Saturday, December 30, 2006

To Spank or not to Spank: That is the Question

By Heather Pohlabel

How many times have you heard one of your friends gossiping and orally reprimand another parent for spanking his or her children? And on the same note, how many times has another parent told you about swatting his or her child as a form of discipline? Both scenarios happen quite frequently to most parents who discuss their childrens' behavior with other parents. It can be a very uncomfortable or a very natural conversation, depending on your personal views on spanking.

The best advice that I can give about these types of conversations with other parents is to remember to be open minded, non judgmental, and supportive of other parents who choose to discuss discipline, behavior, and punishment with you, and to always be honest but not offensive or defensive when discussing your own methods or beliefs. While some parents spank and others don't, almost all have issues with it. Usually discussing it is a way to deal with it or to get other ideas for parents, so if a parent approaches you about discipline, he or she may just be looking for an alternative to what he or she is currently doing.

Even parents who spank have trouble doing it and ay feel uncomfortable discussing it. They may not know any other for of discipline their parents may have used spanking as the sole method of discipline and punishment, and they have just done what they know. Other parents who spank may do so because they have exhausted all other forms of discipline and this is the only one left.

Some parents who spank use spanking as the final straw after all other options and consequences have been used. For example, Karen spanks her boys when they do something that is wrong after she firsts talks to them about their behavior and gives them a chance to stop. If they don't stop, she then removes them from the situation by giving them a time out. If they throw a tantrum during the time out or come right out of time out and do the same thing, she spanks them.

Many parents who spank only do so occasionally, weighing some offenses as worthy of corporal punishment and other less punishable.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not condone any form of corporal punishment, but many households in the United States still practice it.

The dilemma seems to arise from the message that is sent from spanking. Does "hitting" a child condone violence? There is much argument on this topic, and while many would say yes, there is another side yet to be heard and examined.

Hitting, for most, is a last resort. If I spank my children or threaten them with a spank, they do respond to me. It is slightly out of fear, yes, but shouldn't children fear their parents at least slightly? Isn't it OK for a child to refuse to do something wrong with their friends because of how their parents will react? Some would argue that spanking is not teaching them right from wrong; rather it is just punishing them.

Sometimes, others argue, children don't learn unless they're forced to face consequences. That consequence could be a spanking.

I know that my children know right from wrong. We talk about it all the time. We make choices and talk about why they are good or bad choices. We also talk about expectations and consequences.

Most often, my children receive a grounding. When they were younger, they received time outs. Experts recommend one minute per year of age for time outs (this only applies to the children, sorry!) We still do occasional time outs when tempers are flaring so that people can collect themselves and distance themselves from the situation.

Spanking in anger is not a good practice and can border on abuse or even lead to it. If one of your friends discusses spanking with you and you feel it is out o hand, you might want to suggest other forms of discipline to them if it sounds as if they hit in anger.

Spanking is a "touchy subject" and can be a topic of argument among parents. When confronted with this topic, remember to keep an open mind while being mindful to watch for signs of abuse. Remember, though, that not all spankers are abusers. Most parents who choose to spank have done so through careful reflection and thought.

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