Alternatives to Corporal Punishment
It seems like every other month or so, the media delivers another story or new research study that indicates spanking children does more harm than good. For many parents who were raised with the occasional (or maybe even regular) swat to the backside, spanking seems to work just fine– especially when they don’t know any other way to discipline.
Rather than just reporting on and sensationalizing the problems of corporal punishment, let’s focus on some solutions instead. There are, in fact, other ways to discipline children that don’t involve physical punishment.
Alternatives to Spanking
- Hit your Pause Button. Often, parents spank out of frustration. They are upset and in the moment, decide that spanking is the only option to teach their children a lesson. Instead of the knee-jerk spank, count to ten, enter another room, get some fresh air outside– take as much time as you need. Giving yourself a little space between that moment of anger and when you deal with misbehavior can make all the difference in how the scene plays out.
- Self-Calming is similar to a traditional time-out, but better teaches concepts like self-care and responsibility. Designate a spot in the home that can be the self-calming area to which your kids could be directed, or go voluntarily, at times of stress and frustration. Together, choose activities and objects that would soothe your child. Just like adults, when kids have calmed themselves down on their own terms and in ways that they enjoy, they are more likely to play well with others, be more open to learning, and be less likely to act up.
- Set clear limits and stick to them. You will have fewer incidents of misbehavior if kids are clear with what their boundaries are. This entails having conversations with your children about limits at neutral times, not when tempers are flared. And when they test those limits you’ve set together, make sure you follow through on the consequences discussed.
- Logical Consequences. Spanking a child when they hit a sibling is sending a mixed message about using physical force to resolve problems. Instead, discuss what might be a logical, non-violent consequence for whatever the offense was. Make sure the consequences you choose are respectful, related, and reasonable. In the case of the one sibling hitting another, a logical consequence might be that the offending sibling would not be able to join in on the play until they had their angry feelings under control.
- Practice Self-Care. When parents take time out to decompress (sleep, exercise, etc.), then they are better equipped to respond, rather than react, to that spilled glass of milk or that fight over a toy. A calm, relaxed parent is less likely to turn to spanking as a means of discipline.
Positive Parenting Makes a Difference
If you’re noticing that these alternatives to spanking overlap in concept, you’d be right. Practicing self-care will lead to you pushing the Pause Button when your kids are stressing you out. By establishing self-calming areas, your kids will also learn to take breaks to take care of themselves instead of acting out. When both parent and child are relaxed, an effective discussion about limits and consequences can take place. And when it’s time to follow through on consequences, it is more likely to happen with minimal drama.
It’s not enough for parents to say, “I was spanked as a child, and I turned out fine.” There are kinder, more respectful ways to discipline children that will also teach them important life skills, like how to handle stress and conflict effectively. Try these alternatives to spanking out in your home, and see the difference positive parenting can make in your family.
by Pamela Layug Laney