Corporal punishment was in the news recently when a group of familial caretakers in Michigan was arrested for spanking a child and posting a video online. We can all agree that putting your child’s bad behavior and subsequent punishment on public display is probably not a good idea. The goal of discipline should be to correct destructive behavior and prevent repetition, not to use negative behavior to shame our children into compliance. But when children misbehave, if we spare the rod, do we really spoil the child?
There is no one right answer and what works for one family may or may not work in another. However, there are many arguments against physical discipline. A recent study suggests that it feeds into a cycle of violence and teaches that violence is the first, best means of conflict resolution. And that very well may be true. But there are also times when figuring out what kind of discipline works is a real challenge. What to do then? A couple of thoughts:
- Buy some time. Try not to react when you are angry and may be a little out of control yourself. If the situation demands immediate attention, try to remove the child and yourself from the scene and give everyone some time to calm down before taking any corrective action. This can also give you a chance to think about the best way to respond.
- Describe the problematic behavior and talk about the line that was crossed. The child should clearly understand why some penalty must be incurred.
- Use a firm, strong but calm tone of voice when talking to the child about his behavior. Yelling makes anyone, children included, turn away from listening and makes it easier to dismiss what you’re saying. Plus, raising your voice invariably provokes the child to raise her voice in response.
- Corporal punishment should not be the first, go-to solution. Talk it out, for as long as you can. Try other approaches such as revoking privileges, taking away favorite activities, requiring some form of activity that consumes free time, such as community service, added chores or helping neighbors or relatives.
- Shaming a child or demeaning them in front of others usually doesn’t solve anything; rather this can build resentment and distrust.
Please share what positive discipline has worked for you and your family by posting a comment. Figuring out the right disciplinary response is one of the most difficult and challenging areas for parents and it helps kids and parents alike to hear what works.