A mom allows daughter to be spanked, and the assistant principle leaves bruises in Springtown, Texas. But are the bruises left behind really the main concern?
The topic of spanking causes MUCH controversy. You either agree or you do not agree with the practice. One thing I am always struck with is the reasoning for those who do agree with spanking, which is, “I was spanked and I turned out fine!” The statement in and of itself brings up some important notes:
- As a therapist, I question the “I turned out fine” statement. Many adults actually are NOT fine, and seek therapy for their anger, fear, sadness, guilt, and many other negative emotions. Are these “caused” by spanking? Most likely not unless it is an abuse issue. But, inherent in a parent that spanks is a parent that engages in what I call “lazy parenting.” Lazy parenting simply means a parent is not available to help children understand their own emotions and actions, as evidenced by the fact that parents clearly cannot control their OWN emotions actions (anger, that leads to spanking).
- There is now MUCH research on the issue of spanking, which concludes that it creates more violence, anger and mental health issues.
- We as parents have to understand how children develop in order to know how to alter their behavior. Spanking is, in some ways, “willing” them into submission by force, but what do they really learn? When a child acts out, they are “speaking” the language of their emotions. I often ask my clients, “If your child’s actions could speak, what would they be saying?” Once we figure that out, then we can respond to the TRUE message of the child, not the “acting out” message. If we respond to an unsavory behavior without addressing the core issue, we’ve essentially said we don’t really care what the core issue or feeling is, and this sets children up to be unhealthy adults.
I’m not interesting in debating “right or wrong” on the issue of parenting, so much as I am interesting in bringing awareness to the developmental appropriateness of our actions and children’s actions. In my view, it simply is not enough to respond to what a child does without first knowing the why. Parents, without delving into the inner lives of their children, are producing disconnected children who only end up acting out even MORE! They cycle continues on and on.
Tips for easier parenting:
- Consider a “time in” rather than a “time out.” Kids usually behave as a means to gain attention, and who doesn’t like to have attention? Developmentally speaking, we don’t stop being egocentric in many ways until at least the age of 20! So, when a child is “acting out” and trying to get your attention, give it to him! For many children, attention equals love, support, and nurturing.
- Show affection and attention (i.e. let them know they’re important) by touching, hugging, and “tuning in” to children for a concentrated amount of time each and every day. Just 15 minutes of quality time with a child can make a world of difference.
- Make your “toes follow your nose.” In other words, if you are busy with an activity and your child needs you, consider putting your entire body into a conversation with her rather than giving her quick short answers with only half of your body facing your child. We all like to be heard and feel respected. Help her feel important so she can put her “attention seeking” behaviors aside.
- Consider taking “discipline” out of your families vocabulary and replacing it with “directed guidance.” When parenting is embraced as a way to allow a child to grow and develop according to the child’s own unique personality, and there is love and acceptance, discipline won’t be needed. Discipline, by it’s very definition, means to train and correct according to OUR expectations, but we need to be willing, as parents, to accept children as they are.
- Embrace the developmental needs of a child. It has been said that with parenting, “You have five years of hard labor or a lifetime of hardship. Choose wisely.” When parents put the time into their kids in the “front end” of parenting, they’ll be thankful for what becomes of their child in the “back end” – as a teen and adult. But when that time is not put in – lazy parenting – there is a struggle for the duration of that child’s life. (Like say, a cheating teen, as in the Springtown story??)
There are many resources with information on spanking and it’s effectiveness below.
In the end, what are we really debating? That it’s okay to hit kids? Where do you weigh in on the issue?
Tracie Afifi, University of Manitoba, in Pediatrics Journal: “Corporal punishment was associated with increased odds of anxiety and mood disorders, including major depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia and social phobia. Several personality disorders and alcohol and drug abuse were also linked to physical punishment, the researchers found.” Article Here
George Holden, Southern Methodist University: “It does work in the immediate moment, but beyond that, in most cases, it’s very ineffective,” says Holden. “The most common long-term consequence is that children learn to use aggression.” Article Here
American Psychological Association: ” Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Article Here