I grew up old-school like so many in my generation. We were spanked, shamed, yelled at and seen but not heard. Connection and parent-child relationship were not the focus. Our parents’ job were to take care of us and the kids were to obey and behave. When it came to discipline, Black, Christian parents believed in spanking because “The Bible says, Spare the rod, spoil the child.” However, no one mentioned the scripture that says, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Can I get an “Amen!”
Over the years, so many generational beliefs and traditions have been challenged and redeﬁned. Currently, it’s not ok for an adult to date or marry a 12 year old. It’s not ok to grab a woman by the p****. It’s not ok to be racist. So now is the time for it not to be ok to hit children. Why, you ask?
Overwhelming evidence has shown that negative forms of discipline harm children. Children who experience mental, physical, or verbal punishments are more likely to be aggressive, have behavior and mental health problems and prone to substance abuse and violence as adults. You see, what happens in childhood doesn’t stay in childhood.
And against popular belief, spanking doesn’t work! These tactics may stop bad behavior in the moment. But long-term the unwanted behavior repeats because:
1. The child learned little about what he did wrong or how to make better choices for the future.
2. The child is likely to feel angry, hurt and discouraged to do better which turns the focus away from what was done wrong initially.
3. The child gets used to frequent spankings and threats over time. Parents then need to escalate their actions creating a toxic and harmful environment.
Fortunately, we are making progress! Parents are spanking less and most report feeling bad when they do spank. The truth is, parents hit because they were taught to hit; they are frustrated or angry; or they don’t know what else to do.
So I want to oﬀer a new-school approach to discipline that will help your kids behave and be happy, healthy and whole.
First, let’s discuss the word discipline. It means to train, correct or teach. Children NEED discipline to be safe, to behave, to learn, to gain responsibility, independence and self-control. However, we don’t have to use harmful forms of discipline, such as hitting, yelling, or put downs. There are more peaceful, positive and eﬀective ways to discipline our children.
The basic elements of eﬀective discipline are:
1. Managing expectations – Understand your child in order to have realistic expectations. For instance, we all know toddlers may bite, hit or tantrum. There’s no need to spank them for behaviors typical for this age. They fade away or grow out of it. Do your best to ignore it, redirect or help them calm down.
2. Good relational health – Build a nurturing, peaceful and positive relationship with your child. Connection is key to your child wanting to please you. For some children the guilt of disappointing a loving parent is all that is needed to correct a poor choice.
3. Positive reinforcement – Focus your attention on praising and rewarding good behaviors. Simple things like “good job,” a high-five or earning a privilege go along way to reinforce behaviors parents want to see. Ignore minor, problem behaviors. Yes, I said it!
4. Consequences – Allow children to make choices and help them learn the consequences of their actions. Consistently react in an instructive and positive way to get rid of problem behaviors. If your teen repeatedly breaks phone rules, then taking a break from the phone for 2 weeks to re-learn the rules and why they are important is a great consequence. And punishment is not the goal.
5. Be proactive – Not reactive. Set your children up for success by structuring the environment, anticipating their needs, and preventing problems. Often in the clinic, we hear parents hitting and yelling at their kids to sit down and be still. I remind them to come prepared with snacks and activities so their kids are less likely to misbehave while waiting.
Since I was raised old school, it has been a remodeling process to discipline my kids in this way. Honestly, it hasn’t been easy. But I am committed to doing what’s best for the well-being of my children. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, you do better.” Let’s do better for our kids. I know you can do it.
If you found this article helpful, please like it and share it with others. I also welcome your comments. Thanks for reading it.
The information expressed in this article is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace personal, medical attention. For any concerns, see your child’s medical provider.