Spanking has been a common form of punishment for decades (many of us were spanked as kids, right?), but research shows that it can do a lot of harm for a young child’s development. Scientists are finding that it can lead to changes in a child’s brain that reinforce the ideas of violence and aggression being acceptable ways to achieve a purpose. Consider also the hypocrisy of telling a son or daughter not to hit a sibling, yet spanking them when they do something wrong.
So since kids are still learning proper behavior and will inevitably make mistakes, how can we appropriately discipline them without spanking? The key is self-control (it’s interesting that spanking often occurs when parents are at their wits’ end). Here are some healthier alternatives to spanking to help children learn good behavior:
Use “Time-Outs” and “Time-Ins”
It’s not uncommon to send kids to time-out when they’ve been bad, but time-ins are a relatively new concept introduced by Dan Siegel in his book “No-Drama Discipline” (it’s fantastic, and I highly recommend it!). A time-in means bringing an upset or misbehaving child in closer to you, listening to them, and validating their feelings. For example, saying, “you must feel very frustrated, but it’s not okay to be mean to your sister” can be a good way to express love while still correcting bad behavior. It can also help children articulate their emotional experiences.
Name Your Feeling(s)
When responding to a naughty child, turn the focus for a minute on yourself and recognize your own feelings. For example, saying “I feel very scared when you run into the street because I love you and I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt,” can help a child understand why a certain behavior is bad, while screaming will only worsen a tense situation. When we’re reactive, it’s because we feel frustrated, hopeless, or vulnerable. To stay in control, identify your underlying emotions and as appropriate, express them to your child.
Take A Deep Breath
If emotions are running high and you feel yourself losing your cool during a temper tantrum, consider leaving the room for a bit, taking a deep breath, and letting yourself calm down before you respond to your child’s behavior. Remember that you are modeling how to appropriately behave in difficult situations, so set a good example by keeping your own emotions under control.
Let’s make spanking a thing of the past, and instead use self-control to discipline our children and also help them learn good behavior.