Being a parent is a blessing, but this role requires huge responsibility and wisdom. Parenthood is complex and comes with numerous challenges.
Yet, no matter how hard it gets at times, a parent should be able to control himself in all situations, as he is his child’s first teacher in life. Kids learn to behave by seeing how their parents behave and by following that example.
Every word, every act, and grimace, counts. Even the most trivial things can impact a child. But what happens when a child misbehaves? Have you ever thought of the effects of spanking?
In a 2012 survey, 70% of Americans agreed that “it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking.”
Hitting a child to punish bad behavior is a common measure, as it appears to be effective in the short-term.
Yet, scientists explain that corporal punishment is not effective in the long-term, and it can negatively affect the physical and emotional wellbeing of the kid. Moreover, it might even worsen their behavior!
In the past two decades, ideas about spanking have changed dramatically.
For the first time, in 1998, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote a statement that discouraged parents from spanking their children as a method of punishment.
In 2018, they’ve updated their policy again and recommended that parents should not spank their children at all.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan found that children who are spanked often are more likely to defy their parents and experience an increase in anti-social behavior.
These kids are also at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, aggression, and cognitive difficulties.
The study analyzed 50 years of research that involved more than 160 thousand children, and it was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, explained that the study “focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors.”
Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, defined spanking as an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.
The team concluded that spanking children is linked to “unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”.
“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.”
They studied adults who were spanked as kids and found that they experienced more mental health problems, and later in life, they were more likely to spank their own children.
Children who frequently receive spankings become more aggressive as they get older, as they associate violence with power.
Yet, these effects might not be apparent immediately.
“A child doesn’t get spanked and then run out and rob a store. There are indirect changes in how the child thinks about things and feels about things.”
“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors. Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”
All of the research over the last fifty years shows that spanking children is ineffective, and it actually does more harm than good.
Scientists suggest other strategies to punish bad behavior, which would not cause lasting emotional damage.
Parents should discipline their kids before they develop bad behavior. They should have reasonable rules and reasonable punishment in the home, and all family members should know what they are.
Consistency is vital in both, rule enforcement, and punishment. Selective rule enforcement will only confuse the kids.
Children need constructive help when they misbehave, and corporal punishment doesn’t provide them with the tools they need to correct their behavior.
Parents need to speak with their kids about their feelings, what caused their anger and urge to be aggressive, and to show them how to handle those emotions. They should guide their kids to develop self-control.
Kids should also be taught to consider the feelings of others, and the effects of their behavior on other people. In this way, they will develop an internal sense of right and wrong.
If your kids are small, ignoring poor behavior at times might be effective. This selective deafness will show that that bad behavior will not get them what they want.
As soon as they calm down, talk to them to learn the reason for it, and teach them a lesson.
Moreover, time-outs are also a tried-and-true method of punishment. The typical rule of thumb is one minute for every year of the child’s age. During this time, parents do not interact with them, and when the time is done, they don’t mention it again.
When parents lose their temper, instead of screaming at the kids or hitting them, they should leave the room to cool off, breathe deeply, and calm. Later, with a clear head, they can resolve the issue.
You should always explain the problem calmly and clearly, speak about the consequences of the inappropriate behavior, and warn that there will be other consequences if the behavior continues.
Lecturing a toddler or a preschool-aged child may not work, as these kids don’t have a large capacity to manage impulses. Therefore, instead of telling them what not to do, show them what to do.
Don’t forget to provide positive feedback as well. Whenever your kids do the right thing, remember to reinforce the good behavior and thank them.
Praise is much more effective than punishment.
In the end, you should never forget that you are your kid’s role model. Your children will copy your behavior. Therefore, pay attention to the things you say and do in front of them, and the way you say and do them. Avoid yelling, hitting, or screaming in anger, as they will internalize this as being normal.