Were you spanked as a child? Sorry, but bad behavior from the “good old days” does not justify spanking today. We did many stupid things in the old days: we rode around in cars with no seatbelts; we smoked in airplanes; we slathered baby oil on our bodies and stayed in the sun for hours til we were lobster red. Do we do those things today? Heck, no! Science has determined those behaviors as unsafe for our health; just as spanking has been determined to be bad for our children’s emotional health. And in the case of Adrian Peterson’s son, a child’s physical health. Spanking has to stop now.
I hear the following arguments all the time, “I was spanked as a child and I’m okay.” “It’s a cultural thing.” “It stops the behavior, doesn’t it?” Listen up: you may not be as okay as you think you are, it’s time to change your culture, and, yeah, it stops the behavior but research shows that spanking causes your child to resent you. Studies also show that using violence to resolve problems causes aggression in children. One study shows that “children who were regularly spanked had less gray matter in certain areas of the pre-frontal cortex and that this has been linked to depression, addiction, and other mental health disorders.” Pediatricians concur.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says: “The use of physical punishment to discipline children has been linked to a range of mental health problems and is strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.” (Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative U.S. Sample)
Parents may lose it at one time or another and maybe smack their children out of anger – no one is perfect. But a steady diet of spanking is very harmful to the relationship you have with your children. And very harsh physical punishment, such as what Adrian Peterson inflicted on his defenseless little boy, is of course extremely harmful emotionally to children and is traumatic for them. So, do you want to have a healthy relationship with your children? Do you want them to grow up in the best possible emotional environment? Do you want them to act appropriately? Then make a pledge to stop spanking.
There are actions you can take today to stop spanking and also to get your children to behave:
Learn about child development:
Do you know why your four-year-old might still be wetting himself? He is not being stubborn or defiant. It’s caused by a whole range of factors but it is not abnormal. If you learn about what’s normal for a child at any age, it will help you maintain your cool and tolerate certain behavior when you realize that your child is not purposefully disobeying you.
Give yourself a time out:
When you are about ready to blow and maybe hit your children, tell them how angry you are (no name-calling though). Then, if your children are old enough, step out of the room until you calm down. If your children are too young to be left alone, put them in their cribs, high chairs or some other safe place.
- Take enough deep breaths so that you can repeat a mantra to yourself such as “Hitting my child will make things worse,” or “Hitting my child is bad for him,” or “There are better ways to discipline my child.”
- You can also ask yourself “Will his (spilling this milk) really matter in ten years?”
- You may find it helpful to exercise vigorously, such as running around the block if your children are older or jumping jacks if your children are young and you can’t leave the house. Even cleaning the house can prevent you from boiling over.
- Or it may work for you to imagine yourself on a peaceful island, listening to the waves in the background.
When you have calmed down, then you can think about appropriate responses and consequences.
Know your child:
his temperament, level of maturity, developmental stage. This will allow you to set realistic expectations. You can better teach your child how you would like him to behave when you take these things into account.
For example, if you are tired and cranky after work when you pick up the kids, give yourself a few minutes to relax before getting them (even if it’s only 5 minutes alone in the car). You are a better parent when you are not depleted physically and emotionally.
Find the positive in some of your children’s behavior.
Compliment them on their appropriate behavior. It’s important that you find the good in your kids.
And you not are a “permissive parent” if you don’t spank. No one is saying that discipline is not important. But there are proven, practical, non-violent methods of discipline. Yes, they are harder to mete out because they require time, patience, self-control, and the willingness to think about how to respond rather than just lash out, but they are much more effective in the long run.
Please make a pledge today to stop spanking your children. Seek out help to deal with your anger if that is a problem, talk to your pediatrician or a trusted friend, and learn the many alternatives to corporal punishment. Do whatever it takes to learn how to discipline your child in a more humane, kind, loving, and effective way. Do it today – you will never regret it.
By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
For more information about the long-term adverse effects of corporal punishment, and for tips about healthier and more effective ways to discipline your children, read the following articles:
A Case Against Corporal Punishment
Turning Down the Heat in your Home
Say No to Violence in Families
Discipline Articles Series