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How Can I Discipline My Child Without Spanking?

Time outs and other punishments can be used to discipline a child.
A time-out followed by an explanation of the consequences of the child's behavior are good alternatives to spanking.
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  • Written By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Child discipline is a controversial subject for most parents, and even for adults who are not parents. Many people have very strong opinions on the issue, especially when it comes to corporal punishment. Views range from including spanking or physical discipline as abuse to spanking being seen as a normal and accepted form of discipline for children. Fortunately for any parent who is ambivalent about this form of discipline, many alternatives exist for disciplining your child without spanking.

One of the most important things to remember with regards to discipline is that your child needs you to be calm while disciplining him. Many parents become angry and react in the heat of the moment. Your immediate reaction may be something that you end up regretting. The best course of action when you are angry is to do nothing, but to remove yourself from the situation. This may be done by sending the child to his/her room or another part of the house and explaining that the matter will be discussed after the child has had a time-out.

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A time-out can be effective discipline in and of itself. Children crave attention and will often try to get their parent's attention in any way possible, whether negative or positive. Yelling, lecturing, etc. may not be seen as discipline by the child, but rather a reward of parental attention for their behavior. The child may connect their unwanted behavior with this reward, which will serve to reinforce their behavior rather than stopping it. Time-outs should vary by age, with younger children not receiving a time-out of more than a few minutes.

After you have had sufficient time to become calm, you can decide what level of discipline is appropriate for your child's actions. If there are two parents in the house, the parents should be united, as children will sense division and generally manipulate it to get out of being disciplined. It is better to have both parents operating as one unit rather than the child knowing that one parent is a lighter disciplinarian than the other.

When possible, the disciplinary action should be relevant to the offense. For example, if something is broken by a child, he/she may need to save his/her allowance or earn money by doing extra chores in order to save up and replace the item. If your child is disrespectful or hurts someones feelings, he/she can write an apology letter or deliver a personal apology.

However, sometimes it is not practical for the discipline to match the negative behavior. In this case, the parent or caregiver should calmly explain to the child why their behavior was unacceptable and what the consequences are. Something that is valuable to the child may be temporarily taken away, for example, television shows, a favorite video game, etc. The child could receive extra chores for a period of time, or simply have a time-out.

There are many ways to discipline your child, but no matter which one you choose, it is vital that you stand by your decision. Children generally cry, scream, argue, and try to manipulate their way out of consequences, but these boundaries are necessary for them to learn appropriate behavior and to feel secure. A calm explanation of the behavior and the consequences helps the child learn from her mistakes, and keep the parent sane.

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Discuss this Article

subway11
Post 4

Moldova - I agree but I think that discipline for toddlers remains difficult because they do not understand why they did something wrong.

For me when I had to discipline my toddlers I always resorted to time outs because it was effective. If you watch the show, “Super Nanny” you can get some really great ideas on how to discipline a child.

She also includes many positive reinforcement techniques that any child will love. I think that the balance of positive and negative discipline allows the child to feel respected and less likely to rebel.

Moldova
Post 3

GreenWeaver - You know that is a really good idea. I also think that discipline techniques should be direct.

The child should understand what they did wrong because they made a bad choice and should be given the punishment as a result.

This way the punishment is about the action and not the person. Also, the punishment should not be too long because then the child will forget what they were punished for.

Shorter punishments are more effective.

It is a delicate balance but learning how to discipline your child allows them to grow up respecting rules and realizing that all actions have consequences.

GreenWeaver
Post 2

Anon72039 - I like that idea. I think that learning how to discipline your child takes time.

The best discipline techniques usually involve direct and measurable punishment.

I usually take something away that is especially meaningful in order to discipline my child. For example, I always make my children go to bed a half hour early when they do something wrong.

This is a big deal to them because their bedtime is 8:00 PM. I also make the punishment immediately that day so that it doesn’t lose its effectiveness.

anon72039
Post 1

We had a lot of success with a thing called super pride cards. They helped us set up a very intricate and effective behavior system in our house and our son loved it.

To motivate the kids they have all kinds of games, treasure hunts, races and points and they also provide individual support through IM and email. Plus, they get the kids to take pride in their own accomplishments.

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