Hypothetically speaking, let’s pretend there is a parenting practice with the following attributes:
- while it usually results in immediate compliance, it is generally ineffective in modifying longer-term behavior (it is even ineffective from hour to hour or day to day);
- it causes strain on the parent/child relationship; and
- it can only be used for a few years of the child’s life, outside of those few years it is totally ineffective and/or inappropriate.
What, exactly, is attractive about that? Yes, there is that immediate compliance, but if the parenting practice doesn’t even result in changed behavior an hour later, why waste the effort?
Why not try something that actually works?
Part of the post “Undermining General Beliefs About Corporal Punishment” has stuck with me since I read it during the Carnival of Gentle Discipline. In the post, the author discussed the arbitrary lines drawn between “spanking” and “abuse,” as well as the rationales given for corporal punishment.
The part I keep coming back to is the general consensus that there is an age range in which it is “appropriate” to spank. According to the “experts” (and the spanking parents who discuss these things online), you should not spank babies younger than about 15-18 months, and you should not spank children past the age of 7 years. (1)
If you know that the “solution” of spanking is only a short-term “fix,” why do it at all? If spanking is one of your parenting tools, you will eventually have to toss it out of your toolbox. What will you do after it is no longer appropriate to threaten your child physically?
How will you relate to your kids when the threat of spanking no longer hangs over their heads?
Even if we ignore the many negative long-term effects of spanking, it simply makes no sense to rely on a method of discipline that will only work for a few short years. “Lasting authority cannot be based on fear[,]” so where will your authority lie after your children no longer fear your hand or your belt? (2)
Instead of creating a parent/child relationship based on fear and mistrust – as spanking often does – it is healthier and more effective in the long run to create a relationship based on trust and respect. Gentle discipline and playful parenting techniques are healthy and effective tools that work from toddlerhood through the teenage years.
What’s more, those few years that parents are “allowed” to spank are also the years that our children are forming lasting mental impressions of us.
Would you rather your child form an impression of trust, or of fear?
(1) I choose not to link to any of these “experts” or discussion boards because I do not want to contribute to their traffic/Pagerank. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find several sites to this effect on Google.
(2) Ask Dr. Sears, “10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child”