I subscribe to the newsletter that is put out by Dr. Jane Nelsen. The most recent topic resulted in an “aha moment” for me. It had an article that discussed why spanking a child, as a form of discipline, in the long run does not improve a child’s behavior. http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2010/07/spanking-will-debate-ever-end.html is the link to the entire article.
The article mentions that there have been several university studies that show that spanking is not effective over the long-term. In fact, children who are raised to be spanked show long-term results of increased violence and aggressiveness. Instead, a focus of engaging the child in finding a solution, teaches the child how to become a problem solver and also is much more likely to result in the behavior not being repeated. Does this alternative take more time and energy than a spanking? Yes, initially. But the offending behavior is less likely to be repeated.
When my son was very young and got into things he wasn’t supposed to get into, I would redirect him. As a toddler, if I spanked him, he didn’t understand it. So, I only did it once or twice to try to affect his behavior. One day, I was at the end of my rope, trying to get him latched into his car seat. He would arch his back, so I couldn’t hook the straps and buckle. I thwacked his tummy so he would pull it back. He looked at me with his hurt expression and said, “Why did you hit me?” I immediately asked myself the very same question. Why had I hit my son? Was there any valid reason to ever hit my son? That was the end of that. Even though it took a lot more energy on my part, redirection was what I did most. He had several areas of developmental delays, and didn’t “get” a lot of things for a long time. When he was old enough to understand, I would explain, put consequences into place and follow through. (After the seatbelt incident, when he would arch his back, I’d tickle him instead. Much better results).
One thing I learned when I took a class called Developing Capable Young People, was that when you are pleased with something a child has done and you want to let them know, be specific with your praise or comment. And speak about the action that was done. If a child gets a good grade in school, instead of saying, “I’m so proud of you! You’re such a good boy,” which attaches the child’s self-worth to the grade, comment on what was accomplished: “You sure worked hard, and it really paid off! How do you feel about yourself?” These comments praise the accomplishment and teach the child to recognize how they feel about what they did. If a child’s self-worth is attached to what they do, when they don’t do well, or if they make mistakes, their self-worth will plummet. Separate the act from the child’s value.
My aha moment was when I realized that if children are punished when they are young by being spanked, they learn that not only what they did was “bad”, but that they, themselves are “bad.” Being spanked does not separate the action from the child’s self-worth. It also results in the child thinking of ways to get even, or thinking up ways to do the same thing, but not get caught. To me, that is not criteria for a method of discipline that “works.” Not even close.