Have you Spanked Your Children?
By Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d, Special Educator
I often have parents make the statement “Gopi, I didn’t know what else to do so I just spanked him/her”.
Somewhere on this journey as a parent we have all physically reprimanded our children weather it is just a slap on the wrist, a smack on the butt, or a firm hold on the wrist. Some parents will hit at times of danger (running across the street), out of frustration of acting “badly”, or simply because in that ‘moment’ it was their first and quickest reaction to stop the behavior. While I know firsthand both professionally and personally (being the mother of two children myself) that children can be challenging and frustrating, but spanking is not a long-term solution to problems, and in some cases CREATES long-term problems.
It is true that spanking will usually stop the bad-behavior—for the time being, but the child often doesn’t understand WHY they are being spanked. They are just scared and stop what they are doing. Parents will often say to me, “He just doesn’t get it—I just hit him and he does it again anyway.” This is because the child is either not associating the punishment with the behavior or, or even worse, the behavior is being reinforced through spanking.
Effective punishment is when the behavior becomes less frequent, or ceases completely.
Ask yourself “by hitting my child, what am I trying to teach them?” Spanking and hitting does not teach children what “good” behavior is. We often say to our children “don’t hit”, “hands are not for hitting, or “hands on your own body”, so why are we hitting them? In some instances, spanking/hitting becomes a regular part of the child’s world, and consequently children often learn to avoid the person that inflicts the pain. As children get older they will learn a way to avoid the person that gives them pain, even when they actually are in need of a loved ones comfort. Often children will later only remember that dad/mom hit them all the time, but will not remember what the behavior was.
In the worst cases hitting gets paired with anger, frustrations, and annoyance, which leads to these children hitting others, sometimes later on to abuse, and violence.
Here are some tips to help parents avoid spanking/hitting:
- Set clear/concise rules of what behavior is expected, and what the consequences will be if they are not followed. (for children 3 years and older)
- Have a time out system in place . (for children 3 years and older)
- You as a parent walking out of the room for few minutes to cool off.
- Count to 10 before you react.
- Using a stern/firm tone voice.
- Ignoring behaviors that are inconsequential.
- Taking away privileges as a result of a behavior is the best long-term way to punish a child (as long as the child understands what you are doing).
- Praise your children for doing the right/appropriate thing. In the long term positive reinforcement will change a behavior quicker than a negative.
For a more detailed way of establishing a positive reinforcement system/time out please refer back to my previous article on tantrums.
In this article I have highlighted the LONG TERM affects spanking/hitting children when it is your primary way of disciplining. I know this a very emotional issue for all parents. So please, no matter where you stand on this issue remember the long-term consequences that hitting can have on our children and sometimes society at large.
If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles: