To Spank or not to Spank?

So many parents have a hard time dealing with their children’s misbehavior. Parents are exhausted and drained, and angry, no doubt. Heated discussions can flare up about what to do and how to get our kids to listen.

I’ve heard many-a-Dad make the case for tougher love…wanting to do something that will make an impression, so to speak. Yes, I’m talking about spanking. When things get difficult, this is often the default position for Dads. We get tempted to use more force as a way to quickly solve a problem, or to solve a problem “once and for all.”

In the past, this is how it was done. Parents were in command and kids listened…or else. If children didn’t mind their parents, they were punished and hit. Children knew their place, and didn’t cross the line.

Well, things have changed. Psychologists for a long time have advocated for abandoning corporal punishment. There is overwhelming evidence that hitting your child does harm, not good. As well, it has been proven again and again that children can become well mannered, kind, and considerate without ever having to raise a hand to them. And lastly, perhaps the irony of hitting your kid in order to teach them to be good has finally sunk in.

If you, like me, are opting for a gentler way, or are interested in trying, you need to know that different rules apply. If you are trading in a fear based style of parenting for a love based way you need to know:

1. You might not have fingertip control over your child’s every move and every thought. You have chosen a different way. You have given up the iron fist. You can’t parent in a new gentler way wishing for the unchecked power of the good old days. Check your ego at the door and don’t take it too personally when your child doesn’t behave exactly the way you want when you want. There is a learning curve, stick with it.

2. You can’t just substitute physical punishment with psychological punishment. Shaming, yelling, isolating, and threating to control the behavior of your child is damaging too. Simply abstaining from hitting your child does not itself equate to more skillful parenting and will not on it’s own lead to well adjusted, helpful children that listen well.

3. The new way to get your child to listen to you, the new way to influence your child’s behavior, your new “source of power” is to build a mutually respectful relationship with your child. It is about modelling leadership and consistency, it is about demonstrating and earning respect.

How do we do this? We can build a strong relationship with our children based on love, trust, and respect that goes both ways. First! We must accept our kids for who they are and also sincerely attempt to meet their needs. A child who feels loved, accepted and comfortable with who he is is so much easier to parent and will be more likely to listen and cooperate than a child who feels threatened, unaccepted, and deficient.

Ironically, in an attempt to be tough and stamp out bad behavior we actually create more of the “difficult” behaviors we are trying to avoid. Parenting is hard enough, we don’t need to make it harder on ourselves.

Use not the force of your hand, but the force of your love, the power of the relationship.

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