Eye on Extension: Instead of spanking


VALLEY — Spanking continues to be an acceptable form of discipline because many parents believe spanking will stop misbehavior quickly, train children not to do things that are forbidden, and teach children to listen.

While spanking may relieve a parent’s frustration momentarily, research has shown that parents who spank their children teach them that aggression and violence are acceptable ways to solve problems. Research shows that children who are spanked tend to experience more depression, low self-esteem, and accept lower paying jobs as adults.

What are some alternatives to spanking? 

Infants:  Infants respond impulsively to many situations without a real understanding of their abilities and surroundings. Spanking causes fear and anxiety in young children. Young children are not able to understand complex concepts like consequences and danger.

* Childproof your home. Put all potential hazards, such as cleaning supplies and breakables out of reach.

* When danger is present, grab the infant’s hand instead of slapping.

* If an infant is holding something you do not want him to have, exchange it for a toy.

If you become angry and feel like slapping your child, step away if you can. Calm down and get quiet. Give yourself time to think of alternatives to the problem. Parents most often lose it when they are under stress. If you can’t leave the situation, mentally step back and count to 10.

Take time for yourself:  Parents are more apt to spank when they feel depleted and hurried. It’s important for parents to schedule time for only themselves.

Be firm but kind: Sometimes parents become frustrated when their children don’t mind after repeated requests. They resort to spanking to get compliance. If you find yourself in this situation, try this:

* Get down to your child’s level.

* Make eye contact and touch him gently.

* Explain in a kind but firm manner exactly what you would him to do.

Give Choices: Giving choices is an effective alternative to spanking. Example:  “You may either turn the TV down or play outside. It’s your choice.” Example: “I can’t vacuum your room if toys and clothes are laying on the floor. So I’ll place them in bags and put them in the basement until you decide to put them away.”

Logical consequences: Consequences that relate to the behavior help to teach responsibility.  Example: “You may either turn the TV down or play outside. It’s your choice.” Example:  “I can’t vacuum your room if toys and clothes are laying on the floor. So I’ll put them in bags and put them in the basement until you decide to put them away.” These are the same examples as above. As you can see it places the responsibility for the behavior on the child and gives them the opportunity to decide what their consequence will be.

Provide opportunities for make-ups:  Instead of punishing children when they break agreements, give them opportunities to strengthen integrity and show good will. Example: Your son has a curfew of 9:30 and he doesn’t get home until 10. Rather than grounding him, discuss the importance of keeping his word. The purpose is to encourage him to make responsible choices, not force him into submission. Suggest he come up with ways to regain your trust by putting the responsibility back on him. This way the child helps decide his own consequence, so in effect he’s learning to be responsible for his own actions. This is one of the greatest skills a parent can teach his child. Example: chopping firewood, yard work, or cleaning out the garage.  If the misbehavior is repeated, then grounding the child is an effective punishment.

Through positive modeling and discipline adults teach children how to become well-adjusted members of society. When children are treated with respect and are able to have some control, they learn to respect and listen to their parents.

For more information contact Mary Ellen Fleming at 852-7381, or visit the CSU Extension Office for the San Luis Valley Area at 1899 E. Hwy 160 in Monte Vista.  Please feel free to visit our website at:  http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu for information about services provided.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Counties cooperating.