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ALTERNATIVES TO SPANKING

A frequent response to my lecture on how to discipline children without spanking them is, “I was spanked and it didn’t hurt me!” I bite my tongue to avoid a sarcastic response and talk about how wrong it is to teach kids it’s OK for big people to hit little people.

I’m also frequently asked, “How do you get a child’s attention without spanking?”

Let me count the ways. Parents who think spanking is the only way to get a child to listen or to mind them have pretty impoverished thinking.

The best way to get a child’s attention is to learn to TALK RIGHT! Most parents today say too much too often. They plead, cajole, nag, harangue, beg, lecture, repeat themselves, and even try to “reason” with a toddler. When they get no response they raise the volume of their voice until they are yelling or screaming. Result? Parent gets frustrated and child gets away with murder.

Many, if not most, parents, ashamed of themselves for yelling, give in and give up.

A better way: LOWER THE VOLUME ON YOUR VOICE and LIMIT THE NUMBER OF WORDS YOU USE.

Be sure you are close to the child and that the child is looking and listening before you start to speak. Start with the child’s name. Make every word count. Say what you want to say JUST ONCE.

Example: “Jennifer, it’s time to clean up the toys.” If Jennifer does not listen and obey, there must be CONSEQUENCES–every time.

Toys still all over the floor? “Jennifer, every toy that is not put away right now, gets confiscated–that means it gets taken away from you.”

Toys still all over the floor after the consequences are clearly and quietly spelled out? Confiscate the toys.

Some parents are troubled, not about the consequences even if the child cries when a favorite toy is given away, but about limiting the number of words used. Parents today realize they have a role as teacher. They want their child to understand why they are being asked to do something or to stop doing something. This takes lots of words.

Parents also want to be their child’s friend and “happiness-manager”.

Parents are less comfortable with their role as commander-in-chief. Sorry, it’s part of being a parent. You are the one in charge. Sure we give our kids choices so they can learn how to think and make decisions. But the choices are about which tee to wear or which cereal to eat. We don’t give choices about whether or not to buckle up in the car. As commander-in-chief you make a rule that the car does not start until everyone is buckled in.

Other alternatives to harsh discipline besides talking right have been used by parents for years and they work:

PREVENTION: Kids beginning to squabble? Separate them before the war starts.

GRANDMA’S RULE: If you do X, you will get Y. “If you clear the dishes on time I will take you to the park.”

DISTRACTION: Baby crawling toward your stereo, swoop the baby up and read a favorite book together.

Nothing works and child has disobeyed? TIME-OUT.

One final word. Because so much of children’s behavior is based on their developmental stage, nothing works all the time or instantly. But I guarantee that ALL of these alternatives to spanking work MOST OF THE TIME!

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