Perspectives on Discipline: Does Spanking Really Have a Role?
Many of the questions I receive in my parenting workshops, in my clinical practice, and in e-mails concern the topic of discipline. The importance of this topic is reflected in the large number of books and magazine articles advising parents of the most effective ways to discipline their children. In reaction to displays of aggression in society, law enforcement officials as well as politicians will frequently provide their own opinions on disciplinary approaches.
Not surprisingly, the suggestions offered by child development specialists about discipline represent a wide spectrum of views, many of which seem to contradict each other. As a parent noted in one of my workshops, "The more I read, the more confused I become about discipline." I can understand why. I recently read two articles by child specialists, one of whom advocated parents using timeout, while another questioned the efficacy of that practice.
There are many different aspects about discipline that I have been discussing for years. Interestingly, in the last few months I have noticed an increase in the number of questions pertaining to corporal punishment or spanking. One father said that he read that "if kids don’t listen, a spanking can serve a useful function." This father added, "The article said that spanking was okay as long as the parent did not lose control and hurt the child." But then he wondered, "Do young kids know when parents have lost control when they are spanking?" A mother in the group noted that she had read that spanking should never be used. It is little wonder that parents get confused.
So with trepidation as one more child development expert, I am ready to offer some observations and advice about discipline. Obviously, while a number of readers may disagree with my views, it is my hope that what I have to say will generate reflection and discussion about this important topic. I would like to share in this and my next couple of newsletters my thoughts about discipline, including what are its main goals in raising and teaching children and how best to reach these goals. Given the obvious interest in the question of spanking, I will devote this column to examining this particular disciplinary practice. Future columns will address what I consider to be more effective forms of discipline. A few preliminary thoughts about discipline are in order.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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