Three Real Alternatives to Spanking

Last week I read an article in Healthland/Time about Parents Spanking Their Kids. Very honestly, I did not find it surprising to read about parents that admit to using corporal punishment because I am very aware that it happens, across all socio- economic levels and different cultures.I do however find it unfortunate both for the children and parents. As the article states:

Children who are spanked occasionally are not thought to be significantly impacted later on, but those who are spanked regularly are more likely to have behavior problems that may escalate into antisocial behavior. They may also be at greater risk for anxiety disorders or depression and ultimately may be more likely to engage in domestic violence and child abuse as adults.

So parents displaying aggression and violence lead to children displaying aggression and violence…simple concept, yet something some parents are often not aware of. Further, research shows that spanking or swatting may work in the immediate moment but beyond that, in most cases, according to the researcher in the article “it’s very ineffective.”

In the long term, practicing things like attachment parenting, creating a lasting connection with your child, building mutually respectful relationships, having routines are all wonderful ways create a non spanking relationship with your child.

But let’s look at the moment of conflict, of disrespectful behavior, misbehavior, or sassiness whatever one wants to call it – that moment that makes you boil, you know which moment that is… what are the alternatives?

1. Count to 10 or 20 or 100 – whatever number you may need to re-center and calm yourself. Close your eyes or ask another adult to step in and be with the child if there is a safety concern. When you are calm, step back in and try to resolve the conflict through words. I once walked into the bathroom after having nursed baby and found my two year old had painted the bathroom walls with poop. Yes, real stinky poop. I counted to Ten in which time I realized it was my fault entirely for leaving him alone, without a plan of what he would do in the time I was nursing his sister. I took a deep breath and asked him if I could help him wash his hands and run a warm bath for him to play in. While he bathed, I cleaned the walls and when he was done bathing he helped dry up the now clean walls. He said drying the walls was hard work, I asked if he knew why they needed to be cleaned and his response was “I not going to make poop pictures on there again.” There was no spanking, no shaming. Also, no poop on the walls since!

2. Hold your child close until you have reconnected. Some call this a time in, or holding therapy. This is useful if a child is trying to hurt someone or themselves. By holding them (not with force, just to keep them safe) you can provide a safe place for the child to feel whatever range of emotions, sadness, anger, hurt, frustration. Not too long ago my five year old was very angry he could not find his conductor hat. Combined with the fact that we recently moved and he misses his friend, the lost hat was more than just a lost hat. He was angry enough to start kicking the sofa and then turning and kicking me for that final release of anger. It hurt but I scooped him up and sat with him on the sofa and said softly “you can be angry, you can be mad, I love you but you may not hurt me.” He started crying, sobbing even and slowly he started hugging me, and I hugged him back. Through tears he asked if I could help him look through “the whole entire stupid new house again.” I agreed and when he was calming I asked him to look at me so we could be connected again. That evening at bedtime when we were reading a story he said to me “I’m sorry I kicked you.” I didn’t expect, demand or request the apology, it just came when he was ready – it was genuine.

3. Put your hands behind your back and take three steps back from your child. Stop and think what is making you think that a swat is the solution and now find a real solution. Can you offer choices? Can you ask someone else to help? Can you re-state your request in a more appealing way to your child? Can you re-adjust your expectations of the situation and or of your child? When you have found a solution, put it into place and then for good measure go away and find a way to release your aggressive energy. For me it’s usually taking a pillow to the laundry room and yelling into it. Crazy, maybe, but it really works.

Lastly, if you fail your plan, go ahead and apologize, model asking for forgiveness, find a way to re-connect and next time try again. Parenting is after all a journey and surely there will be bumps along the way.

Have you ever had to challenge yourself to find and work with alternatives to yelling or spanking, what are they? Have you hugged your child today?

Peace & Be Well.

Is it okay to spank?  Spanking alternatives.

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

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