Love works for everybody

Spanking quote (2)

When I see the debate among people about parenting and the different tools and methods, the way most arguments seem to finish is “…but whatever works for the family.”

I’ve been thinking about this, and it just doesn’t make sense.

Spanking works for nobody, no matter how you slice it. It’s just a quick fix and, truly, not even that. It’s cheating at not only parenting, but being a human being toward other other humans.

camille grayHow we treat and raise today’s children becomes tomorrow’s reality.

Spanking works for nobody, but love works for everybody.


12 alternatives to spanking and timeout

apm logoBy Ariadne Brill, Positive Parenting Connection

Editor’s note: This post, which was referenced during the 2014 API Conference, was originally published as part of the 2013 AP Month. It carries an always-timely message for parents seeking alternatives to spanking, time-out and other punishment-based discipline techniques.

Coverage of the conference continues all October during the 2014 AP Month, during which we also welcome your submissions to the 2014 AP Month Blogging event.

If you have read about the benefits of skipping spanking and time-out in favor of other ways to guide children but are not sure where to start, here are 12 alternatives that give parents and children a chance to address choices and situations with the intention to offer guidance while maintaining a positive, respectful and peaceful connection.

These alternatives are mostly geared toward children ages 1-6 but work well beyond that, too:

  1. Take a break together — The key is to do this together and before things get out of hand. So if your child is having a difficult time or making unsafe choices like hitting a playmate, find a quiet space to take a break together. Just five minutes of connection, listening to what your child is feeling and talking about more appropriate choices really helps. This is similar to a time-in.
  2. Give a second chance — Ever made a mistake and felt so relieved to have a chance at a do-over? Often letting children try again lets them address the problem or change their behavior. “I can’t let you put glue all over the table. Do you want to try this again on paper?”
  3. Problem-solve together — If there is a problem and your child is acting out of frustration, giving him a chance to talk about the problem and listening to a solution he has can turn things around for the better.
  4. Ask questions — Sometimes children do things but we don’t quite get it.  We might assume incorrectly they are doing something “bad” or “naughty” when, in fact, they are trying to understand how something works. Ask what they are up to with the intent to listen and understand first, then correct them by providing the appropriate outlet or information that is missing. So try, “What are you trying to do?” instead of, “Why in the world…ugh!!! Time out!”
  5. Read a story — Another great way to help children understand how to make better choices is by reading stories with characters that are making mistakes, having big feelings or needing help to make better choices. Also, reading together can be a really positive way to reconnect and direct our attention to our child.
  6. Teach through puppets and play — Young children love to see puppets or dolls come to life to teach positive lessons. “I’m Honey Bear, and oh, it looks like you scribbled crayons on the ground. I’m flying to the kitchen to get a sponge for us to clean it up together. Come along!” After cleaning up together, “Oh, now let’s fetch some paper, and will you color me a picnic on the paper? Paper is for coloring with crayons!”
  7. Give two choices — Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.
  8. Listen to a song — Sometimes taking a fun break to release some tension and connect is all that children need to return to making better choices and all that parents need to loosen up a bit and let go of some stress. Listen to a song or take a dance break!
  9. Go outside — Changing locations often gives us parents a chance to redirect behavior to something more appropriate. “I cannot let you scale the bookshelf. You CAN climb on the monkey bars. Let’s go outside and practice that instead!” Or, “Cutting the carpet with the scissors is not acceptable. Let’s go outside and cut some grass.”
  10. 1386612_mom_and_kidBreathe — A big, deep breath for both parents and children can really help us calm down and look at what is going on with a new perspective. Take a big “lion” breath to get out frustrations or short and quick “bunny” breaths to feel calm and re-energized.
  11. Draw a picture — A wonderful way for children to talk about mistakes is to make a picture of what they did or could have done differently. It’s a low-key way to open a window for talking to each other about making better choices.
  12. Create a chill-out space — For a time-out to work, it needs to be something that helps everyone calm down, not something that makes children frightened or scared. A chill-out space is an area where children can go sit and think, tinker with some quiet toys, and have some space alone until they feel ready to talk or return to being with others. Using the chill-out space should be offered as a choice and not a command.

Every child and every situation is unique, so these tools are not one-size-fits-all but rather a list of ideas to lean on to expand your parenting toolbox. I find that striving to use proactive tools like these to respond to and to guide children towards better choices works far more positively than having to react when things have gotten out of hand.

Editor’s note: Many parents, especially when moving away from spanking, can have a difficult time viewing discipline in terms of not punishing but rather teaching. It can take a great leap of faith that positive, non-punitive discipline can work — and work really well! It’s important for parents just getting started with positive discipline to realize that the motivation behind spanking (to punish) and positive discipline (to teach) are very different, even if they have the same intended result. Learn more about the differences through API’s principle to Practice Positive Discipline.

It may help to think of spanking as a way to get the child’s immediate attention and to begin by substituting another behavior, such as clapping, for spanking to get the child’s attention before doing the positive discipline exercise. Ideas like this can help redirect your physical reflex.

When getting started with positive discipline, especially if you are just beginning to move away from spanking, it can be helpful to imagine various scenarios ahead of time and how you could react to them in using positive discipline versus spanking. For example, before entering a room where your child is supposed to be drawing with crayons on paper, you could imagine finding your child drawing on the wall and run through ideas in your mind of how you could react in a way other than reflexively spanking. It’s important for your child to know that drawing on the wall is not OK by firmly saying so, but then follow up with a positive discipline technique such as problem-solving.

Of course, it’s not always possible to be proactive. When anger catches you off-guard, try to take a break yourself. Apologies for our behavior, as parents, can go a long way to heal relationships with our children while also modeling what we’d like to see in our children.

It can also help to understand that positive discipline works best when the parent and child have a secure attachment. If your child seems to ignore your attempts at non-punitive discipline, continue trying it out while simultaneously improving your connection. Find ideas through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

Keep in mind, if you’re trying to shift away from spanking, you’re not the first person to do it — even API’s cofounders struggled with learning how to discipline without spanking at first. You can find support through local API Support Groups, the API Warmline or the API Neighborhood online forums.

Spanking and the Golden Rule

By Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

“Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

barbara nicholsonAt one point in our own lives, we have spanked at least one of our children, later learning more positive parenting tools.

People believe in spanking children for many reasons. We often hear the common rebuttal, “I was spanked as a child and I turned out OK,” or someone’s personal beliefs may incorporate the use of spanking to teach lysa parkerobedience and respect. We’ve heard many teachers say that when the use of paddling was taken out of schools, violence and chaos in classrooms increased — though that doesn’t hold true, because violence is a problem even in schools where paddling is still allowed.

For those who spank, it doesn’t mean you are bad parents or that your own parents were bad because they spanked you as a child. You’ve likely heard the adage, “You do the best you can with what you know at the time.” The good news is that there is so much more that we know now about child development and brain development that there are many more options for parents and caregivers that really do work so much more than spanking ever did — and keeps everyone’s dignity intact.

We certainly don’t intend to offend anyone’s beliefs or ideas about how to raise their children. What we want to do is plant the seeds of possibilities with you by looking at this issue in a different light.

We promote positive parenting practices that require that we see the world through the eyes of our children, rather than treating them like little adults. When children feel understood and disciplined with dignity, then they begin to learn their first lessons of empathy and compassion for others. Very simply, the Golden Rule applies to children, too: Treat your children the way you would want to be treated if you were the child.

Of course, as parents, we wish could always handle every situation perfectly, but we are all trained on the job. At times we lose it; tempers flare, we yell and spank. When that happens, it’s important to repair any damage to the parent-child relationship: Take time to reconnect, talk about what happened and apologize after everyone has calmed down. Talk about how the situation happened and what you can do together the next time a similar situation occurs. If it happens too often, then consider other professional resources for help and guidance.

It helps to have a mental plan for redirecting your anger and frustration. Try using these three reflective questions to help guide you in how you determine your course of action:

  1. Am I treating my child the way I would want to be treated?
  2. Will my words or actions strengthen my relationship with my child?
  3. Will my actions give my child an opportunity to learn from this experience?

Editor’s Pick: Astrid Lindgren on “Never Violence”

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time.

But one day when her son was 4 or 5, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking — the first in his life. And she told him he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, ‘Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock you can throw at me.’

All of the sudden, a mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. The mother took the boy onto her lap, and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence.

And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery, one can raise children into violence.” ~ the late Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking

This story isn’t new. A quick search on the Internet will show you that it’s been recounted time and time again. And its a touching story that makes many parents stop and think about how their children might view the world around them.

astrid lindgren - wikipediaBut what I found most interesting about this story was that when Astrid was 20 years old, it would have been 1927 or 1928. This was a time in which the prevailing child-rearing philosophies very much condoned corporal punishment. And Astrid is speaking about an “old pastor’s wife,” who would’ve lived in a very, very pro-corporal punishment culture back in the 1800s.

So, even back then, “in the olden days,” there were parents who chose to do something different than the cultural norm. That’s inspiring to me.

Looking more into Astrid’s life history, when she was about 20 years old, and was hearing this story first-hand, she would have either been expecting or had recently given birth to her oldest son. At the time, she was a single mother, working as a typist and stenographer for very little pay. She left her son in the care of foster parents during the week while she worked and then traveled home each weekend to see her son. Her early years were far from glamorous as she worked hard to make a life for her and her son.

How that old pastor’s wife must have influenced her views on raising children!

Eventually Astrid was able to afford to raise her son herself. Later, she married, had a daughter, became a journalist and then a full-time author. Her books, including Pippi Longstocking, were inspired by her family and childhood memories.

A well-known author, Astrid was less known for her activism. According to the Swedish Book Review, she advocated for animal rights, protected threatened trees and campaigned against the closure of library branches, but was especially vocal about her views of world peace.

The above story, which was written by Astrid at some point later in her life, was included in a similar way in her 1978 acceptance speech of the German Book Trade Peace Prize. The Swedish Book Review published the speech, written and given by Astrid, in 2007. The title of the speech is “Never Violence,” and directly ties parenting approaches to world peace, such as this snippet:

“Many parents will no doubt be worried by these new trends, and may start to wonder if they have done wrong, if an anti-authoritarian upbringing is reprehensible. But it is only reprehensible if it is misunderstood.

An anti-authoritarian upbringing does not mean that children should be left to drift along and do whatever they please. It does not mean that they should grow up without a set of norms — nor do they want to. Both children and adults need a set of norms as a framework within which to conduct themselves, and children learn more from the example of their parents than from anything else.

Of course children should respect their parents, but make no mistake about it: Adults should also have respect for their children and not misuse the natural advantages they have over them. What one would like to see in all parents and all children is mutual loving respect.” ~ Astrid Lindgren, 1978

Sounds like Attachment Parenting to me.

National Spank Out Day – Positive Discipline Resources

April 30th is National Spank Out Day, which was established to promote non-violent discipline of children.

Today, we aim to raise awareness about physical punishment for children, as well as educate parents about effective discipline practices that do not involve hitting and spanking.

Here, we’ve listed some of API’s resources on positive discipline, as well as information from other trusted sources. These can serve as a starting point on the path to implementing positive discipline in the home, or those familiar with positive discipline may find new tools to deepen the understanding between the parent and child.

We offer these resources to let parents know that there are alternatives to spanking that work.

From Attachment Parenting International:

“What is Misbehavior?” API Speaks

“Toddler Ten Commandments” API Speaks

“Tips to Dealing With Acting Out Behavior” The Attached Family

“The Man in the Yellow Hat Exemplifies Positive Discipline” API Speaks

Attachment Parenting International’s Effective Discipline page

The Truth About Spanking: What Parents Must Know About Physical Discipline [Teleseminar]

From Other Sources:

10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child Ask Dr. Sears

“How to Use Positive Parenting” Aha Parenting

“The Power of Touch” San Diego Family

“Connection is Key” Parenting from Scratch

Alternatives to Spanking” Positive Parents

“No More Timeouts, No More Tiger Moms” Tips on Life and Love

AP and Spanking Don’t Mix

Many parents, even many of those who are focused on creating a secure attachment with their child, spank as a form of discipline.  They may say things like…

“I only spank when….”

“I only spank after I’ve tried [XYZ] first.”

“Spanking is OK when it’s done [a certain way], but not [a certain other way].”

“We did attachment parenting when our kids were infants (past tense).”

“We follow AP, but believe in strong discipline for obedience.”

“We are AP, except for spanking.”

Attachment parenting is about raising children using parenting methods that strengthen relationships, foster empathy, and teach nonviolent communication. Spanking may elicit appropriate behavior in children, but it is a technique that, no matter how it is administered, does not support a secure attachment; it does not meet kids’ emotional needs, and it functions against the goals of AP (communication, connection).

Attachment parenting has no end date.  It is not a stage or a phase, but a mindset.  It’s a perspective that permeates the relationship between a parent and child and all of the interactions they have together.  So, the parenting goals that AP moms and dads have when their kids are infants are the same goals they have when their kids are older; communication, connection, respectful relationships.

Just because children outgrow infanthood, doesn’t mean they outgrow those needs.  And just because parents may be focused on teaching their kids appropriate behavior doesn’t mean they should ignore the principles that drew them to AP in the first place.

The goal of attachment parenting is connection, not obedience.  There is simply no attachment-promoting way to spank.

There are, however, attachment-promoting ways to discipline; to teach children those necessary elements of behavioral limits, expectations, and accountability, while still prioritizing the parent-child relationship.  Positive discipline accomplishes this.  The tools of positive discipline fit well within the context of attachment parenting because they follow the “And” principle…

  • I want to teach my kids how to behave appropriately and I want to prioritize our relationship.
  • I want my kids to be accountable for their behavior and I want to respect them (their autonomy, their development).
  • I want to parent with firmness and kindness.
  • I want to let kids know what is expected of them and I want to stay connected to them.
  • I want to teach my kids respect and I want to facilitate communication between us.

It is common to equate positive parenting with permissive parenting.  As children outgrow the AP practices of infanthood, parents frequently believe that they must “establish control” of their children, expect obedience, and enforce boundaries.  For without limits and authority, children “rule the roost,” right?

Yes, children certainly need limits.  Yes, they need clear boundaries.  Yes, parents must communicate their expectations and hold kids accountable for their behavior.  And yes, parents can teach kids these things without punishments, without threats, without inducing fear, and without spanking.

At the start of her 7-week Positive Discipline classes, author and parent educator Jane Nelsen asks parents, “How many of you would try one other parenting tool before you spanked?”  Inevitably, every hand goes up. She continues and asks, “How many of you would try two things before spanking?”  Hands stay up.  “Three things?  More?”  And still, the hands stay up.

So, many parents are, indeed, aware of the limitations of spanking.  Many parents spank because they are exasperated with their child’s behavior and want it to stop but don’t know what else to do.  This is exactly what Positive Discipline classes do; they give parents new tools for disciplining effectively and non-punitively, while fostering and maintaining an emotional connection with their children.

As children outgrow the practices of AP such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping, they grow into other ones.  Different techniques accomplish the same attachment-oriented goals: connection, security, respectful communication. It is possible to fill parenting toolboxes with a supply of non-punitive, connection-enhancing alternatives to spanking.

There are many.  Some are in-the-moment reactive, while others are primarily proactive.  All are able to accomplish the same results as spanking (setting limits, expecting accountability, teaching kids appropriate behavior) but with the important element of respect.  These are just some (very condensed) examples taken from the set of Positive Discipline Parenting Tools:

  • Positive time out—both parents and children can take take time to cool off and access our rational brains.
  • Focus on solutions—move from thinking, “What can I do to get through to you?” to “What can we do to solve this problem?”
  • Wheel of choice—brainstorm solutions to everyday conflicts to give kids choices in problem solving.
  • Distract and redirect—turn a “don’t” into a “do.”
  • Eye to eye—communication becomes more respectful when you look into your child’s eyes.
  • Hugs—for children and parents alike; we all do better when we feel better. Physical affection restores brain chemistry to a calm, rational state.
  • Limited choices—provide small steps in shared power.
  • Listen—your children will listen after they feel listened to.
  • Use mistakes as opportunities for problem solving, not punishment.
  • Validate feelings—don’t fix, rescue, or talk children out of their feelings, and have faith in them to work it through.
  • Agreements—brainstorm with a child to find a solution everyone can agree to.  If the problem occurs, remind the child, “What was our agreement?”
  • Connection before correction—when emotional connection is in place, the need for correction is greatly minimized.
  • Break the code—misbehavior is an external code for an internal problem; get at the root of the problem and the behavior will change.
  • Empower your kids—share control to help kids develop skills to have their own power.
  • Natural consequences—allow kids to experience the natural consequences of their choices without interference from you.
  • Encouragement—a misbehaving child is a discouraged child and needs to be encouraged rather than made to feel worse.
  • Use nonviolent communication—Speak in acknowledgements, “You feel hurt and you need someone to understand,” rather than in judgments, “When will you ever learn?”
  • Take time for teaching—teach kids what to do and be patient with the learning process.
  • Special time—schedule regular one-on-one time with each child.
  • Curiosity questions—ask questions to understand the child’s intentions, motives, feelings and needs.
  • Show faith—have faith in children to handle their mistakes.
  • Sense of humor—turn discipline into playful parenting.

And there are even more.  Not all tools are applicable to every situation, and some tools work better in combination with others. Every situation is different with every family.  For more information and explanation on the tools, you can take a class near you or get the Positive Discipline Parenting Tool Cards.

Parenting non-punitively is definitely more time consuming than administering a spanking, but it is infinitely more valuable.  A trusting, encouraging, secure relationship is possible with our newborns, grown-up children and every age in between.  It affects how they see themselves and how they relate to the world, and it starts now.

The Truth About Spanking with Nadine Block

Register now for this next API LIVE! Teleseminar scheduled for Monday, August 30, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT – The Truth About Spanking: What Parents Must Know About Physical Discipline with special guest Nadine Block.

Register for this call to hear hosts Lu Hanessian and API cofounder Barbara Nicholson talk with Nadine Block

  • the practice and effect of spanking on cognitive and physical well-being
  • the confusion surrounding spanking and good behavior
  • how our own childhood experience drives our decision to spank or not
  • what to do if your spouse and you disagree on spanking
  • and more.


Weighing in on Breastfeeding in Public

I feel so lucky that I live in a place that is so open to nursing in public. I have never been asked to cover up, given funny looks, or asked to move to the bathroom to nurse my children. But I know so many mothers who are terrified of nursing in public because they have been questioned, given looks, and asked to move.

As much as those stories infuriate me, today I feel there is cause to celebrate…and to weigh in. Some of you probably already have accounts on Opposing Views because they seem to cover quite a few topics (spanking among them) that AP parents care about. Today they launched the debate: Should Women Breastfeed in Public?

The reason we should celebrate is because it’s not even a debate–no one stepped up to take the “No” position on this one. I choose to make this mean that we’re winning the battle against ignorance and I commend the three wonderful experts who spelled out all the many reasons to support nursing in public. But your votes still send a strong message to any dissenters (and as long as neanderthals people like Barbara Walters are around, there will always be dissenters on this topic), so go on, vote to support a baby’s right to eat in public.

While you’re there, you might also want to vote on these two: