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Is Spanking A Good Decision? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Is Spanking An Healthy Parenting Choice?

June 18, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Reality TV’s Kate Gosselin has made national news with the on-camera spanking of her daughter. Such behavior raises the question as to which was worse for the child—the spanking or the constant public exposure.

Spanking is not the first discipline choice I ask parents to make, since it is so unreliable in changing child behavior. All spanking does is to stop the immediate behavior. Judicious spanking in certain situations that are dangerous can be effective, but only if used very sparingly and only until the child is three to four years old.

The media over-exposure these kids have experienced from the reality show has far greater potential to harm them negatively.

This type of overexposure does the following:

  • It’s All About Me: Constant exposure to television cameras encourages exhibitionistic tendencies, especially at an early age. Belief systems are formed early in life, and such experiences can have a dramatic effect on a child’s evolving view of the world.
  • Risk of Becoming Entitled: Because such media emphasizes immediate and grandiose attention, kids are at risk of developing a sense of entitlement. The downside of entitlement is the accompanying rage that ensues when disappointment or frustration is introduced.
  • Performance Versus Learning: Effective discipline flourishes in a private environment in which the child is able to think about her actions and to integrate what the punishment means. With a camera positioned on her, it is doubtful that the five-year-old learned anything, or she may have misinterpreted the lesson.
  • Fuzzy Boundaries: Opening your home and life up to a camera crew for round-the-clock coverage is a serious interruption of family boundaries for a child. Things need to be simple and well-defined in a young child’s life. Cameras everywhere are deeply confusing.
  • Many parents really have a hard time controlling their kids, and spanking is frequently used by millions of parents.

    Ninety-four percent of American parents spank their kids between the ages of three and four. After that age, there is a sharp drop in spanking for one good reason—the kids can reason with parental coaching and input. We strongly discourage parents from a continued use of spanking.

    A comprehensive review of over 62 years of data found that corporal punishment is associated with ten negative childhood responses that include increased aggression. The single positive benefit was immediate behavioral compliance. However, it is doubtful that the child learns to reason better when they are spanked. As a result, I ask parents to choose other, less physical acts of discipline that emphasize self-control, logic and reasoning skills. The child will learn more with less effort from other disciplinary methods than he will learn from spanking.

    The best parenting choices for discipline include the following:

    • Never Dismiss Emotions: In general, parents must first be willing to deal with bad behavior and negative emotions when they occur. Ignoring or dismissing negativity prevents the child from learning how to handle himself effectively in the world around him.
    • Provide a Road Map: If kids grow up without a road map of good behavior, then they will have little idea of how to control their thinking and emotions effectively throughout their lives. Model the behavior you want to see in your child and do not deviate from being a consistent and compassionate example.
    • Set Limits and Don’t Feel Guilty: I prefer time out and other behavioral restrictions that emphasize emotional control over physical punishment. Remember that it is your job to teach your child the basic rules of socialization—verbal and behavioral controls. Do not feel guilty for doing your job.
    • Love Your Child to Better Behavior: Explain, coach and consequate your child when you are disciplining. Being emotionally close to your child gives you even greater influence on his thinking, his emotions, and his behavior.

    Sources include:

    The American Psychological Association files and journals


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