This past week, I was listening to a talk radio show that was discussing a California Assemblywoman who wants to pass a law making it a misdemeanor to spank a child under the age of three. This got me thinking about the use of physical discipline...a topic which I have not yet discussed on this blog until now.
Many of you are aware that I am a former Protective Services Worker. For the record, it is not against the law in my home state of Michigan to use physical discipline. It is, however, against the law here to leave a mark on a child as a result of using physical discipline.
Sadly, I have seen firsthand the results of excessive physical discipline. I must say that MOST of the parents in these cases had no intention of injuring their child and felt horrible guilt as a result. Most shared that they did not want to use physical discipline on their children, but did so in a moment of anger or frustration. Many grew up in households where physical discipline was used.
To spank or not to spank is a hotbed of controversy for some. There are many parents out there that have very strong opinions on both sides of this issue. I'm not going to say yay or nay either way to the use of physical discipline. I believe that as parents, we have to decide which parenting tools work best for us and our children. I also believe that when we are looking at using a disipline strategy, we should be well informed and give much consideration as to whether that strategy is likely to give us the results we desire. So in that vain, here are some things to consider:
- Has the use of physical discipline stopped the undesirable behavior?
- How do I feel after I have used physical discipline?
- Do I want my child to behave because she's afraid of the consequences or because it is the right thing to do?
- How does physical discipline impact how my child views me? What impact will the use of physical discipline have on him in the future?
- How do I want my child to handle conflict as an adult?
The research on the effectiveness of spanking as a discipline practice vary. Dr. Phil has summarized these results on his website as has the American Psychological Association. They are worth checking out.
I can tell you that as a Protective Services worker, I saw a pattern with many of the physical abuse cases I investigated. In the majority of the cases, the use of physical discipline was not effective in eliminating behavior problems long term. This would be in keeping with some of the results of the studies. It also seemed that as the kids got older and bigger, they fought back, ran away or the use of physical discipline had absolutely no impact on changing any undesirable behaviors. As a matter of fact, the older the child was, it seemed the worse their behavior became, e.g., backtalk, drinking, drugs, sex, etc. Keep in mind, these are just my observations from my time in the field.
As I said earlier, I believe that parents need to make well informed choices about the strategies and techniques they use with their children. This post is not about judging who is right and who is wrong in this debate, but rather to share information. I hope that it is received in the spirit that it is intended.
So, what are your thoughts on this subject? Do you use physical discipline and if so, has it been effective? If you do not use physical discipline, what techniques have you found to be most effective in promoting behavioral change? I am very interested to hear from you on this one :)