I was chatting recently with another dad about the issue of disciplining our kids. It was a really fruitful conversation and I thought some of the things he was saying were worth sharing here with a view to encouraging conversation on this long-debated topic. He wrote …
”Carol’ and I use talking and reasoning as our primary way of correcting our children’s behaviour, figuring that if they’re too young to reason they are not necessarily doing something with mal intent. Our positive role models of parenting have been those parents who explain to their children why they are not to do this or that. We have also found that channeling our children’s energies into positive actions is often the most effective way of keeping them from bad actions. Often kids act out because they are bored or want attention, so helping them find something creative and showing them affection can often be a much better solution to their seemingly bad behaviour than some form of punishment.
There are also just plain physical reasons a child might act out – tiredness, hunger, etc. It’s good for us to be in tune with ‘Jodi’ and ‘Clare’ to know why they might be acting as they do and it makes us more understanding as well. Punishing a child when they are actually just bored or hungry is not wise parenting after all; we are the parents and they the children. We should be more wise to those things than they are, even though it is their own disposition we are dealing with.
We do spank but we use this as a rare last resort and are very cautious when we do spank. There have been times we have spanked ‘Jodi’ for doing something we thought was dogged disobedience only to learn minutes later that ‘Jodi’ was acting that way for good and logical reasons. So we have encouraged ‘Jodi’ to explain to us why she is doing what she is doing. We try never to spank out of anger. In fact, I have found that gentleness goes much further in correcting behaviour than any physical or verbal harshness. I also believe threatening a child with physical punishment is detrimental. Therefore, whenever we do get to the point of spanking, we give ‘Jodi’ options like, ‘You have some choices: you can listen to Mommy and Daddy and here’s why we want you to do such and such, or you can get a spanking and here’s why we don’t want you to do such and such. Which do you choose?’ It is important to explain to a child why they should do the right thing or why they should avoid the consequences of the wrong choice. We also try to persuade her of why it is beneficial to her to do the right thing and disadvantageous for her to disobey. This instills in ‘Jodi’ not only the ability to communicate her feelings and reasoning to others, but also teaches her to make wise choices.
In the end, I think there are far more constructive ways to discipline than spanking, but I don’t see why spanking should be ruled out if administered properly. Depending upon the issue, there have been times we have just let ‘Jodi’ work through her disobedience without our physical intervention; at other times, we have felt a spanking was necessary in order to let her know there are certain boundaries she should not cross. The ultimate rule is, ‘What is most beneficial for the child in each instance?’’