Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: To Spank or Not To Spank

Category: Positive Parenting


      To spank or not to spank.  That is a decision each parent will have to make.  The American Academy of Pediatrics in  general is against spanking because of the danger of hurting children and also the feeling that there are more creative forms of discipline which work better.  If you do choose to spank, follow a few guidelines.  Never spank when you are mad.  Always say a quick prayer and get your temper under control.  Be appropriate for the child's age and size.  Remember to love your child after you spank them and explain the reason for the spanking. 

      The best discipline is preventive discipline in the sense of keeping our children occupied with healthy activities to avoid the need for discipline.  Always try to teach children right from wrong so that when they do wrong they know it.  Don't punish them for things they really and truly do not understand as being wrong.  Teach them.  With small children, ask them a quick question and distract their attention.  This is an excellent way to dissuade them from mischief and avoid the need for discipline. 

     Eight steps in handling a discipline conflict or a stand-off between parent and child.

1.  Focus on the essential. In other words don't constantly fight over things that really don't matter.  An example would be forcing a child to eat so many string beans and both the child and parent getting frustrated.  Since this is not an essential need, why make it a rule and why push it to the point of a fight.  Keep rules focused on the truly essential things that are truly non-negotiable and let the non-essentials slide.   

2.  Use "I" not "You".   When you are losing your temper with your child, don't say, "you brat, how could you do that", say "I am disappointed in what you did".  Say "I'm mad" don't say "you're bad".   

3.  Stay in the present.  Focus on the infraction at hand, don't bring up everything the child has done over the past, week, month or year.   

4.  Avoid threats or physical force.  Physical punishment and inappropriate harsh words only damage a child's self esteem and are not effective means of discipline.  Stick with reasonable threats that you truly can carry out.  Never say you will do something unless you plan on doing it.   

5.  Be brief and to the point.  Don't get into a long drawn out discussion or argument over taking a nightly bath, doing homework before TV, or any other needed activity.  Be brief and to the point and when you give an order consider giving it as an option.  "Would you like a bubble bath or a regular bath",  "If you jump in bed quickly I'll read you a story".  Be persistent on things that need persistence.  "No TV before homework".  "It's time for bed now".  Stand by your commands and stand your ground. 

6.  Put it in writing.  Sometimes writing out a message is a good way to calm down when you are upset with something your child has done and this will let them know how you feel about it without getting them on the defensive or damaging their ego because of your anger if you approach them verbally.

7.  Exit or wait.  When you are really about to lose control simply walk out of the room and explain to your child that you are so furious that you are walking out for a few minutes to calm down but that they have definitely crossed the line.  Also wait before you unleash a lot of pent up anger and say a prayer for spiritual guidance.   

8.  Restore good feelings. After a battle over something your child has done, it is       important to make up and remind your child how much you love them and how precious they are.  It is a good idea to give them a big hug and explain to them that you always love them though at times you may not like their actions.


Finally, forgive yourself when you occasionally lose control.  Don't be afraid to admit your mistakes.  Children are quick to forgive and respect us most when we're human and honest.