How do you keep a 1 year old from heading toward the DVD player? What should you do when your preschooler throws a fit? How can you get a teen to respect your authority?
Statistics show that 2 out of 3 American parents use spanking as a method of discipline.
“Many people do what they were taught … and if [spanking] is what you learned and experienced, it puts you in a difficult situation,” said Dr. Geoffrey Putt, a child psychologist and director of outpatient therapy services at Akron Children’s. “People don’t have a really specific definition of where the line is between the use of spanking as a parent’s right or prerogative and when it does cross the line into child abuse, something illegal or a violation of statutes.”
As a general guideline, a visible mark after 24 hours, a cut, bruise or broken bone is considered abuse. Although this seems like common sense, when a parent is angry, he may not realize a line has been crossed until it’s too late.
What’s more, research shows the use of spanking actually increases aggression. A recent study in Pediatrics found that 3 year olds who were spanked twice a month were not only more aggressive at age 5, but more likely to be reactive with a physical response or use aggression to solve their problems.
It’s this long-term effect of more aggression that’s concerning.
Dr. Putt offers 3 healthy, positive alternatives to spanking parents can try when disciplining their children.
1. Time outs
When used appropriately, time outs can be incredibly effective, especially for young children. Dr. Putt explains it’s about taking a time out from reinforcement. During the punishment, don’t talk or interact with your child. Don’t make eye contact or give the child any attention. Just walk away.
There’s no set time limit you should follow. The key is using the time out until your child calms down and acts appropriately.
Afterwards, don’t give your child a lecture either. The punishment is over, so move on.
2. Time out for parents
Dr. Putt advises parents to give themselves a break — almost like a parental time out. Take time to cool down so you don’t walk into a disciplining situation angry.
“Punishment, of any kind, is going to be more physical when you’re angry,” said Dr. Putt. “Plus, you’re more likely to throw in the kitchen towel and make unrealistic threats, such as ‘You’re grounded until you’re 30.'”
3. Use Positive Parenting strategies
Get ahead of any disciplining situation by implementing positive strategies. Dr. Putt suggests setting aside time to be with your children to strengthen your bond and praise good behavior. Through positive techniques, you’re less likely to act out in an aggressive manner.