For many parents and other authority figures there is a long debate over whether children should or should not be beaten as a form of discipline. The question is also does the child benefit in the long run? For my wife and I we do differ in our parenting approach about this issue. I really don’t see the bad side to spanking or hitting a child as long as it’s not excessive and restrained and the child is made aware of why you did what you did. My mother took the same approach with me, if I did something bad I would get a spanking and then afterwards she would sit me down(if I could sit) and explain to me why I was disciplined the way I was. My wife on the other hand was not brought with her parents spanking her so to her hitting is just another form of child abuse she doesn’t condone. I wanted to see what the experts say and if there are other ways that have been proven affective to discipline a child.
The Argument for-
One stat I found interesting is that 90% of parents say they beat or at least have hit their child even though they say they don’t want to. One thing I can say is the negative phantasm is that if you even say YES I hit my child when they act up it’s like you admitted that you worship the devil and those who you know see you as a archfiend of terror instead of a caring nurturing parent. Also people don’t want to admit that they beat their children, because their afraid social services will take their child away or make surprise visits. While the population of parents who think spanking is necessary fell from 94 to 70% over 90% admit to actually spanking their children.Today’s do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude toward spanking is nothing short of disingenuous, says the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a Boston-based activist who admits his own views on corporal punishment have evolved. “Spanking is yet another serious issue for which we’ve allowed ourselves to set different standards for what we claim we believe,” he says. “People are saying: ‘We’re modern now. We’re smarter now. We don’t believe in this.’ But behind closed doors, they still do it.”
A psychologist and professor at Michigan’s Calvin College Marjorie Gunnoe looked at surveys of over 200 teenagers and found that in those who have been spanked between the ages of 2- 6 years old performed slightly better academically and got along better with peers than those children who were not spanked. In 2007 Kathleen Wolf that would have made Massachusetts the first state to ban spanking at home. The bill died due to public outrage and resistance from citizens advocate for the right for personal privacy and to use whatever disciplinary tactics that are legal. Another college professor studied data on 11,000 families and found that 89% of the black parents spanked their kids, which is more than any other racial group that was studied. Alvin Poussaint a professor of psychiatry in African-American studies feels this spanking culture has deep roots in slavery.“It is ingrained in so many black people to believe that without physical force, their children will not turn out right,” . The same study showed that 80% of Hispanics, 79% of whites and 73% of Asian Americans spank their kids.
The Argument Against –
An article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states a new analysis that used 20 years of research pointing to the evidence that spanking children on a long-term basis can disrupt long-term development. “We find children who are physically punished get more aggressive over time and those who are not physically punished get less aggressive over time,” says Joan Durrant, the article’s lead author and a child clinical psychologist and professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba.They go on to say that only 80 studies out of the thousands that have been researched show the effects of physical abuse in a positive light.
They go on to say that children that are spanked may feel depressed and devalued and their sense of self-worth may suffer. Plus punishments that use spanking or other forms of physical discipline may end up backfiring because it may encourage lying in order to avoid punishment. There have been links to physical punishment and mental health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and anxiety. There is neuroimaging evidence that suggests that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain that we rely on for IQ tests, likelihood of substance abuse, emotion and stress regulation.
In 1979 Sweden was the first of 32 countries to outlaw physical discipline of children which includes, Europe, Costa Rica, Israel, Tunisia and Kenya to name a few of them.
Neither the U.S. nor Canada has gotten on board. “Whenever I mention the law, there is an assumption that this is government telling me how to raise my child,” says Durrant. “[But in Sweden] they see it as a way to make sure children get the best start possible in life.” In Sweden new parents are given support groups and information about developmental stages instead of using spanking as a form of discipline. “When children see someone resolve conflict with aggression, they are more likely to learn that behavior,” says Durrant. “Two-year-olds are the most aggressive people in the world. They don’t understand the impact of their behavior, and they can’t inhibit themselves. So the more a child sees someone resolving conflict with aggression, the more aggressive they become.”
Alternatives to Spanking-
For those of you who are not into spanking at all and your among the 10% who have never spanked your child or even if you want another way to discipline your child then you may want to take notes. Among the most popular ideas is called “Time Out” in which you isolate the child in a safe area of the house or home. Typically the child is to remain cut off for each minute of age, example, my oldest is four years old, so I have tried time outs before and she remains in time out for four minutes. Another way is to let them know their actions have consequences. The hard part about this one is if you have young children, they may not understand what they did was wrong or they may not understand your explanation. One way they say that is effective is to custom fit the solution to your child. For a child who is always losing something may need a reminder system in place to help them. Also talking to your pediatrician may help tailor your discipline tactic to your child and what your comfortable with.
Other methods of discipline include the Incompatible Alternative Principle which gives the child something to do instead of misbehaving. For example “Help me pick out what cereal you want” while grocery shopping or help me with picking out these oranges. Talk about the child positively to others is another tactic, honestly parents should be doing this anyway!!! The Positive Closure Principle at the end of the day remind the child that they are special and loved. Help them find something special about the day that is good and what the next day lies ahead. The one I have used in the past and works for me is the “Eye Level Principle” which is when you get down to the child’s eye level and speak to them softly. I use more of a stern voice, but the tactic is the same.
One thing I thought about someone brought to my attention is using some of the same drills and discipline tactics that the military and other authority enforcements use. No I don’t mean do one hundred push ups or stand in the rain and do drills like you see in the movies, but a conversation I had with a co-worker who had a military backward says for her children she had one of them crouch on their knees while holding a piece of paper in their hand for a limited amount of time. While this doesn’t seem all to bad a punishment you have to think that the child legs will get tired and the piece of paper that ways less than a gram will feel like a 60lbs. weight on each arm after period of time. She enforces this type of discipline all while explaining to them why what they did is wrong and that the behavior is not acceptable.
One form of alternative discipline that has not been discussed is boot camp. When the concept was introduced in the 90’s the harsh element of corporal punishment, lack of training and lack of setting real life goals for themselves. One thing to look for is making sure whatever program you choose that the staff is properly trained and is not understaffed. If so they may end hiring someone off the street that is not qualified. Look to see if the program offers individual, group and family therapy so it can help teenagers deal with trauma and deal with feelings in a healthy manner. See if the program offers problem-solving skills, coping skills and improves social skills. Involving the parents helps understand the program and with gaining insight to what the child is learning can help prolong the effects after the boot camp has ended. Programs that consult with parents are much more likely to succeed. See if the program uses positive discipline which includes logical consequences and reward systems. If the program uses fear the effects are not likely to be long-lasting or healthy for your child.