Effective Alternatives to Physical Punishment
When I was raising my first child, I was controlling and authoritarian, as this is the way I had been brought up. If my toddler son didn’t do as he was told, I would smack him or put him in time out. On the positive side, I was also very affectionate and gave him a lot of attention. Over the years he became fairly stubborn and un-cooperative. Things didn’t feel right. When he was four, I decided to read some books and magazine articles on Parenting, and then completely changed my style to a more democratic, authoritative one. It was difficult in the beginning, but well worth my while. I then set about persuading my, then, husband to follow the same principals of child-raising. We both stopped using physical punishment, and embraced 10 important parenting principles, and our children’s behaviour improved dramatically. We enjoyed raising our children far more, from then on. We went on to have four children, in total, and the last two were never physically punished. Our children are now all confident, happy, caring, self-disciplined, independent, stable, well-mannered, competent and successful adults and teenagers.
Hitting children, I finally realized, is disrespectful and unnecessary. I remember inviting a lady over from play group one day. She noticed that I was smacking and asked why I did it? This got me thinking. I hadn’t really considered any other way, as this is what was familiar. This girl really did me a favour, by speaking to me about this important issue.
I now believe that if we can learn the important positive principles of parenting, we can persuade our children to be co-operative and well-behaved. There are many alternatives to smacking or hitting our children.
When children are hit, they can feel shamed and bad about themselves. They can lack confidence and feel afraid, and have difficulty being assertive with others. Adults are bigger and stronger which can be very daunting for children. Surely we don’t want our children to obey because they are afraid of us? We want our children to learn and believe that co-operating is the right thing to do most of the time. We want them to feel safe and loved. When we hit our children, we are teaching them that it is acceptable to hit another person, to get them to do what we want them to do. They are more likely to hit another child when there is conflict, rather than using other peaceful methods. They don’t learn to manage their feelings and behaviour as well. The simple saying ‘Violence breeds violence’ is spot on! Once adults give themselves permission to smack, it can be hard for them to know where to draw the line, especially when they are under a lot of pressure and stress from other sources.
We can keep our young children safe by watching them closely, and explaining dangers by getting down to their level. We need to gain an understanding of child development, and keep dangerous or fragile things out of reach, when they are young. As they become older and more responsible and safety conscious, we can teach them, in a nurturing manner, how to keep safe and how to behave acceptably. If we can keep a good relationship with our children, using encouragement, nurturing and effective communication, we will reap the rewards. We can offer acceptable alternatives to activities that are unsafe or unacceptable. We can remove privileges, if necessary. We can use natural and logical consequences in order to teach acceptable behaviour. Negotiation is very important once a child is around three years of age, as is fostering independence, and empowering our children.
When my first child was a teenager, I apologised for using physical punishment (when he was younger than 5), as I felt guilty for what I put him through. Now, I am confident that he will know a better way to raise his own children, from the example I, and significant others, set as he was growing up.
The 10 Easier Parenting Principles are:
· Set a healthy example of how to behave
· Promote and practise positivity
· To communicate effectively
· To teach rules and endeavour to prevent problems from happening
· Practise self-care (parents and children)
· Nurture all family members
· Discipline respectfully
· Ensure responsibility for all
· Provide stimulating activities for all
· Employing reasonable and respectful consequences for unacceptable behaviour.