Discipline and kids: To spank or not to spank?

Tips for children & discipline

Q. With the growing question "to spank or not to spank," how do new parents decide whether or not to include spanking in their discipline philosophy?

A. I have found during twenty five years of pre school experience that spanking as either a consequence or preventative measure does result in effective parenting. Children birth to six are neither short adults nor puppies. Therefore, a swat to the legs or ritual of spanking a bottom will not cognitively result in a logical consequence or prevent future unsavory behavior.

Q. If spanking does not work, what sort of discipline does?

A. Logical consequences to the circumstance. For example, if a child throws a shovel at another child during a play date, the shovel is removed from the child, a warning that if such inappropriate behavior happens again the play date ends, if the behavior continues, the play date ends. Children need consistent, predictable limits and consequences. Spanking is consistent in teaching children to hit others when angry or frustrated.

Q. Recently actress and parent Liv Tyler made news by getting out of her car on a busy Santa Monica Blvd. in LA to stop a care provider from repeatedly hitting a young child in the chest while strapped into his stroller. When should strangers intervene, if ever?

A. If we are in fact a village, if we are in fact to survive as a culture, we should protect children and support each other as parents. I encourage positive parenting moments. If I'm in a restaurant and young children are eating, engaging and laughing I will tell the parents what a delight it is to see children enjoying a dining experience. On the other hand, if I see a family struggling, children screaming, not wanting to sit, I can see the frustration in the parents and I often smile and comment on how I have "been there" and completely understand. Often the kind words calm the embarrassed parents and give them a chance to take a breath. Often simply giving the child positive attention will distract and calm him down.

Certainly we don't want to be Parenting Police. I understand different cultures approach discipline differently. Though I do not find 'Time Out' to be an effective technique, it will certainly not damage a child. When a child is in danger, I think it is our responsibility to protect them. We care for the environment, we care for pets. No one would stand by and watch a puppy being hit repeatedly, we should protect children with the same passion.

Q. How do you intervene without offending the parent and invading their privacy?

A. A positive approach can be used. Saying something like, " It looks like you are having a tough day, I have had those days, can I help you?" Ask if the adult needs to take a step back, be open to being told off, but stand firm, yet kind. Do not attack, be empathetic, be understanding and not judgemental. The goal should be to protect the child and help the adult calm down from the moment.

Q. Is there ever a situation when 911 or Child Protective Services should be contacted?

A. I think when laws are being broken or a child's life is in danger. If I saw a car speed by on the freeway with children jumping around in the back seat, I would get the license plate number and call Highway patrol. If I walked past a car in a parking lot with young children locked in I would go into the clear store adjacent and inform the store manager to make a store announcement over the loud speaker. Swimming pools can bring deadly results if parents are not diligent, children not being watched, children breaking rules at parents request, lifeguards or property managers should by advised.

Keeping children safe from harm is a community responsibility.

Q. How can parents discipline young children in public places? Temper tantrums are bond to happen, how can parents control their small children without losing control themselves?

A. I think parents are going to find themselves particularly stressed out over the next several months with financial concerns. Children are aware of the stress in their parents lives and will create ways to get attention, even negative attention. Now is not a good time to give into children's tantrums or lose complete control by hitting and screaming. Expectations must be made very clear before going on an outing. Consequences should be pre explained. Remember to follow the logical consequence rule. Punishment should fit the crime. Hitting a friend at the park means being removed from the park.

Q. What about disciplining children in restaurants or on an airplane?

A. Parents need to prepare for public outings, but also relax and not set unrealistic expectations. Also, the "Village" needs to start supporting parents with young children rather than judging or criticizing or acting like the struggling parents are invisible.

Q. How can parents support each other?

A. I think finding parents upset "in the moment" and letting them know you have been there, as we all have. Being sympathetic, offering a kind word, a bottle of water, anything to help take the pressure off the moment. Anything to help show support and acceptance. We all want to feel like we aren't being bad parents.

About Lonna Corder:
Lonna Corder has 25 years as a pre-school teacher and director. Lonna began private parent coaching in 2007 and has written several articles, is featured on lilsugar.com every month answering parenting questions and is working on a book about parenting during the first five years.

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