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How Can Parents Discipline Without Spanking?

When I was little, my parents spanked me when I misbehaved. Now that I'm a parent, I'm not so sure that I want to follow in their footsteps. Are there other discipline measures that work?
Lysa

It's good that you're thinking about your approach to discipline and about the effects of your choices. Many parents settle on a discipline method just because it's how they were raised. But we now know a lot about the effects of different methods of disciplining.

Spanking can be humiliating for children, and cause anger, aggression, and resentment, as well as physical harm. Spanking often does not teach the lesson a parent is trying to convey. Spanking can make children fearful of their parents, and we want our kids to behave because they respect us, not because they're afraid.

Rather than teaching children more positive alternative behaviors, spanking merely teaches them how to avoid getting caught. Spanking may also teach kids that an effective response to feeling angry is to become aggressive. And some kids misbehave to gain attention. So spanking may actually reinforce negative behaviors. For these reasons, experts do not recommend spanking.

Other ways to discipline kids effectively include using timeouts, withholding privileges, modeling appropriate behavior (like self-control), and helping kids understand the connection between actions and consequences. It's also important to give kids lots of positive reinforcement (e.g., praise, rewards) for good behaviors.

If you feel you need more guidance, talk to your doctor or contact a child psychologist or counselor. You can ask to have a couple of sessions just to discuss and plan new discipline strategies. Chances are, you'll learn a lot, enjoy success with some new approaches, and feel better than ever about your parenting.

Date reviewed: June 2018