Raising children is difficult. It is often the most rewarding thing parents will ever do, but it is incredibly challenging. Sometimes children cooperate with their parents, but often times they do not. The question of what parents do in those situations is a difficult one. A common recourse is to use physical pain as a means to discouraging bad behavior. In other words, parents often resort to spanking. Spanking which was once a universally accepted and taken for granted as practice, has come under scrutiny in recent years. Whether it is abuse or not has come under question. Many people have found that raising children by other means helps them to avoid corrective action altogether, focusing instead on positivistic maintenance of discipline. In other words, by instilling good habits first and trying to the bad ones completely, parents can maintain discipline without while rarely taking corrective action. Though spanking may achieve the results parents intend, the positive approaches alluded to have fewer adverse effects and produce the same positive and constructive results on children.
Though spanking typically achieves the intended effect of disciplining children, it can also lead to more negative results. “because the specific context within which spanking (and other forms of punishment) is used often involves parent feelings of irritation, anger, or frustration, which can be mild or more severe, children and parents could associate spanking with underlying sources of intrafamily conflict that promote its use, eg, negative parent-child attitudes, parent level of distress, marital discord” (Slade, Wissow, 1328). Spanking is often more than simple disciplinary action. Spanking commonly is a release of anger or frustration by a parent upon his or her child. In situations like these, where spanking and other forms of physical discipline are means of relieving anger and frustration, spanking is more negative than positive. Furthermore, spanking can be a “substantial risk factor for behavior problems” (Slade, Wissow, 1327). This is due to children often associate spanking not with discouraging bad behavior, but with parental disappointment, anger, or even disdain. Spanking can produce good results, but use of physical correction is not worth the risk of adverse effects.

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Other approaches to discipline achieve the same positive results, without the chance for the negative ones. Rewarding good behavior can help children in their development, without the pain associated with spanking. It focuses on the positive and not the negative. “Rewarding good deeds targets behaviors you want to develop in your child, not things he shouldn’t be doing” (WebMD). When parents reward their children for good behavior, they encourage their children to behave similarly in the future. In addition, WebMD says that “there are times when your child does something extraordinary that may warrant a larger reward.” Children should be rewarded based on the quality of their deeds. Extraordinary things warrant exceptional rewards, generally positive behavior begets appreciative reinforcement, and bad behavior deserves nothing.

Another important tool in discipline and raising children is setting a good example, not a bad one. It is a well-established fact that “your personal conduct makes a more lasting impression than your words” (WebMD). How parents behave directly effects how their children will behave. Unwanted behavior in children can commonly be the cause of behavior they are exposed to. But so to, can desirable behavior be the result of the things children see. Many situations that involve corrective discipline would never arise, had been a model for how they wanted their children to behave. But often, we see just the opposite: parents unintentionally being a model for behavior they do not want to see in their children. Parents too often underestimate their children, assuming that their children are oblivious or that they do not understand what is going on. But even when children do not understand the things they see, they can still model their own behavior after it. When parents (unintentionally) model undesirable habits, their children are likely to copy them, and act like their parents. When parents model the things they want, children will copy them.

While spanking has been a tried and true practice for decades, but too often has unnecessary and adverse effects. Other approaches to parenting and discipline achieve the same productive ends as spanking, but without any of the bad, even harmful effects. Reinforcing positive behavior through rewarding it has been shown to be an effective alternative to punishing negative behavior. In addition to encouraging good habits in children, this method of discipline helps to build a strong relationship between parent and child. Perhaps most important in maintaining discipline is setting a good example. Parents need to model the behavior they wish to see in their children. Discipline does not always mean corrective action. Many times, discipline can be preemptive. Encouraging good behavior and modeling it, in addition to numerous other positivistic approaches are types of discipline; they are maintainers of good discipline. In the end, discipline needs to be handled individually by parents, accounting for the individuality of their children. Only with patience, prudence and understanding, can parents discipline their children successfully.

  • Barker, Joanne. Six Ways to Discipline Children — That Work!. Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD. 2012. Web.
  • Slade, Eric P., PhD, and Wissow, Lawrence S., MD. Spanking in Early Childhood and Later Behavior Problesm: A Prospective Study of Infants and Young Toddlers. May, 2004. Web.