In 2014, the arrest of National Football League star, Adrian Peterson, on child abuse charges renewed the debate about spanking children. Peterson was accused of more than just swatting a child on the bum for misbehavior; nevertheless, the incident demonstrated that corporal punishment of children still provokes strong emotion in society.
Raising children is both joyful and difficult. Heightened emotions mixed with challenging situations create frustration. Not knowing how to respond effectively, parents sometimes react with anger and spank their children, or worse.
Nicholeen Peck, a parenting mentor and author of "Parenting A House United," said, "When a parent spanks a child out of anger and emotion the parent has not practiced justice; they have just been emotional. These all-to-common emotional spankings are signs of parent weakness and disconnection from principles of discipline."
Most adults never receive formal training about how to be parents. When children misbehave, they often spank simply because they are not sure what else they should do. Here are seven ways parents can discipline children without getting physical:
For parents who want a positive approach, it is important to understand the difference between rewards and bribes. Bribes are not effective and tend to reinforce bad behavior. Rewards are earned through predetermined good behavior and must be decided upon ahead of time. They cannot be determined in the heat of anger.
This method is effective because it can be suited to the age of the child and the severity of the bad behavior. A young child who doesn't pick up his toys might lose the chance to play with them for a day. An older child who fails to meet a curfew might lose his cell phone for an appropriate number of days.
Child expert Amy Morin writes that "time out" is an effective discipline method for children ages 3 to 12. "Establish a time out area that will be free of distractions and can provide your child with an opportunity to calm down. For small children who are not likely to be able to sit still, a time out room may be the best option. For older children, a chair or steps may be used."
These tasks can range from scrubbing a garbage can or cleaning the wheels on a vehicle to cleaning a cat litter box. Children should have regular daily chores and an assigned consequence if they don't do them. This should be a little something extra.
Have a chat
For some children, a conversation where a parent expresses disappointment about the behavior is worse than a spanking. Sometimes the bad behavior results in its own punishment. For example, a parent repeatedly tells a child not to leave a toy or bicycle in the driveway. Eventually it is run over. The punishment is the loss of the toy. All the parent needs to do is explain the relationship between actions and consequences.
This is an oldie but a goodie. Parents have been grounding children almost as long as they have been spanking. For many children, having to miss time with their friends is far more painful and memorable than being spanked.
It is important for children to understand that bad behavior often comes with a cost. If a child throws a football in the house after being told to stop and breaks a lamp, having him pay all or part of the cost for a replacement is reasonable. It is a worthwhile lesson even if it requires the parent to provide work the child can do to earn money
For discipline to be effective, it is important to establish the rules and the punishments beforehand. Parents must handle infraction with calmness and consistency—even when they are angry, frustrated and want nothing more than to lash out with emotion.
Disciplining children is hard. Chip Ingram from Focusonthefamily.com wrote, "You are the only one in the world with the primary responsibility of giving your child what he needs, not what he wants. Sometimes that means you have to lay down the law. Afterward, you may have to go close yourself up in the bedroom and, with tears in your eyes, tell your spouse how bad you feel for being so hard on your kids."
Even though providing effective and consistent discipline is a challenge, the rewards are worth it when children grow up to be well-behaved, responsible and polite.