Wednesday, June 4, 2014

To Spank or Not To Spank

The hidden elephant in the room, right?  When I am coaching, this is a subject that parents NEVER bring up.  Prevailing wisdom equates spankings with beatings and no one wants to admit they have ever spanked a child because they don’t want to be accused of child abuse.  Ok, fair enough.

But spankings can be a reasonable disciplinary choice; if and only if a spanking is defined as 2 – 4 swats with an open hand on the clothed back side. Anything more than that constitutes a beating and is outrageously unacceptable.

So then, do I believe in spankings as defined above?  Well I do and I don’t.  Of my 2 kids, I spanked the oldest once and the youngest never.

Spankings should not be the first choice of handling misbehavior.  And they really don’t work well on kids younger than 3 or older than 6 or 7.  There are so many more options to establish your parental leadership that I rarely see a need for spankings.  The best consequence is one that greatly limits a child’s freedom – like early bedtime, room confinement, losing a bike for a week, being told they can’t go to a friend’s party.  And these types of consequences, when applied sparingly and strategically, make a huge impression on kids.  Children generally begin to rethink their behavior choices in ways that make the need for major consequences decrease dramatically.

Parents who levy major consequences are hardly mean parents when they only need to do so occasionally. They use consequences to assert their leadership, help their kids listen to them better and become more obedient. By the way, obedient children are clearly happier and more secure children!

Of course, it stands to reason that good parental leadership is focused on issues that matter.  Parents who try to micromanage kids, impose lots and lots of rules, and say “no” or punish twenty times a day exhaust themselves in their parenting. They exhaust and confuse their kids too - to the point that children may not know what is expected of them (because the rules likely change all the time).

So when is spanking a good idea?  When you need a child’s attention right now – because of danger or an emergency circumstance – and you absolutely have to stop a behavior or instill how wrong their action was.  My daughter’s one spanking was at age 3 when she pulled away from me to chase a butterfly across the road.  Thank God, there was no car coming.  I chased her, grabbed her arm and delivered 4 swats with my hand on her bottom.  Additionally, our daycare Mom spanked her once, too.  That was the day she went into the forbidden 4 square mile cornfield – can you imagine the danger and difficulty of finding a child who might get themselves lost in a fully grown cornfield? She was spanked – again with open hand – and confined to the house for the rest of the day.

So I do believe that spankings have their place but only in limited situations for young kids.

Other misbehaviors deserve thoughtful parents who think through their parenting values and then implement them strategically! 

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