and spanks child on the bottom.
Discipline: A direct or indirect consequence for negative behavior (meaning of “negative” behavior established by those in charge- aka the parents); more focused on TEACHING and REDIRECTING the negative behavior; the goal is to teach child to not commit this negative behavior in the future
Example: 8 year old child yells a swear word at his parent are arguing. Parent asks the child why he spoke that way. If this is a repeat offense of this behavior, parent moves forward with discipline action. (Such as loss of a privilege or time cooling off in child’s room alone). If this is the first time child has committed this behavior, an appropriate response may be for the parent to tell the child that she needs some calm down time alone. After some time apart, parent approaches child and explains to him that his action hurt her feelings, and that she would like if he apologized to her. She further explains that in their home, they do not use swear words, especially at each other.
These are quick examples, but can you catch the difference between punishment and discipline? It’s subtle, but it’s there. Discipline infers a form of teaching and redirecting negative behavior, while punishment is a quick response to a negative action. Punishment isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. But I think it’s important to know the difference between punishment and discipline. Discipline is generally a more effective way to stop negative behavior in children. Punishments, although effective at first, don’t truly teach children a lesson that can sink into their hearts. Even if the swearing stops after the boy in the example was spanked, his motivation for stopping is probably based more on fear than on understanding why it isn’t okay to swear at his mom.
Here’s another thing: Spanking is usually done out of anger. Not always, but usually. It is okay for our kids to see us frustrated and even angry at times. But the best parenting strategies involve calm discipline when necessary and avoids losing control of emotions. Remember, we love our children and would do anything for them. But kids understand love differently than grown-ups do. To a child, love means ATTENTION, AFFECTION, and CONSISTENCY.
I love the idea of natural consequences in parenting. If your teenager chooses to skip a class and they receive school disciplinary action because of it, that is a natural consequence. If your kid refuses to wear a coat outside when it’s cold, they will feel cold. It sounds obvious, but I believe the best parenting disciplinary actions are the ones which involve a fairly natural consequence for negative behavior. Ultimately, we want our kids to learn self-discipline and we want them to have internal compasses that help them choose right over wrong. In order to achieve this, they need to understand that their actions have consequences: good actions usually come with good consequences, and bad actions usually come with bad consequences.
Here are some definitions that I agree with:
“Natural consequences: are the experiences that naturally follow a choice or behavior. For example, going out in cold weather without a coat naturally leads to feeling cold” (WebMD).
“Logical consequences: are consequences chosen to follow behaviors that violate the acceptable behavior within a family or other group. These consequences are set up to logically follow when a person breaks family rules, values, or acceptable behaviors. For example, a young child who throws a toy may be required to take a time-out to calm down and think about his or her behavior. An older child might lose a privilege for unacceptable behavior” (WebMD).
What are some discipline strategies that have worked for your family? Do you agree with the anti-spanking sentiment?