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Spare the Rod: Alternatives to Spanking

Were you spanked as a child?

While in elementary school in the 80's, I have vivid memories of the "board" in the principal's office. The rumor was, if you were sent to the principal's office for misbehavior, you would be spanked with the board. While I cannot confirm if this practice was true, it was enough to scare me into good behavior.

Parents often turn to spanking as a form of punishment for bad behavior. While some parents think that spanking is a way to get a child's attention to discourage the bad behavior and perhaps even create respect for the parent, many parents today are seeking alternatives to spanking.

The Illinois Early Learning Project recommends the following ways parents can "spare the rod" without spoiling the child:

Overlook attention-seeking behaviors

Ignore behavior when possible. Overlook behaviors that will not harm your child or others, such as whining, bad language, and tantrums. It's hard not to do something, but sometimes our children act up because they want our attention.

Connect your response to the misbehavior

Briefly take away privileges related to the misbehavior. For example, if your children fight over electronic devices, take away screen time for a few hours or a day. If the punishment lasts too long, your child may forget the original misbehavior, and the lesson may be lost.

Use logical consequences to make the point. For example, if your child misuses a toy, take away the toy for a few hours. If your child spills crackers on the floor, have her help pick them up.

Be consistent. Children will understand what has happened in the past and what they can expect in the future when you are consistent with consequences and responses.

Encourage positive behaviors

Rearrange space. Try creative solutions. If clothes and toys are often left lying about, start using baskets and low hooks for easier cleanup. If school notes are misplaced, assign a special table or counter for them.

Redirect behavior. Substitute a "can do" behavior for a "can't do" behavior. If your child draws on the walls, stock up on drawing paper and let her know where it is. If your child throws sand, provide a ball for him to throw instead.

Use the "when/then" rule. Tie what you want to what your children want. For example, when your children pick up their toys, then they can watch TV or play video games. When your children finish their baths, then they can have a storybook read to them.

Use timeout sparingly

Use "timeout" to respond to dangerous and harmful behaviors such as biting, hitting, and purposeful destruction. Timeout is best used to help your child calm down and regain control. After timeout is over, acknowledge your child's good behavior when you can.

For more information on the Illinois Early Learning Project, click here. To access additional tip sheets, click here.

Source: Don't Spank! Here's What You Can Do Instead, Illinois Early Learning Project Tip Sheet