Spanking – What to do Instead


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


In the previous discussion of spanking we concluded that spanking is a technique used by many parents to teach their children. We also concluded that spanking does not always teach what the parent is trying to teach. Yet, many parents are totally convinced than spanking is "good for their children." These parents fed that if they do not spank their children that their children will "run all over them."

There are many reasons for this belief. Some parents spank because they believe the Bible gives them permission. They point to Proverbs 13:24 which slates, "He that sparest his rod hates his child." But perhaps this Bible verse means that parents are to guide their children as a shepherd uses his rod to guide his sheep. After all, isn't guiding their child what the concerned parent who spanks is trying to do? The following ideas are shared in hopes that they will help us lean to guide rather than intimidate our children.

Principle #1: Children are immature and as a result do not immediately understand what we are trying to teach them. As a result, sometimes they have to learn on their own. In fact, strong-willed children will not blindly do what we say. Children discover the same things we have discovered about life, and many times, they have to struggle. Some children seem to have to learn the "hard way" No amount of spanking will help.

As parent this means that we have to be willing to allow this struggle and the suffering that many times goes with it. We must recognize that it is better for the child to struggle when they are little and the consequences are small rather than when they are adults and the consequences are great.

Parents who spank are trying to assure that the child learns quickly and does not have to struggle. But, in reality, spanking only postpones the learning.

Principle #2: The parents are further on the path of life then the child. This means that the parent is responsible for helping the child along this path. In fact, parents, by law, are responsible for their children. When children do not respect the parent the children are the ones with the problem, not the parent. When parents do not respect the children, the parent is the one with the problem, riot the children.

Parent who spank are trying to help their children be responsible. They are trying to let the child know what the “right thing” to do is. But spanking communicates the opposite message. It says, "You goofed up and so now I'm taking over. I will force your to do the right thing. You can't do the right thing, but I can."

Principle #3: One of the facts of parenthood is that parents need to communicate negative information that the child does not like to hear. A child cannot be protected from the reality of life. Parents must be honest but honesty does not mean rejection or anger. The child must never feel that a parent's love is lost when they misbehave. The relationship between the child and the parent needs to be preserved, even when the parent must do or tell the child things they do not like or agree with.

Parents who spank are trying to communicate negative information to the child. But it is normally seen by the child as rejection rather then help.

Principle #4: The child's misbehavior falls into basically two categories. The misbehavior is behavior in need of attention and behavior that the parent can live with but that may be irritating. Do not confuse these two categories. If a parent gets the categories confused they may end up working on the small problems that make no difference and not giving the attention to the big problems that need to be addressed.

One of the problems parents who spanks have is reacting to everything a child does wrong. It is as if they have more faith in spanking than they have in their child.

Principle #5: Never argue with a child. When a child decides to be uncooperative, words will not change the child or the situation. Do what needs to be done to help the child. If the child is misbehaving and out of control then the parent should take control. A child who refuses to leave a store when you are done shopping needs to be given a choice. They can get to the car with their feet on the ground or they can be taken to the car with their feet in the air. It is their choice. If they decide not to decide, they should be carried to the car. If they decide to kick and scream that is their problem not the parent's. Don't worry about the people shopping; your child is the one in need of your help. Keep focused on helping your child.

If a child is older and out of control, do not try to intervene. The police are trained to handle people who have not learned to control themselves or to respect the right of others.

Parent who spank many times get caught in argument traps. The spanking usually occurs when the parent cannot win the argument. Why worry about winning the argument if your wisdom and greater experience is such that you know what is best for your child. Just tell your child what you will do if the behavior continues.

Keeping these principles in mind, here is how a parent may help a child who has made unwise choices.

Step number one: When a child misbehaves, a parent needs to be sad not mad. (It is very hard to be angry with a parent who is feeling sorry because you misbehaved. It is much easier for a child to get angry with a parent who is angry with them.) This sadness must be genuine. You must really be sorry for the child and see the misbehavior as the child’s problem not yours. Example: "I'm really sad that you didn't chose not to eat when the food was on the table. But don't worry; I'm going to fix the next meal in about an four hours."

Step number two: Ask the child what they are going to do to solve the problem they have caused by their misbehavior. This step places the burden of correcting the misbehavior on the child. As a result the learning Is taking place inside the mild instead of outside the child. This step helps them to think through the situation and to practice problems solving. This step helps them learn to be responsible. It also sends them a message that you have faith in their ability to 'fix what they broke." Example: "Gee it's sad that you were not able to keep your promise. We were counting on you. What are you going to do about it?

Step number three: Help the child with ideas on how to correct the problem caused by their unwise behavior. If the child has no ideas, you may say something like, "Would you like some ideas that other people have used to solve this problem?" If they are willing to think the problem through, develop ideas together. If, on the other hand, they decide to become belligerent you go to step five.

Step number four: Empower the child to "fix' the mistake. This sends the message to the child that you love them and have faith in them. It let them know that they are more important than the mistake they have made. It lets than know that mistakes are not a problem but that not learning from mistakes is a problem. Example: "Good luck, Let me haw how it works out."

Step number five: During all this dialogue it is important to tell the child what you will do, not what they have to do. A child can argue with you when you give them orders. They cannot argue with you if you tell them what you are going to do. Example: "I'll be glad to help you with your problem as soon as your voice is as calm as mine is. Let me know when you have yourself under control."

If a parent takes some time to help a child think through unwise decisions and helps them to learn from their mistake, the child will gain wisdom that can be gained in no other way. The goal for the child, guided by the wise and calm parent, is to learn to that they are responsible for their own behavior.