We’ve all heard the phrase before: “spare the rod and spoil the child,” but studies have shown that spanking a child can significantly damage their emotional development. A child who is spanked as a means of discipline is more likely to develop anti-social behavior and criminal behavior. Spanking a child can also increase their possibility of becoming a victim of physical abuse, or becoming an abuser themselves. A spanking is usually delivered out of anger and parents run the risk of crossing the line and becoming grossly abusive.
As a parent, it is our responsibility to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, but what are the real lessons we are teaching when we spank a child? We are teaching that it is acceptable to strike another person to make them do what we want them to do or when you are angry at them. Remember, violence breeds violence and this leads to increased aggression in children. Besides, it will damage the relationship between you and your child. Spanking evokes fear and a sense of powerlessness in children. As a parent, you want your children to trust and come to you with their problems. If they are afraid of you, they will not; ultimately that creates greater problems for them.
Why spank when there are healthier alternatives that will not endanger the well-being of your child? Rather, they will garner the results you want and establish respect and trust in your relationship with your children. Parenting should begin the moment you learn the happy news. You take your vitamins, eat right and exercise to help guarantee the health of your child. You do your research, locate the best pediatrician and begin to plan for your child’s future. But did you realize that you can begin to teach your child discipline in the womb?
Research shows that babies can feel vibration while in the womb, and react to it. That’s why parents are encouraged to play music for and begin talking, singing and reading to their babies while still in the womb. Parents can also begin to use their voice as a disciplinary tool while the baby is still in the womb. You can use your voice to display displeasure at a certain behavior. When the baby is born and begins to grow, continue to use your voice pitch and level as a way to let your child know when their behavior is unacceptable or unacceptable. Soon your child will be able to identify immediately by the tone of your voice when their behavior needs to change. By using your voice rather than your hand or other instrument during the formative years, you are instilling and building a sense of love and respect in your children that will carry through into their adulthood. You are also instilling in them trust in you, your judgment and advice. Th at trust will be critical through those horrible teenage years.
Small children unable to commutate with words can display what we consider bad behavior when they feel frustrated. Remember that our primary task as parents is to teach, then implement the use of punishment as reinforcement. Removing a screaming child from the upsetting situation and allowing them to let out or vent their feelings alone in a room is an acceptable way to allow them to express and not hold on to negative emotions. As they grow older, an explanation as to why the behavior is unacceptable included with punishment, such as taking away a favorite toy, is a great way to help them learn that there are consequences to their behavior.
As children get even older, the privilege system should be introduced. If a child is late for curfew for example, the loss of going out for a couple weeks is a completely acceptable disciplinary action, or a trip to a local shelter to help feed the homeless may be replaced with a trip to see their favorite band in concert. Th is system of earn or lose privileges should continue throughout their teenage years to refl ect their behavior.
Discipline is only eff ective when applied consistently. If you, as the parent consider a particular behavior as unacceptable, it should be unacceptable and met with a disciplinary action every time it is displayed. Inconsistency on your part will only confuse the child. However, no matter the behavior, children should always know and feel that they are loved. When they are exhibiting unacceptable conduct, let them know that you are disappointed, but that you love them nonetheless.
Our job as parents is to teach our children that there are always consequences for their actions. If they study hard, the result will be good grades; if they don’t, bad grades, etc. If we do our job lovingly and consistently, our teachings will stay with our children, who will carry them through into adulthood. If we do our job poorly, that too will remain with them, marring any chance they might have at a happy, successful life—that is not part of our job. However, if we have done our job well with loving intentions and the desire to do what is best and right for our children, we have no need to worry. Our children will be fi ne, because we’ve given them a solid foundation. They will know that their actions will determine the quality and what they get out of life, and that how they treat others will determine how they will be treated in-turn.
Spare the rod, and spoil the child—nonsense I say! By beginning in the womb and remaining consistent with your discipline, your children will thrive and grow to become productive, emotionally healthy adults. So I urge you to give your children treasured memories that will sustain them throughout their lives.
ESTHER JOSEPH was born and raised on the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. She moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 with her mother and two older bothers. She holds a Masters Degree in international affairs from New York University. Her goal is to help others still in the grips of abuse and violence to break the cycle and find a way to a place of healing.