Although dozens upon dozens of studies show that spanking and other forms of corporal punishment fail to improve behavior or teach children life lessons, surveys show that more than half of all women and three-fourths of all men still think that spanking is a proper form of child punishment. Some spanking statistics are even higher. One 2013 survey shows that 81% of 2,286 adults say it's fine for parents to “spank” their children while just 19% said it was never appropriate. Many parents use emotional punishments as well, such as yelling, screaming, isolating, belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening a child. In some cases, hitting and emotional abuse may lead an adult to knowingly or unknowingly terrorize a child with bully tactics that create a climate of ongoing fear for a child. Of course, not all parents who spank or yell turn horribly abusive, but even so, hitting and excessive screaming, no matter how you slice it, is a violent act. If you're interested in why positive discipline parenting methods are better for you and your child and you want to learn some alternatives to hitting or yelling then keep reading this informative guide that is full of helpful tips and resources.
Why you shouldn’t hit or scream
- Hitting and screaming are violent acts that have the capacity to scare adults, so imagine how scary and violent these acts will seems to a young child.
- The more a child is hit, the less gray matter they have in their brain. Since gray matter is key to the brain’s ability to learn self-control, you want your kids to have as much gray matter as possible.
- Study after study shows that even mild forms of physical punishment puts kids at risk for mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and several personality disorders.
- Physical punishment has been linked to acting out and aggression.
- Kids are tiny mimics. If you hit or yell at your child, don’t act utterly shocked when they hit or yell at their siblings, other adults or their peers. In fact, research shows that 75% of those who were spanked as children spanked their own children. These statistics show that hitting others is a cycle.
I’m not the only one who thinks hitting or screaming at kids is wrong though. Plenty of organizations agree.
- The American Humane Association (AHA) points out that kids who are emotionally abused, including being shamed, terrorized or humiliated, “suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they are physically assaulted.” The AHA also notes that emotional abuse may lead to insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts (such as fire setting and animal cruelty), withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide, difficulty forming relationships and unstable job histories. AHA also states that emotionally abused children often grow up thinking that they are deficient in some way and worse they may continue the cycle with their own kids when they become parents.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Strongly opposes striking a child for any reason.”
- Elizabeth Gershoff, the leading researcher on spanking in the USA today says, “There’s no study that I’ve ever done that’s found a positive consequence of spanking.”
Now, if you agree that hitting or yelling at a child seems ridiculous, there are other things you can try when a child acts out or misbehaves. Clearly, kids are variable, so not all parenting methods work for all kids, and you may need to mix up your routine before you hit on a magic parenting style that works for you. Keep reading to see some good alternatives to spanking and/or yelling.
Build a strong relationship
Most positive parenting advocates and researchers note that the first step to positive parenting is growing a healthy, strong relationship with your child. Consider how relationships with other adults go – if you get along most of the time, spend time together and have a strong bond, you’re way more likely to want to please that adult. It’s the same with kids. When your child feels close and connected, he’ll want to please you more than he’ll want to annoy you. Spend time with your kid, do activities together that he likes and that you like and when you talk to your child make sure you really listen. A benefit of having a close relationship with a child, or anyone for that matter, is that you can more easily tell when your child is upset, mad or ready to break down, thus allowing you some time to adjust the situation before it results in a major meltdown. Got a broken parent-child relationship? It’s not too late to rebuild your relationship into something better.
Be careful with “NO”
When my son was a baby I got some really good advice from a parent who noted that she rarely said “no” to her child and always tried to use “a form of yes.” This doesn’t mean a child gets away with whatever he/she wants, it simply means that you save, “no” for the really big issues. Many parents way overuse the word “no” which takes away the significance — and like anything overused, becomes easy to ignore. If you’re continually saying “no, no, no” to a kid, they may not respond when you REALLY need them to hear it. “No” is a good choice if a child is going to run into a street or touch a stove burner. “No” isn’t as necessary in other situations. For example:
- If your child wants to watch TV, instead of “no” try a form of yes, such as, “You can watch a TV show after dinner” or state another time when watching TV is ok.
- If your child asks for a toy at the store, instead of “no” try, “After you save up half the money for the toy, “sure” then discuss how that can happen.
- If your child hits someone, instead of “no” try, “We never hit because it’s harmful and hurtful” or remind them that they wouldn’t like it if someone hit them.
Use “no” when it really matters, not for every little situation. This way, when “no” is really needed, your child will be more likely to hear you and respond well.
Take a time out
Time outs are debated, with some positive parenting advocates saying they’re still a “punishment” thus not as good as a “positive” parenting method. I disagree. I’m a fan of time outs, though I don’t call them that and I’ve never sent my son to stand in a corner. Both parents and kids can use time outs once in a while.
Time outs work in the same way for both adults and kids, removing them from a stressful situation and/or scene of the crime. A time out away from other family members allows everyone a break from the situation and is a great way to teach kids how to calm themselves down. If my son (or me or anyone) is engaging in a behavior that’s stressful on other people, it’s better to have some time apart rather than sticking it out while everyone gets more mad, upset or stressed. If my son is stressing me out, I’ll ask him to go hang out in another room til he feels like he’s ready to be chill and hang out with me again. Kids don’t always know when they need alone time, but they do need it. As a parent, you need alone time too, especially if you’re inclined to hit or yell when mad. Seriously, removing yourself from your child to give yourself time to chill is WAY better than striking out in anger.
Special tips for redirecting babies
Infants do not respond to most discipline tactics because they’re far too young to understand that surroundings may be a danger or off limits or what consequences are. If you have a baby, take steps to baby-proof so that your little one’s environment is safe and so that your baby can’t break items you hold dear. Babies are curious, so if you leave a DVD or your iPhone out and your baby chews on it or breaks it, you have no one to blame but yourself. If your baby grabs at something he shouldn’t, pull his hand away and redirect him to some toy he can have, but don’t slap him to make a point, because he won’t understand. If your baby is cranky, or cries a lot that’s 100% normal. Put him down for a nap, feed him or check his diaper – don’t assume he’s being cranky or crying just to misbehave, it’s just how babies communicate. If your baby throws food or rips a page in a book or hits at you, that’s all normal too. Babies often throw food because they think it’s a form of play, rip books because the noise and tactile experience is fun and hit or bite because they’re exploring or trying to communicate, not because they’re “being bad.” If for some reason you find yourself angry at a baby, so angry you want to hit, shake or yell at him, it’s time for a time out. Put your baby in a safe place, such as a play yard and give yourself a break. Never forget that babies are small and break easily – shaking or hitting a baby can cause life-long brain damage or death.
You’re smarter and better than an average bully
A mature adult should be able to come up with a way to solve problems without hitting or yelling. Violence is immature – as a parent, you CAN do better. Now, some spanking advocates note that so long as you don’t spank in anger, it’s not a violent act, but think about how strange that theory is – hitting someone when you’re mad may seem angry and violent, but hitting someone when you’re essentially calm enough to come up with another solution is not just bizarre, but confusing. Call me crazy, but if someone is so mad that they strike out at me, I’ll think it’s bad sure, but I’ll also get that they’re mad and wonder if they’re just not thinking straight. If someone calm and non-angry hits me, I’m going to wonder what the heck is going on here – this person seems totally ok but just smacked me? WHAT?
Believe it or not, some people never hit their kids or scream at them, and you don’t have to either. You can successfully parent your child without ever striking out at him. For support and more advice check out the links below.
- Positive parenting tips from the CDC from the baby to teen years
- This is what happens when you hit your kids
- Why positive parenting?
- Hitting begets hitting, aggression begets aggression
- 10 reasons not to hit your child by Dr. Sears
- 10 ways to stop yelling
- How to stop aggressive behavior in kids
- Handling your anger with your kids