This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama
You may be very familiar with this situation; your child is doing something you explicitly told him not to yet again! It seems that communication and negotiation just don’t seem to work with your child. The solution? you resort to spanking. Spanking might seem to stop your child’s misbehavior, for now, but it isn’t helping in the long run! Spanking may have short term effects in stopping your child’s misbehavior but it certainly doesn’t have any positive long term effects. In fact, research has shown that the use of physical punishment such as spanking can have negative long term effects on your child.
Studies have found that children who experience physical punishment may experience low self-esteem and lower self-worth. There is a risk they may perform worse academically and socially than children who never experience physical punishment. They tend to be more aggressive with other children and may have more behavioral and conduct problems.
The use of physical punishment with your child sends a message that it’s OK to use physical aggression when interacting with other people instead of giving him tools for effective communication. Research has shown that children who experience physical punishment are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Which may mean the use of aggression with friends at school, later spousal relationships and with their own children.
So far science has shown that no good can come from using physical punishment with young chidren. On the other hand, positive methods that include parental warmth and sensitivity seem to be more effective in reducing conduct problems than harsh parenting. Children who tend to misbehave seem to be less sensitive to punishment but more sensitive to reward in terms of parental warmth.
So, what should you do to deal with your child’s misbehavior instead of spanking?
First, find out why your child is misbehaving:
- Does he get attention from you when he does positive things or is it only when he misbehaves? Is he trying to get attention from a younger sibling? Is there a reoccuring pattern where your child’s misbehavior seems to escalate?
- Understanding the reason behind your child’s misbehavior is a crucial first step. Remember that your child isn’t out to get you, the reasons most likely have to do with getting your attention.
- Children at this age might easily get frustrated if they don’t get to do things for themselves. A need for independence is for young children and is a healthy feeling to encourage.
- Know that impulse control is extremely difficult for young children. That’s because the part in their brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of controlling their impulses has not yet developed, this makes it hard for young children to think about what they’re doing in advance or making decision.
Second, there are alternatives to physical punishment when dealing with your child’s misbehavior:
- Start with yourself: Always give yourself a few seconds before reacting to your child. If he is not harming himself or others you can afford a few seconds to assess the situation and decide how to react calmly. A calm reaction can have a more effective impact than an angry response.
- Restate rules: Try to have few clear rules that are mostly related to safety. That way your child will have clear boundaries that he knows shouldn’t be crossed.
- Use positive sentences: Avoid using “No” too much so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. Instead start sentences positively like “Let’s go play in the sandbox instead of in the mud”.
- Persistence: When disciplining your child it’s important to be patient and remember that children learn with repetition. So even if your child doesn’t seem to get it this time, he eventually will.
- Consistence: It’s also important to stick to what you say. If you decide that you have to go home because your child is not using his bicycle in the bicycle area then stick to your decision and follow through. Don’t use threats to get your child to do what you want. If your child decides to test your limits, that can turn into a power struggle and your child will eventually learn that if he pushes hard enough he will get his way.
- Compromise: Remember that your child has a natural need to feel independent at this young age so try to compromise when possible. This can mean giving choices in what to wear, eat or when to have a bath. Make sure you limit the choices to two options so it’s easy for your child to make a decision and that the choices are acceptable to you so you can follow through.
- Patience: The most important tool of all is to be patient. Remember that everything is new for your child. So many new experiences and so much information that he has to remember it can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating, especially that his mental, physical, emotional, language and social abilities are still developing.
I hope this new understanding on spanking will give you a new perspective on discipline and that our positive discipline tools can help you in dealing with your young child’s difficult behavior.
Photo Credit: Ethic Soup
One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask? Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.
1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.
- What you can do:
Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height. He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.
2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting
- What you can do:
If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.
3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point
- What you can do:
First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.
4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.
- What you can do:
Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.
5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!
- What you can do:
Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you. Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.
6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.
- What you can do:
Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?
Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.
Photo from Allparentstalk.com and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com