The myth of the great parenting - spanking is Detrimental to the Discipline

When did Smacking become a dirty word?

This is the biggest - and unkindest - myth propagated yet on our generation. A quick sharp smack on the hand has worked for generations and still works for people who are brave enough to do it.

I would argue that a quick comparison between previous generations that used the smack and the current generation quickly reveals the fallacy of that argument. Our parents' generation turned out with ethics, morals, manners and a commonsense approach to life whereas this current generation has, by and large, dubious moral values, few manners and a big sense of entitlement. Of course I am generalising. There are modern families out there doing a fabulous job of raising their children to be moral and polite - kudos to them!

But by and large, parents have been failed by all the advice given by modern 'experts'. The smacking myth has done the most harm for several reasons:

(1) It lead to parents not disciplining their children until children were old enough to understand what parents were explaining. In the old days, parents started training their children before they could walk and children already had a basic grounding in manners and obedience by the time they started school!
(2) parents started waffling instead of disciplining. They warn, threaten and reading, instead. The result of this approach was that children started to take their parents less seriously. This led to less respect and awe, vital ingredients in being successful parents of teens.
(3) parents discovered that timeouts and other methods were ineffectual and became very frustrated. The result of this was a lot more anger in the home and thus the potential for explosive situations went right up.

The Arguments Against Smacking

Organizations make big outcries on a regular basis about the need to outlaw physical discipline because of the link to child abuse and violence, but there is very little hard evidence to support their claim. The research they quote never looks at smacking in isolation, but instead groups it with all forms of punitive punishment, including whipping. It is hardly surprising that the results of such studies are negative.

Smacking leads to child abuse and fatalities if parents are dealing with other issues such as poor parenting skills, drugs, alcohol or other deep seated issues. For instance, recent Australian research has found that the typical child murderer is a young man in a de facto relationship with the victim's mother. These are not cases of normal parents losing control.

In fact, I would argue that modern parenting styles actually make it more likely that parents will be driven to anger and frustration and lash out. For instance, in the year after smacking was outlawed in Sweden, child abuse cases rose by nearly 50%. A 2003 UNICEF study report on abuse-related deaths showed that four of the five countries with the lowest child abuse death rates allowed smacking.

Normal well adjusted parents know where to draw the line. They are not trying to hurt their child when they discipline them. If we demystified smacking again and taught parents once again to use smacking as the 'first line of defence' instead of the last resort, they would be able to regain control of their family - and themselves - again. It would be seen again as a training tool instead of a punishment.

The case for smacking

A smack has remained popular for so many generations because it is tried and true. A parent has to react rapidement to successfully correct a child, and using a smack as discipline allows them to do so. No thinking about appropriate consequences, what did I do last time, did I use the same punishment for their sister, how long should it be for? Just a quick, immediate consequence that lets them know 'wrong choice'.

For when you remove smacking as a discipline tool, what are you left with? Talking and weak consequences. The fact that parents are still dealing out 'consequences' well into their children's teen years is proof that this approach doesn't work well.

A child who is disciplined consistently and calmly from an early age should have well and truly learned his boundaries and rules of behaviour by the time he is 12. A well disciplined child would not dream of being disrespectful to his parents because the rules of behaviour are deeply entrenched after 12 years of training.

Parents can't effectively manage teenagers with physical discipline or even consequences. The basis of their control has to come from the awe and respect children hold for their parents. This is a rare thing today because awe and respect comes from seeing parents in control of their emotions, seeing parents as authority figures who always know what to do, seeing parents as all-knowing and all-wise, seeing parents as the source of laughter, fun, care - and consistent discipline. Modern parenting advice has successfully torpedoed a lot of those opportunities for developing awe and respect.

So what is the solution?

If your child is still a toddler, it is very simple.
(1) Resolve to never lose your cool again when correcting your children. Become a good actor if you have to.
(2) Resolve to use smacking as a first resort, not the last. Tell a child to do something once and only once, whether he is 9 months old (obviously have appropriate expectations.) At 9 months, all you are trying to teach is usually ' No, don 't touch', etc.) or 9 years. Then calmly go over, repeat 'no' and smack their hand. The smack should only be strong enough to sting for about 3-5 seconds.
(3) Do not explain, argue or reason with your children. They've either heard it all before, anyway, or are too young to understand.
(4) Be consistent! This is a very important rule as it is fundamental to teaching your children their boundaries. If you decide you are going to warn once and then smack, always do that. If you don't want to use a smack, it is still vital to be consistent.

If your child is school aged or older:
(1) If your children are school aged or over, it is too late to introduce smacking as a discipline tool. However, many of the same rules apply. Choose a couple of consequences that will cause discomfort and be consistent. It is important to find consequences that will be uncomfortable enough to act as a deterrent; otherwise, the lesson will never be learnt.
(2) Write up a chart and group behaviours which will receive the same consequence. This is as much a reminder for you as your child.
(3) If your teen tries to argue with you or is disrespectful, send them to the toilet for a timeout. Sounds funny, I know, but it is effective because a) it removes them from the scene so neither of you can get upset, and b) it is so boring that they quickly calm down. Don't allow them to come out until they are calm, apologise and get on with the job given.

Whatever form of discipline you choose, remember that children need to perceive that their parents are in control of their own emotions and impulses. That means, self discipline is even more important than what method of discipline you choose to use.

Do you wish parenting wasn't so difficult? It doesn't have to be! There are 5 key principles that you just have to master in order to raise a well adjusted family with a minimum of stress. Read more articles on these principles at 5 Keys Parenting.

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