In the ideal world spanking shouldn't even exist. But some parents feel that, in the most extreme cases, this is the only way out. This article is not intended to promote or discourage this act, but to make the parents understand what is behind this punishment and how to apply it in the best way possible.
Spanking is the subject of much debate and most psychologists do not recommend it as a form of discipline. Even so, many people feel that when applied with care, this punishment is as effective as others. The decision to use it or not is up to the parents and must always be in accordance with the law.
Part 1 of 3: Disciplining non-violently
Step 1. Take it easy
Don't hit your child for anything. First of all, try to resolve everything in conversation with a non-violent method. But if you think this is the only way, make sure all other options are exhausted first.
Sporadic spanking (very light spanking in children between two and six years old who disobeyed another form of lighter discipline) is less risky at first, according to some studies
Step 2. Calmly ask why the child did what he did
Maybe she didn't even realize she did something wrong or misinterpreted what happened. Through the conversation, you'll know if your child didn't realize he made the wrong decision, or you'll understand that he didn't even misbehave in the end.
If you're too upset to be calm, just say "I'm really nervous right now and I need some time to calm down." When that happens, step away from the confusion, take a deep breath, and then deal with what happened
Step 3. Talk to the child about the consequences of his actions
Older people can tell for themselves when they do something wrong. Ask them how they think other people feel about what happened or what the consequences were of what they did. You can use non-violent communication and speak in the first person, in situations like “when you do such a thing, I feel such a way”. Here are some examples:
- "How do you think your sister was when you broke her toy?"
- “When I didn't find you at the market, I was very worried. I need you to always stay close to me, to know that everything is fine with you.”
- "How do you think Dad felt when he had to clean the poop out of the bathtub?"
Step 4. See if your child really needs to be punished
Not every learning opportunity needs to involve punishment.
- If he changes his behavior after a conversation, for example, there is no need to punish him again: he learned his lesson.
- Sometimes the one who needs to learn is you. There are times when we expect too much from our children or put them in stressful situations that they don't know how to handle. Children don't always have the tools they need to work things out maturely. In these cases, let it go and, next time, take your child's limitations into account.
Step 5. Choose to teach without appealing to the physical
Be firm and patient when disciplining your child, explaining the consequences of his actions. Spanking should never be the first resort when there are many other ways to discipline you.
Say a firm no.
Give a short, clear answer in a more rigid tone of voice, such as "you can't kick the ball in people's faces."
If the child is very young, clap your hands loud enough to get her attention. Then say a firm “no” or remind her of the rules in that same tone.
Present the logical consequences.
Tell your child to clean up the mess he's made, fix something he's broken, or pay for something that can't be fixed. With that, he learns to correct his own mistakes. (If he's too small to clean or pay for anything, help him.)
Give the right to choose.
Give the child two or three options and let them choose. If she is showing a lot of resistance when getting dressed, for example, say “what do you want first? Put on pants or shirt?"
If the child did something to someone, tell them to make it up in some way. For example, if she got into a fight with her sister, tell her to do something nice for her, giving her suggestions if you can't think of anything for yourself.
Ask for time.
Place the child on a stool so that he can take time to calm down or think about what he has done. You must give her one minute per year of life (example: if she is two years old, she must reflect for two minutes).
Take away privileges.
If your child is prone to pushing others during play, take out a toy he likes for a while and explain why.
Step 6. If you get really mad at your child, take some time for yourself
Being a parent is not an easy task and it is normal to lose your temper from time to time. If you realize it's going to explode, leave the scene and try to calm down. When you're calmer, then you can discipline your child.
Tell him, “I'm so angry, I don't even know what to do. I need to rest a little to cool my head."
Step 7. If the child is having difficulty doing something you asked for, help him
Sometimes, if she doesn't follow a rule very often, it may be because she can't (and not out of sheer disobedience). Ask her what the problem is with doing something and understand what is happening. Then work together, as a team, to resolve the situation.
If it's always a fight when it comes to tidying up the room, helping your child can be a good solution
Step 8. Tell the child how he can act next time
Sometimes she misbehaves because she didn't really know what she was doing. Ask her if she knows what she could have done in that situation or suggest other ways to deal with her if it happens again. A good conversation can help a child a lot to know how to behave in the future.
If the child agrees to behave better next time, then there is no need to punish him. If not, impose a punishment based on the consequences of what she did, such as cleaning up the mess or apologizing to the person she hurt. What matters is learning and punishment is not always necessary for that
Step 9. Appreciate your child's good behavior
Let him know that you are there to recognize when he does well. So you motivate him to always do the right thing. See below some examples of how to act:
- "Congratulations for waiting your turn to play on the scale!"
- “I saw that you played right with your brother, not fighting with him or anything, because you already learned your lesson. When you grow up, you will be a very nice person!”
- “Thanks for putting on your shoes quickly! Now we will have even more time to play in the park!”
Step 10. Be a good role model
Your child learns to behave by watching you, so act as you would like him to act, even if he is not paying attention. In time, it will eventually pick up on your habits.
Avoid hypocrisy. If you spank your child and then say it's wrong to spank others, he won't take you seriously
Part 2 of 3: Preparing for Spanking
Step 1. Have you exhausted all other options?
Spanking should only be used as a last resort, after trying all the non-physical punishments described above. Think very carefully first and be 100% sure you really want to do this before you tell your child he will get a pat.
- Corporal punishment is prohibited in many countries and, even if it is legal in yours, there may be several restrictions.
- Understand that many people consider spanking as a type of abuse, especially if you hit it hard. If you favor this form of punishment, never hit hard with anything other than your hand or leave marks on the child. Child abuse is a crime and the Guardianship Council will be called.
- Read more about other forms of discipline besides spanking.
Step 2. Find out what the surveys say about the consequences of spanking
Many long-term studies show that corporal punishment makes behavior worse rather than better. After being beaten, the child feels rejected, resentful, and feeling that the parents don't love him. Instead of learning not to do wrong, she learns not to get caught. In addition, studies also show that people subjected to physical punishment in childhood are more likely to:
- Have less gray matter in the brain;
- Present learning difficulties;
- Develop mental problems such as depression and anxiety;
- Abuse of drugs and alcohol;
- Don't trust people;
- Being abusive in relationships;
- Engage in criminal activities;
- Die young.
- Taking this research into consideration, consider whether corporal punishment is really a good option. It may be best to find some alternative, such as those suggested in the section “Disciplining non-violently”. But if you think this is the only way, follow the steps below.
Step 3. Choose a reserved place to punish your child
Never do this in front of others, especially when they are the child's friends or siblings. This generates a feeling of resentment that contributes negatively to her education. It's even more important to have some privacy if you prefer to slap your bare bottom.
Slapping is hard enough. Don't make things worse by humiliating your child in front of other people
Step 4. Advise the child that spanking will be a consequence of their behavior
She is likely to be sad, angry, resentful and even panicky. These reactions are normal and you must deal with them by sticking to your decision.
- It is normal for the child to cry before, during and after spanking. Don't punish this kind of behavior.
- Try giving one last warning, like "I'm going to count to ten, if you don't let go of her hair, you're going to get slapped." Sometimes this is enough to control the child.
Part 3 of 3: Patting
Step 1. When spanking, use only your hands and always in the open position
Otherwise, you might end up hurting the child.
If you're out of your mind, clear your head and don't apply any physical punishment
Step 2. If using rings, take them off
They can hurt both your child and your hands, and that's not the idea. Also, if you have anything in your pockets that might make your child uncomfortable while in your lap, take it off, too.
Slapping the bare bottom helps to see if you are hurting the child and to stop when the time is right, but it also leaves them less protected and can even have a humiliating effect
Step 3. Lean her over your lap
Sit down and place the child on your legs, face down. Then ask her not to get up and let her know when she's ready.
Step 4. Relax one hand and all the muscles, placing the other hand firmly on the child's back
It's also important that she's not squirming and that her legs are really tight.
Don't say anything while spanking. Leave to talk to your child later
Step 5. Pat it lightly, avoiding hitting hard
It doesn't take a lot of strength to discipline a child and too much of it can end up hurting. Furthermore, the meaning of this action is far more important than the pain it causes. So always listen to your child to see if he's hitting too hard.
To avoid hurting him, keep a safe distance from your child's genitals, coccyx, and kidneys
Step 6. Then be very clear with your child
Tell him you will always love him, even when he makes the wrong choices. Emphasize the idea that you know he's a good person, that he just made a bad decision and never, under any circumstances, do anything other than physical punishment. Spanking should only be followed by immediate forgiveness.
- After spanking, the child may think you are a bad person or that you don't love them. These misconceptions can end up leading to even worse behavior later on.
- After spanking, don't force the child to receive affection if he doesn't want to. Research shows that being affectionate with a child after physically punishing him or her can end up making the feeling of anxiety worse. This can make her confused, thinking that parents are unpredictable. If she wants to run to her room, let her go.
- Be careful not to say things like "I'm only doing this because I love you." If your child learns that violence is a part of love, then when he grows up he may find it normal for his partner to hit him or he will be the aggressor himself. There is a lot of research that correlates spanking with domestic violence.
- Don't use physical punishment often. If you always need to spank your child, it means that this method is not working (as each child is different) or he is getting used to it, which should not happen under any circumstances. Spanking should be something very punctual, which happens very few times a year (and that's when it happens).
- The best age to introduce spanking in child discipline is between four and five years old. Never apply physical punishment to younger children, and when they are old enough to understand what is going on, talk before you resort to spanking.
- Do not choose punishment based on the child's gender. If when a girl is the one who misbehaves, you have the patience to talk, but when it's a boy, you go right away to spank, it's being very unfair. This can make him even more resentful, so you should always discipline girls and boys alike.
- The child needs to know why he is being spanked.
- Always slap your butt, especially avoiding the head and torso.
- If there are laws in your region that regulate or prohibit spanking, respect them.
- Remember that even if the child is not at this stage, the butt is a sexualized part of the body. Spanking this region can lead to sadomasochistic behavior when she grows up.
- Never spank a child if you are angry.
- If you decide to spank your child in public, be ready to be confronted by people who condemn this practice, as not everyone agrees with this type of punishment.
- In Brazil, any type of physical punishment in teaching environments is prohibited.
- Only spank a child if you are their parent or legal guardian (unless they have authorized you to do so). A nanny, for example, should never spank a child.
- Slapping teenagers or bare bottoms can be considered abuse.
- Never spank moving vehicles, especially on public transport.
- If there is no way and you have to resort to spanking, do not give any other type of punishment, as that is enough.