Effective Discipline: Alternatives to Spanking
I remember receiving a few spankings here and there while growing up. Once was for repeatedly swinging from my grandmother’s bedpost. Another time was for not helping my siblings straighten up the house, and using an “I’m too young to clean up” excuse. I was even spanked by my third grade teacher for biting into a Halloween cupcake she handed to me inside the classroom after she clearly told me and my fellow classmates to eat our treats outside. (I wondered then, and I still wonder, why she didn’t just wait until we got outside to even give us the cupcakes in the first place. Didn’t she know that temptation is a beast – especially when it comes in chocolate?!)
All said and done, despite the handful of swats on the bottom I received from parents and caregivers during my preschool and elementary years, I turned out to be an arguably well-adjusted, self-disciplined adult. Actually, some may say it is because of the handful of swats that I turned out that way. Putting that debate aside, I am grateful that my parents and caregivers, and now my husband and I, have learned alternatives to spanking that work very well in providing the discipline (a.k.a. teaching) that children need.
The approach my family prefers is called positive discipline. Ruth Slocum, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, says the first step in the practice of positive discipline is to “think about what you want to teach about how to behave and how to solve conflicts and problems.” Our specific discipline methods should model the behavior and conflict resolution style we wish our kids to use.
Since I want my son to know how to quickly correct inappropriate behavior and to consistently use appropriate behavior, I practice using immediate, brief, and firm reprimands to guide him when necessary. When he does not comply, for instance, in the middle of the aisle in a grocery store during an all out tantrum, we have a “timeout” to calm down, make sure he hears the reason for the reprimand and punishment, and return to appropriate behavior — which may mean leaving the store and taking a breather outside, or going home altogether.
As a reference, Dr. Becky Bailey, a well-known teacher and advocate of positive discipline, outlines her 10 “To Do’s” for discipline on her website, https://consciousdiscipline.com/. Here are excerpts of five of my favorite tips and the principles behind them. Check out Dr. Bailey’s site for more of the tips, as well as a wealth of other resources on how to implement consistent and effective discipline with your children.
5 Discipline “To Do’s”:
1. Tell children what to do [as opposed to what not to do]. Principle: What you focus on, you get more of.
2. Teach children how to handle their conflicts instead of punishing them for not knowing how. Principle: Conflict is an opportunity to teach.
3. Take back your power. You are in charge. Principle: Whoever you believe to be in charge of your feelings, you have placed in charge of you.
4. Help children to be successful instead of attempting to make or get them to behave. Principle: The only person you can make change is yourself.
5. Encourage your children during wonderful times and tough times. Do not attempt to get children to feel bad in order to behave better. Principle: Encouragement empowers.
Classes on positive discipline methods are available at Family and Children’s Services (www.fcsok.org), Tulsa Tech (www.tulsatech.edu), and The Parent Child Center of Tulsa (www.parentchildcenter.org).