Does Spanking a Child Work? Some Spank Free Alternatives

I have heard this way too much: “I have attempted to do everything that I can to get my oldest son to stop hitting his other kids. Sometimes he even hits me. Then I only get angrier. Punishing my son doesn't seem to work and my last alternative is to spank him. And when I do spank him and make him apologize, he's back hitting the very next day!”

There are thousands and thousands of parents who are going through this very same situation every day. One thing leads to another with a child who is behaving badly and then the end result is the spanking of him.

But how are we ever going to teach our children that it is not alright to hurt others when we continue to hurt them as well? What sense does that make? Sure it temporarily relieves the situation but you have just reinforced to your son that hitting is ok to do, especially to them. Do we really want to set that kind of precedent for our children?

When your son or daughter is hitting other children, or perhaps even you and your spouse, it is usually because their feelings are hurt. Your child needs help from you but may feel frustrated because he or she isn't getting the help that they need.

And this all probably makes you just as frustrated because you want your child to treat others respectfully and may even worry that your child's behavior is a reflection on you as a parent. Perhaps you are even overreacting and treating your child disrespectfully out of shame and embarrassment, trying to prove to other adults around you that you won't let your child get away with this behavior.

Below are a few “spank-free” suggestions for your parenting toolbox to help you communicate to your child who is having a problem hitting others:

1. Take the child by the hand and say “I am sorry that your feelings are hurt. How are you feeling? You can talk about it or you can hit a pillow, but do not hit people. People are not for hitting, do you understand?”

2. Ask your child “If you are angry then would it help if you went to your time-out place now?” Keep in mind that a time-out space can only be helpful in this situation if you have successfully helped a child to create their own “positive time-out spot”.

3. Once your child has calmed down then be sure to ask a lot of questions. Sit down with them and create a soothing and loving atmosphere. Then begin to ask a lot of “why” questions and “how” questions. Let them draw on paper anything that will help them tell you how they feel.

Finally, never discipline a child when angry. Most of the time this just escalates the situation and does not help. One last thought, if we spank or yell at our children what kind of message does that send them? Yelling, hitting  or intimidating someone is a method to get your way? I am in no way suggesting permissive parenting, there has to be discipline and limits, but instead I am suggesting looking for alternatives. This is something to reflect on.  

 What do you think? All views welcome. Click here to post your comment Thankyou for the comments here and on Netscape. These were just some ideas to try. I a firmly against physical or a verbal lashing in a child. I grew up in that environment and still have the emotional scars. Obviously different kids respond differently depending on age, situation, etc. When a child misbehaves it may be an indication something is going on in their lives and it is important we connect with the child and understand their behavior. Are they being influenced by others at daycare, school etc? Is there someone who is bullying them and they are modeling that behavior? Have we as parents been neglicting them? I know at times I have been guilty of the latter and many times misbehavior is a call for attention, even though they know that attention will end up getting them in trouble. The main point is by forming a deeper connection and understanding of our children we can be more proactive. This is not to say that I am advocating permissiveness either.
Children need to understand limits and consequences for their behavior. Time outs can be given, prevleges or their favorite toys or games can be taken away.

One last point, I feel more emphasis can be placed on 'good' behavior. Many times we spend so much time trying to 'fix' our kids or correcting bad behavior, the good things kids do is sometimes overlooked or trivialized. Children are in a continual development stage and perhaps the best thing we can do is be a positive role model and give praise when we 'catch' our child doing something good.


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Comments on Does Spanking a Child Work? Some Spank Free Alternatives Leave a Comment

June 7, 2007

Martin @ 7:56 pm #

Excellent suggestions. I've found nothing works better than a calm, logical conversation about one's feelings and motivations with my 2-year-old son.

Seriously, ever tried to talk about why he did something or "are you angry?" with a toddler?

A light slap on the hand gets their attention and stops the behavior. And like all discipline, it need constant repetition and regularity with whatever actions you are trying to curb. Clearly – don't every beat a child. But some form of corporal punishment can be necessary in certain situations.

June 8, 2007

Franklin P.D. @ 10:19 am #

And people wonder what is wrong with kids today?
"But how are we ever going to teach our children that it is not alright to hurt others when we continue to hurt them as well?"

First of all, often times discipline hurts the person getting disciplined regardless of whether it is grounding, a timeout, or a spanking. The very nature of disciplining a child is to teach them (through punishment) that doing something wrong 1. is bad 2. results in unpleasant consequences. You know why some toddlers chronically hit, pinch, and bite? Its because it when they perform that action, they always get a specific response from the receiver of their action, making them feel like they have control over the environment. Do you know what most psychologists say to do in those circumstances? Bite/pinch/hit the child back (not as hard as you can of course, just enough to hurt the toddler). Because in most cases, the toddler was 1. to some extent unaware how much his actions were hurting the receiver 2. testing the limits of what is/isn't acceptable behavior. Biting back lets the kid know that if they cross that boundary, there are unpleasant consequences as well as that they hurt other people when they do it.

Of course there is a difference between spanking and beating. Beating a child is wrong. Period. Spanking when done right, is can be a loving/good way to discipline a child. For children, immediate, memorable consequences rather than prolonged ones are more effective at molding behavior. If a kid is grounded, it presents the child with an opportunity to excercise control over the parent, another medium in which to try to challenge the parent's authority. If a parent gives in, which in circumstances will inevitably happen (5 year olds are stubborn by nature) it encourages
1. more of the behavior that warranted the punishment to begin with and 2. the idea that the parent is not the final authority figure

Spanking when done correctly, in the right circumstances tells the child 1. I am the adult (bigger than you). I can hurt you if I want, but I love you and do not want to. I am the authority figure.
2. I love you enough to correct your behavior, even if it means hurting you temporarily.
3. I set the boundaries of acceptable behavior and you as the child need to respect those boundaries. For a child, learning to behave correctly comes first and learning the reasons why certain behaviors are appropriate/inappropriate comes later.

By correctly, I mean
1. Spanking should not be done in anger. If you punish any child in anger, you risk disproportionately punishing the child and with spanking, you risk spanking too hard and hurting the child. If you regularly resort to spanking in anger, you are telling the child that he/she can control you on some level by pushing you to lose your temper. Kids pick up on these patterns quickly. You are also reinforcing the idea that when you lose your temper it is ok to resort to physical violence.
2. Tell the child the reasons for the punishment and why such actions warrant the punishment. For example, if the child is hitting other people, take the child aside and say "Hitting other children is wrong, because you cannot use violence to solve an argument. Even if you are mad, you can not hit other people." Note that if you are angry when you do this, you as the parent are creating an interesting incongruancy for the child. In the truth of the matter you are being a hypocrite.
3. Tell the child after the punishment that you still love them. Its important after any punishment to reinforce the fact that as their parent, you will always love them, even if they make a mistake. It also reinforces the idea that the punishment was performed out of love and concern for the child and his proper development/welfare.

To the woman with the child who hits, I would tell her to control her temper during her child's bouts of violence. When you lose your temper you lose control of the situation. By losing your temper, you are giving him a victory in this contest of wills. It sounds that what the child is doing is similar to my explanation of the toddlers who chronically bite. Your son has learned how to control you and the situation (the cycle of hitting, you punishing him, his continued hitting, you getting angry, and then you spanking). If you don't think that he has learned the pattern to this cycle, you're wrong. He knows what he is doing and he is probably doing it on purpose to some extent.

You have already dug yourself a hole here because as of right now, the child has the upper hand. He knows how to push your buttons and escalate the situation. The trick now is to turn the tables and let your son know that he can NOT control you, even with his bad behavior.

What you need to do is make a preemptive strike. Take the child aside and let him know why hitting is wrong. Then, outline a punishment that he will get when he hits, an appropriate punishment that you see fit. In the end, the most important thing is that you stick to the punishment no matter what! If the child is hitting in the midst of a rage induced temper tantrum, and you need to spank him in order to get his attention and stop the tantrum, do so, but do it BEFORE you reach the point of being angry and before the tantrum escalates. If you are not comfortable with this, another method is to isolate the child, (forcibly if necessary) until their temper tantrum subsides. Depending on the child's age, a temper tantrum or two every once in awhile is natural and part of growing up. Once the child has calmed down, enforce the earlier outlined punishment.

But above all, do not let the child dictate the mood of the encounter and take control out of your hands. You are the adult. If you feel yourself about to lose control of your temper, isolate the child (in his room) until you have both calmed down, and then enforce your punishment.

Charlie @ 11:29 am #

I agree that whilst hitting a child is wrong, a 'tap' is sometime necessary. Kids sometimes get so enthralled in their own world they they just don't hear you (not always mind!)

Generally speaking, a firm tone should be enough. It usually is for me.

Anne @ 1:49 pm #

My son used to hit me on the leg and I used to say it hurts dont do it again. But he never stopped only when I spanked him on the leg and he cried it hurts! it hurts! and told him that how I feel and he never did it again.


Bill Roberts @ 6:29 pm #

All children are different and some require a spanking and some talking to them will do. I have raised 5 kids and none of them were the same. I did not do everything right but I did turn out some very good kids , not a lemon among them.

Cray @ 7:36 pm #

My opinion is the earlier you disipline your child the better. Children have a natural right to be spanked by there parent's. And I'm not talking about that abusive spanking either. I'm talking about meaning what you say and backing it up with a little reinforcment when necessary. They'll love you more afterwards.

September 23, 2009

Junita @ 2:54 pm #

I have done it both ways. I though spanking was the only way to get though to him. But in the back of my mind. I think what am I doing? Would I hit another person because they did something I didn't like? Lets say another co-worker. What am I teaching him. Its ok to hit if another kid when they are not doing as you say? Well I did some research and found the answer. I simply pick out a spot. Which is in front of my fire place and I also use his room when he is really bad and I need a minate to myself. I tell him one time to do something. If he doesn't do it. I tell him again with the consequence. For example. Tyler stop screaming. If he doesn't listen. I say Tyler stop screaming or you will sit in front of the fire place. Then if he doesn't stop. I immediately without another word pick him up and sit him in front of the fire place. Explain why he is there and walk away. In the beginning he would sometimes leave the fire place. I would immediately pick him up and put him back as many times as it takes. If they are there and making a lot of noise or trying to get your attention try to ignore them. Now this takes time. But I can now do this without picking him up. I just tell him to go sit in front of the fire place and he does. 1 min for every year they are. Then walk over and tell them again why their there. tell them to tell you their sorry, then give them a hug and a kiss tell them you love them. And the end is the most important part. Because I know my son thinks I don't love him when I'm mad at him. Because that how he views me when he mad at me. That usually the first thing he asks me " do you still love me" I tell him yes I do, I'm just mad at what you did. You can use this out in public. I use toys. When ever I'm shopping. If he starts to act up, I warn him the same way. Tyler stop " what ever the problem is" one time then again with the consequence. He has had as many as 7 toys put up WOW! But as soon as I got home, I started with he favorite and took the 7 away. Now I take it away for 1 day. But I'm sure a few hrs would work. If you didn't want to use toys use the sitting place you choose. The only thing with that. you not suppose to add say 7 bad things you did X 4 years of age so you have to sit there for 28 mins. That to much for them to understand . So that's why I came up with the toys. But over all spanking is temporary fix and my blood pressure was though the roof. But I'm more at peace because he knows I'm not kidding. Don't do what I say and you will have to sit in front of the fire place and be bored lol. He not that bad to handle now. But I'm still working with my second child (my husband on this lol). Oh also my throat doesn't hurt from screaming all the time. Try it for a month and you will see the difference. But you have to stick to it hard in the beginning. Never tell them more then twice and stick to putting them on their spots no mater how many times you have to do it because they will give up and sit there.

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