I once saw a poll in a parenting magazine about spanking that I found interesting. The choices were A–parents who used spanking as a form of discipline and were fine with it B–parents who made a conscious decision to not spank and C–parents who used spanking but wished they didn’t.
What struck me most about the poll was not that there are parents who happily use spanking, but the large amount of voters who fell into the C category, or reluctant spankers. Parents who wanted to do differently, but didn’t have the tools to change their behavior or technique.
My husband and I don’t spank, for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is continuity. The rule at preschool is ‘hands on your own body’ and we feel that spanking would override that message and provide conflicting messages about that rule. However, if your kids have done something or you’ve reached the end of your rope, it can be really hard to reign in your anger or frustration.
If you truly want to change your discipline technique, before you spank, consider:
- What did my child do?
- How am *I* feeling? How are my own emotions affecting my ability to make decisions? Am I tired, feeling unwell, frustrated or stressed out? Could I benefit from stepping away to calm down, or allowing my partner to take over?
- Is the infraction really worth a heavy punishment? If so, will spanking my child provide a short term solution, a long term solution, or cause more problems?
- What do I expect to happen from this punishment?
- Is it MY fault that my child is misbehaving? (For example, if you’ve taken a tired child to a nice restaurant and expect them to sit quietly while the adults talk, is it fair to administer a punishment for expectations that are unrealistic?)
- Is it NO ONE’s fault that my child is misbehaving? (developmental appropriateness, etc)
- Am I being influenced by the presence of family or strangers? If we were at home, or alone, would my reaction to my child’s behavior be different? Am I afraid of looking like an ineffective or overly permissive parent in front of another adult?
Considering all these questions will mean you will need to delay your reaction. It doesn’t mean you let your child continue in an unsafe manner, or behave in an unacceptable way. It means you need to calmly remove or redirect your child until you’ve decided how to handle it, and it also means that flash of anger or frustration will have died down a little too, allowing you to make a decision in a reasonable manner. It means you, as a parent, need to teach yourself to hold back your impulse to spank. After all that, are you still interested in using it as a discipline technique?
Can you add any to the list?