Alternatives to Spanking
How to Effectively Discipline your Boy

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I want to discuss alternatives to spanking here because, unfortunately, many parents still believe that spanking boys is a good way to discipline them. If you are one of them, I suggest you read here about spanking boys.

What is the effectiveness of spanking?

One thing that spanking may do is relieve the parent's frustration and stop a behavior for a short time. But that is about it!

In 1995 researchers endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that spanking was the least effective form of discipline. This study was done by surveying parents on the asumption that, if spanking worked, then children who were spanked would learn as a result and behave better in the future. They would, therefore, need less punishing (Leach 1996). What the results showed was that parents who started spanking their children before their first birthday were just as likely to spank them at 4 as parents who did not start to spank until a later age. This shows that children do not appear to be learning the lessons that their parents are trying to teach them by spanking.

They suggest that spanking may be inneffective because it fails to teach alternative behaviors. Children will typically feel resentful, helpless and humiliated after a spanking (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). The main lesson they seem to learn from spanking is to try harder not to get caught the next time! They also think it sends the wrong message as it communicates that hitting is an acceptable way to solve problems and that it is acceptable for someone who is big to hit someone smaller. You need to add to that the fact that many children who are spanked are too young to actually understand that they have done something wrong and learn a lesson.

Another study (Strauss, 1995) showed that, when spanking is being used as a primary method of discipline, it can have potentially harmful long term effects such as increasing the likelihood of aggression, misbehavior, violent/criminal behavior, depression and impaired learning.

Here is a quote from Eugene Walker, a psychologist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center:

"Essentially, it's never really necessary to spank children. Anybody who uses spanking frequently with a child quickly discovers two things--one, that it doesn't work, because children eventually get used to it, and, two, that if you use spanking very often, it usually worsens the child's behavior because [he or she] gets angry and hostile, and the ordeal becomes a power struggle."

What are good alternatives to spanking?

If spanking is not acceptable, discipline is necessary. All children need discipline. It teaches them self-control, responsibility and acceptable behavior. Unlike spanking, which uses pain, fear and shame, discipline means teaching, guiding and nurturing. So, if you were using spanking as your main discipline tool, you will need to learn alternatives to spanking.

The first important thing is to work at building your son's confidence and problem solving skills. You also need to figure out the reasons for your son's misbehavior. It could be tiredness, hunger, restlessness, boredom, frustration, misunderstanding, discouragement, illness, sudden interruption of an activity, lack of words to express his feelings, etc. There can be several reasons for his behavior. Once you have understood his behavior, it will be easier to handle the situation and not lose your temper.

Here are good alternatives to spanking, depending on your son's age

For Toddlers:

You will need a lot of time, energy and patience to discipline your toddler. That is why you need to find effective and appropriate techniques.

Toddlers love to touch everything, it's the way they discover the world. If you slap your toddler's hand when he touches something he shouldn't,

you will only teach him to fear his world, not to explore and understand it. Instead, put dangerous things out of his reach, distract him with a safe toy, use words like "sharp", "ouch" or "hot" to teach him about danger. You will need to watch your son closely and always know where he is. Toddlers do not understand consequences (see toddler development), so it does not work to tell them it is dangerous.

Here are a few suggestions as alternatives to spanking:

  • Make sure his environment is safe by removing any harmful dangerous objects. Always supervise toddlers; it is not realistic to expect a toddler to play safely without adult supervision for more than a few minutes.

  • Avoid direct clashes with toddlers, it will only results in frustration for the two of you. Instead, use diversion or distraction. Point at something unexpected, tickle your son, redirect him to a favorite toy...

  • Use your size and strength to rectify situations. For instance, just pick up and carry a child who refuses to walk.

    For Older Children:

    Here are more ideas as alternatives to spanking

  • If you start to feel angry, clap your hands loudly, it will interrupt their behavior.

  • If your son refuses to listen to you, go down to his level, take his arms firmly so he cannot avoid looking at you, and then talk calmly.

  • Since spanking does not usually occur in calm and rational moments, it is especially important that you control your anger to prevent "losing it." You can walk away, hit a pillow, call someone, or write a note. Whatever works for you. Once you are calmed down, you will probably be less inclined to spank.

  • If you feel like you have to punish your son, make sure that the punishment is logically related to the incident so that a lesson can be learnt. For example, if your child plays video games while he is supposed to be doing his homework, then forbid him to play video games for the rest of the week. This will teach him that his homework is important, that you are concerned about him being successful at school and that you will enforce the rules you have set. Spanking him would not teach him any of this.

  • Time-out can be a useful tool, although it is controversial. If used to allow both parent and child to regain control of their emotions, it can be effective and stop a cycle of inappropriate behavior.

    Some Suggestions For All Ages:

  • Praise and support good behavior, that will go a long way.

  • Try prevention. Effective discipline woks by announcing clear and simple family rules (the fewer there are, the better) at a time when children are calm and listening.

  • Try to understand the feelings behind your son's behavior. Ask older children why they are angry. When a baby cries, ask yourself what is wrong with him: is his diaper wet? does he want to be held? is he hungry?

  • Share your change of heart with your son. If you used to spank and have changed your ways, then discuss it with him. This will be a valuable lesson for the whole family.

    I hope I have convinced you that there are alternatives to spanking and that it is more efficient in the long run!

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