Does discipline need a firm hand?

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Experts think not… as was described by a recent article in the Washington Post.  First, let us clarify loud and clear that Chrysalis House, Inc. policy does NOT support the use of corporal punishment.  It just doesn’t have a place in parenting children who have adverse histories, especially involving previous abuse.

Physical punishment can give the dangerous and unfair message that “might makes right”, that it is permissible to hurt someone else, provided they are smaller and less powerful than you are. The child then might conclude that it is permissible to mistreat younger or smaller children. When he becomes an adult, he might feel less compassion for those less fortunate than he is, and fear those who are more powerful. This can hinder the establishment of meaningful relationships so essential to an emotionally fulfilling life.

Because children learn through parental modeling, physical punishment can deliver the message that hitting is an appropriate way to express feelings and to solve problems. If a child does not observe a parent solving problems in a creative and humane way, it therefore, can be difficult for him to learn to do this himself. For this reason, unskilled parenting often continues into the next generation.

Gentle instruction, supported by a strong foundation of love and respect, is a more effective way to bring about commendable behavior based on strong inner values, instead of superficially “good” behavior based only on fear.

Practicing a more peaceful parenting approach means that parents understand that behavior is never the problem from the child’s point of view. The child is behaving the way he is because there is something that he wants and needs – and doesn’t know any other way to get it other than the way he is presently behaving. When the child learns and knows a better, more responsible way to get what she needs and wants she will behave better, thus ending that particular problem of misbehavior.

Ah ha!  Parents, let’s embrace the idea to teach your child a better, more responsible behavior to help your child get what he wants. Once that is accomplished the child has what they want and the parent also has what they want.  Spanking doesn’t show the child how to develop self-control. Spanking may stop the child then and there, but there can be a cost emotionally and cognitively to a child, and over the long run, it doesn’t usually lead to the child learning not to repeat the behavior that resulted in the spanking in the first place. It can also lead to the child learning to behave because of fear, not because of respect.

It takes a long time for a child to learn how to control themselves. We hope that by age 5 there is a greater ability to sense that people other than themselves have needs and that they can stop themselves from doing things that will hurt somebody, not because they are afraid that they will get hurt themselves if they do the “wrong thing,” but because they care about the well-being of other people. These are the foundations of self-esteem and empathy, which we all want children to develop.

Spanking might damage your relationship and trust. Do you remember being hit as a child? Do you ever remember thinking afterward, “I’m so thankful my parent loves me enough to hit me?” Of course you didn’t!  Many experts agree that no one can “learn” when they’re afraid. It has been explained that it is biologically impossible to learn and implement higher-order thinking when fearful. The fear response triggers the fight or flight instinct and adrenaline and cortisol flood our bloodstreams and brains. If you want your child to learn something, it’s critical to reduce fear rather than increase it.  Spanking might also teach children to lie to avoid detection or to avoid you.

The Latin root of discipline means “to teach,” while the Latin root of punishment means, “to inflict pain.” When you think about punishment, it generally does not deter behavior unless the punisher is present. Punishment can teach children to avoid detection, by avoiding his or her parents.

We now know how to communicate in a way that actually teaches, rather than punishes. Children can learn best by mimicking their parents’ ability to control themselves, and parents can be models by using calm, firm and physically neutral discipline.

Please let your Chrysalis House, Inc. social worker know if you’re struggling with discipline challenges.  Resources and ideas will be supplied!

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