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If You Don't Want to Spank: Alternatives to Spanking and Ideas of How to Keep Your Kids Under Control Without Spanking
Ideas Beyond Spanking and Alternatives to Spanking Your Children
This article is not intended to be a discussion or argument on the topic of spanking vs. not spanking your child. Although a hot topic, it is a heated one, and I am choosing to not go there at this time. Publications are quite varied and quite plentiful on the topic and should be easy for you to find elsewhere if you are interested in that debate.
The purpose of this article is to suggest alternatives to spanking. Hopefully this article can spark some ideas of how to creatively and effectively retain the order in your home without the use of corporal punishment.
Talk it Out
We've all been guilty of acting before we think, yet one of the most simple (and effective) ways to deescalate a stressful and intense situation is by talking it out. This can be simple, but definitely isn't easy. Why? Because it is easier to dish out a punishment than to gather control and do the nitty-gritty parts of hashing out difficult parts of relationships and clashes. Putting words to our anger, frustration, and disappointment can be harder than we want it to be, and many lack the skills and patience to "go there" with their children.
Let's take a common occurrence and see what this option looks like: child throws a tantrum in a store over not getting something that he or she wants.
Some parents give in to soothe the child (and perhaps save embarrassment). Others may threaten ("Nathan, if you touch that again, you'll regret it"). Some would say, "The kid needs a good spank".
Let's look at some other options:
1. Sit down with your child in a neutral area of the store and discuss reasons why he/she should or should not be granted the wish of getting the object. For young children this may start out something like, "Honey, you have 4 other action figures at home and we are not going to get another one today." For children aged 5 and older, I believe the talk can go something more like this, "Sara, when you scream and throw a fit, do you think that is going to make me change my mind? How do you think you could better ask me about getting that toy?"
Some major plusses of the sit down and talk it out option is that you are taking the time to talk to your child, a practice that has been neglected in our fast paced lives. You are validating that your child has feelings and emotions and desires when you ask him or her questions. You are also teaching your child about your family's values when you discuss situations such as these. You are demonstrating how to ask for something in a polite way, you are explaining the factors that go behind your decisions, you are showing your child that you are willing to hear his or her side of the story.
Another benefit of talking it out: usually as time passes, the child (and you) have time to calm down and think and act more rationally. Once your child hits anger and frustration mode, it is going to take some time to get the heightened senses calmed down. Talking it out buys you some time for the adrenaline to calm down and the child to be able to focus more logically (and you too!).
I once heard a mother, a very good and patient and loving mother, talk her child through a scenario where the child was gearing up for a big fight. The mother could tell the child was headed toward a path of yelling, screaming, and the like. She calmly looked at the child and started the conversation with, "I can tell you are getting mad about ______. I want to help you calm down so that we can talk about it." She then, systematically talked through all the body's responses to the "fight mode" she was noticing boiling in her child. She said things like, "Take a deep breath. Take your shoulders and move them in small circles. These things can help your body relax. Let your hands rest to your sides and stand up straight...." and so on..... She was tapping into what she knew about how the body works in a tense situation and using that information to help deescalate the heightened feelings in her child. Smart and effective approach!
Restrict and/or Take Away Privileges
Restricting or taking away privileges is hard. Hard for the parents and hard for the child. I say it is hard for the parents because restrictions or taking away privileges of the child almost always directly affects the parents. For example, take your child's phone away, and now you may have a harder time figuring out where he or she is at a given time. Take away your child's gaming system or tv and your child may complain of boredom. Take away your child's car privileges and suddenly you become the chauffeur to practices and games and other obligations your child is involved in.
Taking away or restricting privileges is also hard because kids don't like it. This makes this option a good option in terms of getting your point across as a parent. It also makes it a good option for showing your child you mean business. You might have to deal with some whining, complaints of boredom, or some remarks such as, "I can't believe you would do this to me". Believe me, it is worth it though. It is true, as the adage says, that change will not come about until it is forced to come about. In other words, why would your child stop a negative behavior unless he/she has a consequence he or she doesn't like?
Of course these restrictions and taking away of privileges should be age appropriate. And of course these should, at all times possible, somehow relate to the offense. In other words, if your child breaks curfew, taking away car privileges makes sense. If your child leaves his or her dirty laundry in the bathroom, making him/her mow the lawn doesn't correlate and thus isn't the best option.
All too often, it seems, parents and children look at objects as obligations. Truth is, your child is not obligated to have his or her own cell phone, car, tv, refrigerator, etc. These are privileges and if abused, can be rightfully taken away or restricted. The argument that goes something like, "You can't take that away from me because everyone else I know has one and it's just not fair" really isn't a strong case-- no matter how many times you hear it from your child.
You might be surprised at the quick turn around of attitudes or actions when you restrict or take away a privilege. It can be a reminder to the child to treat others and possessions with respect and responsibility. It also can lead to a thankfulness for the extras in life: the media, the toys, the freedoms we often can take for granted.
Which action have you found to be most effective in getting your child's attention?
Donald Miller, Best Seling Author, Speaks on the Importance of Living a Good Story
Work or Tackle a Project Together
Sound like a crazy idea? This approach is one of my husband and my favorites. Why? Because usually when one of our children misbehaves (especially if we are seeing patterns in misbehavior) often the reasons behind it aren't that hard to figure out. For example, a lot of kids act out because they are bored. When kids are bored, ideas pop into their heads, and let's face it --- research has actually proven---- children are incapable of thinking through all the consequences of their actions, especially if they are acting impulsively.
Giving the children family responsibilities is a good way to combat the boredom, but responsibilities (aka chores) should not be a means of punishment because these tasks are intended to teach the children life and work skills and show them that being part of a group holds responsibilities-- where everyone pitches in to get the jobs done.
If you are choosing to punish a child by assigning them work, then these tasks should be outside of the normal chores.
Children and adults are wired to crave meaning in their lives. If children are given so much freedom with their time and things that they are not guided toward something bigger than themselves, usually trouble will come. This is something that seems contrary to what we would originally think to be true. Won't our kids be happier if we give them all that they want and allow them to do whatever they want? Well, not really. This idea of reaching outside themselves, having a purpose, giving to others, being involved in someone else's life brings the joy of knowing you are important and needed. This builds confidence and grows integrity. The antithesis of trouble.
Do you have a child who seems to thrive on rebelling? Do you have a child who seems misguided? Try embarking on a project together. If your child is young, help him or her set up a garage sale and discuss possible causes to donate the money to. If the cause is something your child is interested in, you might be surprised at the enthusiasm and determination to make the sale the best it can be. If your child is school age, discuss something that you could work on together that will make a difference to someone else. Perhaps you can bake cupcakes and make surprise deliveries to neighbors. Perhaps you can cook at meal together and deliver it to the child's grandparents as a special gift. Perhaps you can help collect coats for children in need of a winter coat. Maybe you can volunteer at a local food bank sorting or helping others gather food. What you are doing doesn't matter as much as showing your child that you would like to work together with them. Giving your child purpose and guiding them to use their strengths and abilities in a positive way not only keeps them out of trouble, but also is confidence and character building.
Examples of Family Service Projects
1. Shop as a family for items you can donate to your child's school, a local church, or someone you know who is in need.
2. Write friendly letters of encouragement to family members who live far away.
3. Send a care package to an armed forces member.
4. Attend a community event where people are being served meals or being given practical items.
5. Go through the closets of your house together and have a goal of filling a certain amount of boxes or bags of clothing and other items you could donate.