Over the last several weeks numerous news stories have emerged related to domestic violence against women and children. The recent Adrian Peterson child-abuse case has renewed the debate over spanking and other forms of corporal punishment. The word "discipline" is derived from from the Latin word “disciplina", defined as instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge. So what are we teaching our children when we use violence against them? Are we modeling the behavior we want them to emulate? Are we teaching them respect, or fear? Will this type of discipline produce the long-term behaviors we hope to see in our children?
Spanking children is commonplace. A 2012 nationwide survey found that more than half of women and three-quarters of men in the United States believe a child sometimes needs a "good hard spanking." This opinion gets passed down from generation to generation; hence, children who are spanked are more likely to spank their children. Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has been studying corporal punishment for 15 years, says that research in this area is conclusive: spanking does not improve behavior, it leads to aggression and other behavior problems like stealing and lying. Additionally, children who are spanked are more likely to have mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and have learning problems at school. A study reported in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma found that children subjected to corporal punishment had decreased cognitive abilities relative to children who were not subjected to corporal punishment, especially in children 5 to 9 years old.
There are many, more effective ways to discipline children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has put together “Strategies That Work.” Below is a summary of these strategies:
When your child does not listen, try the following:
Natural Consequences: Let your child experience what happens if he does not behave (as long as it does not place him in any danger).
Logical Consequences: Step in and create a consequence. Be firm and respond in a calm way.
Withhold Privileges: Tell your child that if she does not cooperate, she will have to give something up she likes. The thing taken away should not be something the child actually needs.
Time-Out: When a specific rule has been broken send your child to his time-out spot.
To Make Discipline More Effective:
Be Aware of What Your Child Can and Cannot Do
Think Before You Speak
Don't Give In
Pay Attention To Your Child's Feelings
Learn From Mistakes—Including Your Own
Additional information regarding effective discipline techniques can be found here.
Disciplining a child is never easy, but it is a crucial part of good parenting. Please remember, resorting to violence does not remedy the situation, it only teaches aggressive behavior and often becomes ineffective. By using these tools, you can teach your child in a positive, caring way.
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