Gentle Discipline

Why not smack?

"Children need to be smacked or they'll end up in prison!" 
A friend of mine insisted this. All I could answer was that smacking simply felt wrong to me. I regret I never had any words of wisdom to blow her mind with. Which is why I wrote this post, to investigate and clarify the effects of 'punishment' in general.

Hitting a person violates their fundamental rights to physical integrity and human dignity. Is a child not a person too, and an equal holder of human rights? Apparently not to a large group of people.
"You can't put them in the same group as adults, they're irrational."
This was one mother's argument. No, you often can't reason with a young child. But then you can't reason with a mentally retarded person either, but we don't condone beating them.

Physical punishment is consistently related to poor mental health; including depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. It is also related to relationship problems, increased levels of aggression and anti-social behaviour, raised thresholds for defining an act as violent, and perpetration of violence as an adult, including abuse of one's family members. Now that really is punishment! A lifetime of it.

Do our children really deserve this, what hideous act could warrant such a cruel punishment? Hitting, swearing, running on the road, disobeying an order. Surely there is a better way to deal with an out-of-control or disobedient child? Why does anyone need to be humiliated, and made to feel worthless for something they are incapable of understanding at this point in their life?

So what does hitting a child teach them?
"I am worthless, I am bad, I am undeserving of love, I am stupid." 
Feel free to add to the list of negative emotions you feel when someone you love and adore hits you; the myriad of people with abusive partners will know exactly what I'm talking about. You end up feeling about 1 inch tall.  How is this ever a necessary emotion in life? Purposefully crushing a person's self-esteem makes you the epitome of a bully.

Parents seem to be scared of their children; scared they'll turn into a criminal; scared their children will make a fool of them; scared of losing control of their children; scared their children will not heed their advice. What parents forget is the biggest influence in their child's life is their own behavior. Children learn how to behave by mimicking their parents, and they learn their own self-worth by how their parents treat them.

The stress, pressure and panic of 'raising a good child' is truly a distraction from the logical, rational reality that our children simply copy us and judge themselves by how we treat them. Unfortunately there are parents that lack the self-discipline to control their own behavior so they insist on 'do as I say, not as I do'.

Children are not out-of-control little animals needing to be tamed; they have the exact emotional wants and needs as adults. While leading by example has the most profound influence on your child's behaviour, there are additional proven methods of teaching that don't have the destructive side effects of physical discipline:

For younger children:
  • Distraction: using an object or activity to divert a child's attention away from the undesired behavior.
  • Alternatives: offering a different object or activity that is more appropriate.
  • Structure: providing a daily routine in which children feel comfortable and prepared.
  • One-on-one: regular quality time with children that is child led.
For older children:
  • Family Meetings: children give and receive compliments and ideas in family discussions.
  • Suggestions: inviting children to think for themselves instead of telling them what to do.
  • Encouragement: noticing effort and improvement, not just success.
  • Validation: helping children feel respected and supported without needing to be rescued or fixed.
  • Positive Time-out: helping children learn to self-soothing by creating a place that helps them mentally and physically relax.
  • Routine Charts: created in part by the child so they feel motivated to follow the routines they have created.
No amount of fear mongering or religious scriptures will ever convince me physical discipline (abuse) is ok. I can not believe I must smack my child to keep him out of prison, it contradicts my logic, common sense and basic human instincts. Physical discipline has been found time and again to be a needless and inferior method of discipline.

If you want to keep your child out of prison Jordan Riak in his article "How to Prevent Violent Criminal Behaviour in the Next Generation" explains perfectly who you will find in prison:
"You will find people who were born into households where every other adult family member, including older siblings, had the right to inflict whippings at whim, and often did. You will find people who in childhood were never cuddled, hugged, played with, protected, guided, comforted, soothed, read to, listened to or tucked in, but mainly growled at, barked at, insulted, smacked and ignored. You will find people who never had a single possession that was not subject to being wrenched away by somebody stronger. You will find people who grew up in families where the late-night sound of someone whipping a colicky infant with a wire coat hanger was nothing out of the ordinary. You will find people who in childhood, even in infancy, were targets for adults' sexual appetites. You will find people who, throughout their developmental years, were rarely or never touched by any hand except in ways that frighten, hurt and leave bruises."


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4 comments

  1. Oh my gosh! I just puked a little bit when reading that last paragraph! It is horrible the way that some treat their children. I am glad you are here in this time and place to do things RIGHT!! Treat your little boys like humans! Go Mama!

    :)

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  2. this is a very powerful post. i, for one, do not believe in this method of discipline. i was hit on occasion by my parents when i was little (whenever playtime between me and my older brothers got a little rough) . and though i have already forgiven them...i still remember those spankings that landed on either my behind (using a belt) or on my hand. i vowed to myself never to do that with my maia.

    they lived during a different time that believed in disciplining children a certain way. my parents were career people. i was practically raised by my nanny. but i love my parents. we're now okay.

    i, on the other hand, am a stay-at-home mom to a 2 year old daughter. i vowed to love her but also be firm with her by explaining things to her. it is not part of my "method" to shout at her or lay a hand on her like she is not a human being.

    kudos to you for writing this post! i hope a lot of other parents get to read it. more power to you & your blog!

    p.s. saw you on bloggy moms (SAHM group). following you now :)

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  3. Jennifer, thanks so much mama! Yes the last paragraph is hard to swallow!

    But it's exciting and wonderful we're here in this day and age when the old archaic 'punishment' (abuse) methods are getting phased out. It makes me so happy to think when our grandchildren (fingers crossed) are born, parenting norms will much gentler and focused on rational verbal communication with children.

    You are so right, humans are humans, no matter what age, colour, culture etc. One rule for all - NO PHYSICAL ABUSE!

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  4. Mama Mia,

    Thanks so much for your compliments and sharing your story! Really appreciated :) I grew up a lot like you, and I don't blame my parents at all (they still believe in physical punishment sadly). I don't think 'blame' has any positive outcomes.

    So glad you are on the other side of the story, where you've objectively learnt, moved on, and become a wiser lady for it!

    Will follow you back on bloggy moms :)

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