Here is an interesting piece from the Growing Together newsletter which is distributed by the LifeStart Foundation
The opposite of spanking is not nothing
Now that I have your attention with that double negative, let’s clarify what I’m talking about. Recently a reader responded to my plea for firm guidance for kids with the comment that it was easier for her mom back in the day when it was okay to hit and psychologically terrorize kids into behaving, and without those tools at their disposal there is nothing for today’s parents to do. She went on to comment that time-outs don’t work with seven-year olds, nor does a point system where they earn points to get treats or lose points to lose privileges. “Nothing works,” she went on. “They can just ignore their parents and run amok, and there is not a whole lot we can do. These are not bad kids, but our impotence and the way they ignore us until we blow our tops is maddening.”
First, let me say how much I appreciate this mother’s frankness and honesty. Many parents today likely feel the same dilemma and frustration about discipline for their children. Here’s the problem as I see it: The difficulty is in thinking about spanking, timeouts, or other things as the tools to grab when some discipline is needed, rather than developing an over-arching philosophy of guidance that includes these crucial points:
- Kids thrive on limits, needing help in figuring out the world and appropriate behaviour, and understanding that someone else is firmly in charge until they develop their own self-control. Parents have that right and responsibility to be the persons clearly in charge. When this role is adopted at the start, kids just can’t ignore it; the authority of parents is established from the beginning. Maintaining that role through all interaction with children means that they understand who is in charge.
- Limits include the big ideas of keeping oneself safe, treating others and their property with respect for their rights, and taking individual responsibility for one’s actions. These ideas are stressed over and over again, as parents help children choose and change actions. As expected behaviour begins to make sense to children, some of the daily struggles subside.
- Discipline and guidance are all about effective communication, about being clear what is expected and allowed, and what is not, and why. Authoritative, confident adults leave no room for children to wonder or resist, and then reinforce positive behaviours with definite approval.
- Close, loving, respectful relationships lay the foundation for effective discipline. When children are partners in such relationships, they want to both please and be like their parents. This provides much of the early motivation to change problem behaviours into more acceptable ones. When children’s needs and wants are treated with gentle respect, they adopt these attitudes themselves in their dealings with others, so that force and power struggles are not necessary.
These are the important ideas that parents need to consider as they develop their personal philosophy of discipline. Then there is less attention to the daily struggles with children, but a long-term sense of just what it is that parents are working towards, and how they will meet their goals. The opposite of spanking IS indeed something, but it involves a carefully thought-out set of guiding principles and actions.
The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of: THE LIFESTART FOUNDATION, 2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd., Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: www.lifestartfoundation.org