Discipline isn’t always easy to get right, and knowing what to do doesn’t always come naturally to us as new parents.
For a start, the word is usually associated with punishment, so it isn’t one you hear bandied about all that often.
But discipline isn’t about control, shouting or violence; it’s about boundaries.
Setting boundaries can be a difficult or confusing thing to do for some parents – especially if our own parents had difficulty setting boundaries with us, and/or if you are co-dependent. But it is SO important to learn and will improve every aspect of your life.
As shame researcher, Brene Brown says, the most compassionate, loving people she knows are those who are the most boundaried.
It is absolutely possible to discipline your child using gentle and respectful parenting methods, but not all parents are aware of the alternatives.
However, a recent survey of UK parents has highlighted a worrying trend when it comes to how we discipline our children.
Is Smacking Is An Effective Form Of Discipline?
Voucher Codes Pro surveyed over 2,000 UK parents to find out more about discipline in the home. Over half of those surveyed said they felt that smacking was an effective form of discipline, although only 35% of participants had used this discipline.
Only is probably the wrong word. That figure means a third of UK parents have smacked their children. And not only that, but almost twice as many parents feel that they were right to do so, because smacking is an effective form of punishment.
However, smacking isn’t an effective form of punishment, both logically and scientifically.
If your aim is simply to smack your child and generate an instant response, then it’s really effective. But, if you’re hoping to teach your child an important lesson, change long-term behaviour, or model good behaviour for your child, then smacking is walking down the wrong path.
Learning takes time and requires repetition – you would know this as a human being. I’m sure you appreciate patience and understanding while you get things right too.
Do Children Focus On The Punishment Or The Message?
When receiving a smack, a child simply focuses on the punishment rather than the message. When someone shouts at us, we hear the volume and not the message, which creates a reaction in our body. If you feel fearful or anxious, a flight or fight response will likely be engaged, meaning your heart might race and blood goes rushing to your body’s extremities to escape the situation. You can’t think straight, as your body is geared up to protect itself from danger at all costs.
Smacking doesn’t work. If the studies telling us so doesn’t mean anything, for those who follow her, even Supernanny, Jo Frost, will tell you it’s ineffective. You will be hard pressed to find a truly qualified parenting expert who recommends smacking as a form of behaviour modification.
Think back to your own childhood, if you were smacked. Try to remember how it felt to be subjected to corporal punishment. You might have felt shame, anger, resentment, or hurt. But you probably didn’t learn any great lessons from it – unless you count learning not to get caught next time.
Ideally, making mistakes should be embraced by all human beings, especially children. This is how we are given opportunities to learn. By smacking, children may fear making mistakes and avoid taking risks as they grow up. Some of the most successful people embrace their mistakes – because they are so valuable as learning opportunities. And what better way to learn when it’s done gently and lovingly, creating positive associations rather than fear.
There Is Zero Science To Back It Up
Despite the fact that two thirds of UK parents feel that smacking works, there is no science to back this up.
Many researchers have looked into smacking, and not one has been able to draw positive conclusions about its use. It is an ineffective form of discipline; it simply doesn’t work. And while smacking fails to teach your child any valuable lessons, you could also be damaging your relationship with your child. After all, how can your child feel deep trust when you cause physical pain in their body, for making a mistake?
Most parents who smack are falling into habits they learned from their own parents. Just because you were parented in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it is the right way to parent. One way we can all strive to be the absolute best parents we can be, is by continually challenging ourselves, and questioning our behaviour.
Don’t do something just because it’s always been done that way; instead, pause to analyse the situation, look at your options, and decide on the best course of action. There’s no evidence that smacking works and plenty to say it doesn’t, so it’s probably time to move on from that outdated and ineffective discipline tool.
Now, what could you do instead?
For many parents, smacking happens because they simply don’t have the right tools in their parenting toolbox.
Smacking doesn’t need to be in your toolbox at all; in fact all forms of violence should be banned from your parenting toolkit.
What can you put in there instead?
All too often we hear parents argue that other forms of discipline don’t work, and smacking is the only thing that does. After all, there is that instant gratification and your children are likely to distance themselves from you after being hit. And they’ll probably try to hide their behaviour from you in future to avoid another smack.
But has that really solved the problems? And what happens once a child is big enough to hit back?
No matter what the behaviour is or how difficult a situation might seem, there’s always a better way to resolve it than smacking. You might find that you need to reset your expectations.
- Are you expecting too much from your child?
- Are you smacking your toddler because he seems unable to follow your rules and do what you say?
Well, that’s sort of what toddlerhood is all about. They don’t have the brain development to process as smoothly as we do as fully developed adults. It’s your job to teach him, gently but firmly, the importance of boundaries and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the best way to do this is not with a smack.
How Should I Discipline My Toddler?
For advice on how to discipline your toddler effectively, without resorting to violence, check out this article. Communication, respect and trust are the best tools in your parenting toolbox, and these are the ones you should use when you’re going through a difficult patch. Not violence.
Be sure to watch this video from Brene Brown about boundaries, empathy and compassion. You might also like to read her amazing book, The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting.