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Child corporal punishment: Spanking

How parents can wean themselves
from spanking their children

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Many conservative para-church organizations strongly advocate spanking children -- sometimes as early as 18 months of age. Some imply that the alternative to spanking is no discipline at all. In fact, anti-spanking advocates suggest that there are many methods of discipline of which some are more effective than corporal punishment without the adverse effects of spanking. Pediatrician Shari Barkin says: "Discipline means to teach, not to punish."

Some child psychologists and pediatricians who oppose corporal punishment suggest:

bullet Don't discipline in anger. Try to take time to cool down.
bullet Set limits on the child's behavior. Communicate them to the child effectively. Stick to them continuously.
bullet Explain to the child what the consequences will be if they exceed a limit.
bullet Match the removal of privileges directly with the bad behavior. If a child draws on the wall with her/his crayons, remove the crayons rather than his/her television privileges.
bullet Above all, be consistent so that the child knows precisely what the limits are and that the limits are constant.
bullet Use many more positive reinforcements when the child is behaving well, than discipline when the child is misbehaving. Praise the child when he/she is being good.
bullet Discipline children by removing some of their privileges or by using timeouts. Spanking often produces faster results. However, corporal punishment generally causes the child to repeat the unacceptable behavior more quickly, when compared to using timeouts and removal of privileges.
bullet Always explain clearly to children why they are being punished.
bullet Restrict timeouts to children who are three years old or older. Younger children find them confusing and frustrating; distracting them may work better. Limit timeouts to three minutes or less. Put him in a "naughty chair" instead of sending them to their room. Otherwise they will associate their room with punishment.
bullet When communicating your displeasure with a child's actions, kneel down to their level, talk to them directly, maintain eye contact, and talk in a normal voice.  1 and other sources

The following are some random recommendations from parents that we have collected from a variety of forums:

bullet Never make a threat that you are unwilling to follow through on.
bullet Spanking an 18 month old is child abuse, even if James Dobson of Focus on the Family recommends that corporal punishment at this age is OK.
bullet Accept a level of performance that is not perfect. A 5 year-old-child's idea of a tidy room may not be the same as their parent's.
bullet Speed is of the essence. Try to discipline a child within a few minutes of the misbehavior, or the child may not connect the action with the punishment.
bullet The most effective training tool has been found to be unpredictable positive reinforcement, rather than predictable negative reinforcement.

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Two helpful resources:

Watching two TV programs can be very helpful:

bullet Nanny 911 on the Fox channel features a group of specialist nannies:

"Armed with the dos and don'ts of child-rearing and possibility an umbrella or two, the English über-nannies aren't afraid to crack the whip on everything from appalling table manners to raging temper tantrums. The nannies will help exhausted parents tackle the chaos in their home and work their incredible 'Marry Poppins' - like magic to transform the terrible tots." 2

bullet Supernanny on ABC features Jo Frost:

"Her simple methods stress consistency, communication and reasonable consequences for poor behavior, all delivered with loving firmness. She emphasizes the importance of spelling out the new rules of the household to children in advance, as well as explaining the consequences for infractions. She also candidly points out to parents where they need to be more decisive, more flexible or even how they may need to adjust their expectations of a child's readiness for certain behaviors. For example, graduating a child to a seat at the dinner table instead of a high chair may be long overdue and provide an easy fix to mealtime misbehavior. When parents witness Jo's results and -- even better -- achieve them on their own, they are truly believers in the Supernanny way. Best of all, children and adults alike can enjoy the lasting benefits of a more harmonious family life." 3

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A recommended list of books for violence-free discipline:

K. Smith, the wife of a pediatrician, gave a negative review on the web site of psychologist James Dobson's book "The New Strong-Willed Child: Birth Through Adolescence." She referred to it with the comment "This is child abuse." She wrote:

"Discipline is loving guidance, not corporal punishment, where the child in a demeaning and destructive way wrongly learns that violence is a form of acceptable communication and guidance, by parents. There are no benefits to hit a child - It is destructive for a child's self worth, self esteem, and demeaning and disrespectful. Children have feelings and emotions as adults. It is extremely unfair and disgraceful of parents to misuse their power on weaker people - our children - who are defenseless and who don't have their own voice. Your child will be confused and think "Why is my mother and father whom I love and trust inflicting pain on me?" Hitting a child, will separate the bond between parents and a child, and will only make the child fearful of their parents. In addition, hitting a child won't teach and guide a child towards better behavior in a constructive and communicative way. By slapping someone, what do you learn? Nothing - only that it is okay to be antisocial and misbehave and to be violent."

She recommends the following books on child discipline:

bullet T. Berry Brazelton & Stanley I. Greenspan, "The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish" 4 out of 5 stars. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
bullet Robin Grille, "Parenting for a peaceful world," 5 stars. Read / order
bullet Jan Hunt, "The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart." 4.5 stars. Read / order
bullet Irwin A. Hyman, "The Case Against Spanking: How to Discipline Your Child Without Hitting," 4.5 stars. Read / order
bullet Dr. Harvey Karp, "The Happiest Baby on the block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer," 4.5 stars. Read / order
bullet Dr. Harvey Karp, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old," 3.5 stars. Read / order
bullet Inbal Kashtan, "Parenting from your heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection, and Choice." 5 stars. Read/order
bullet Nancy Samalin & Martha Jablow, "Loving your child is not enough: Positive Discipline That Works," 4.5 stars, Read / order
bullet Eda LeShan, "When your child drives you crazy" Not rated. Read / order
bullet William and Martha Sears, "The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten," 3.5 stars. Read / order
bullet William and Martha Sears, "The Complete Book of Christian Parenting & Child Care: A Medical & Moral Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Children" 4 stars. Read / order

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Sponsored links:

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  1. Ben Harder, "Effective strategies for parents," Los Angeles Times, 2007-FEB-19, at:
  2. The Nanny 911 home page is at: Their forum is at:
  3. The Supernanny home page is at:

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB-19
Latest update: 2007-FEB-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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