Parents do agree that discipline is the key to well-mannered kids, and it teaches them rules to live by in our society. Spanking is a hard debate because there is a fine line between punishment and discipline. Discipline means “to teach,” while punishment means to punish for bad or “inappropriate” behavior. Sometimes parents get these two confused. Parents face serious consequences today if they go overboard with punishment, i.e., spanking.
When my youngest son was 3, he went into the street and was hit by the neighbor’s car. Luckily he was not seriously hurt, but he did have to go to the hospital. I had not spanked my child before that time. Looking back, I probably could have given him a swat on the bottom whenever he meandered off the curb, but I did not. This type of ‘warning’ (a spanking) is not only effective if done in one-fell-swoop, but it is also a deterrent for future running into the street.
I was from the school that said spankings were not necessary. However, I soon learned through my education, and counseling clients, that children always go toward pleasure and away from pain. I think parents need to be open to trying new behaviors, and what works for some may not always work for others.
There are no hard-set rules on this one. My experience tells me children who are younger than 10 have not learned to think in “abstract terms.” They are more “concrete” in their thinking patterns, and seem to do better with phrases from parents which are black and white — such as, “If you go near the curb (the street) again you will be spanked,” instead of trying to explain in length about the dangers of cars and a long scenario of injury producing rhetoric.
Be your own best judge and listen to your intuition. Be aware that spankings can cause more emotional damage than any physical scar, and our tempers may sometimes need to be checked before touching a child. If we are not careful with the way we deal with our own anger and frustration, the legal system will deal with it for us.