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8 Alternatives to Spanking

Discipline strategies that are effective in managing behavior problems


The vast majority of parents around the world spank their children. The statistics vary greatly, depending on what study you read. But one thing that most of the studies agree on is that most parents say they don’t want to spank their kids.

However, many parents do spank when they feel as they’ve run out of options. Perhaps they’re exasperated and overwhelmed by behavioral issues or they feel that other discipline strategies just aren’t working. However, there are alternative discipline strategies that can be more effective than spanking without risking the long-term effects that corporal punishment can have on children.

1. Time Out

Mother scolding child sitting on stool in corner
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If you hit your child because he becomes aggressive, it gives a mixed message. Instead of spanking, try time out. Time out takes kids out of the situation and away from the scene of the crime. It can be an excellent way to teach kids how to calm themselves down, which is a useful life skill. Time out is a great discipline strategy to deal with aggression and non-compliance.

2. Taking Away Privileges

Although a spanking only stings for a minute or two, taking away a privilege hurts longer. Take away the TV, video games, his favorite toy or a fun activity for the day and he’ll have a reminder not to repeat the misbehavior. When you take away privileges, make it clear when the privileges can be earned back. Usually one day is enough time to give a child the opportunity to regain his privileges.

3. Ignoring

Sometimes parents spank out of anger because they are annoyed by their child’s behavior. However, ignoring can actually be more effective. It’s okay to ignore some mild misbehavior. This doesn’t mean you should look the other way if your child is doing something dangerous or inappropriate. Instead, it means that you should ignore some attention-seeking behaviors. When kids are trying to get attention by whining or complaining, don’t give it to them. By showing them that they can only get your attention by behaving well, it will motivate them to behave.

4. Teaching New Skills

One of the main problems with spanking is that it doesn’t teach your child what to do instead. For example, if your child hits his brother and you spank him, he hasn’t learned how to resolve conflict. Kids benefit from learning how to problem-solve, manage their emotions and compromise. When parents teach these skills it can greatly reduce behavior problems. Discipline that is aimed at teaching instead of punishing helps kids manage their behavior.

5. Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are a great way to help kids who are struggling with specific behavior problems. For example, if your child doesn’t eat his dinner, don’t let him have a bedtime snack. Or if he refuses to pick up his trucks, don’t allow him to play with them for the rest of the day. This can help kids to understand that there is a direct link between their behavior and the consequence.

6. Natural Consequences

Natural consequences can be an excellent teacher. As long as it is safe to do so, allow kids to face the consequence of their behavior. For example, if your child refuses to do his homework, instead of spanking him, let him skip his homework for one night if it means he may have to stay after school tomorrow until it’s finished. Natural consequences should be used when parents are confident that it will help teach kids to change their behavior.

7. Reward Systems

Instead of spanking a child for misbehavior, reward him for good behavior. For example, if your child fights with his siblings often, set up a reward system to motivate him to get along better with them. Providing an incentive to behave can turn around misbehavior fast. You can use a formal reward system or you can provide surprise rewards from time to time as an extra incentive. Rewards help kids to focus on what they are supposed to do instead of keeping the focus on their misbehavior.

8. Praise

Catch your child being good and it can prevent a lot of behavior problems. For example, when he’s playing nicely with his siblings, point it out. Say, “You are doing such a good job sharing and taking turns today.” Give him lots of attention for being good and it will help build a positive, healthy relationship. When there are several children in the room, give the most attention and praise to the children who are following the rules and behaving well. Then, when the other child begins to behave, give him praise and attention as well.

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