I am not a parent, but as an aunt and teacher, I have been privy to the ways that parents discipline their children. I’ve seen those who spank do it out of frustration, anger, and lack of time rather than from the compulsion to teach right and wrong. When you spank for all the wrong reasons, it doesn’t teach a child how to become a better person, it just teaches them to hit. That’s why parents, especially parents in the African-American community, need to find other forms of discipline in order to raise healthy, non-violent children. The following are effective, alternative strategies to spanking, used by both parents and teachers alike.
Natural consequences are punishments that naturally result from a person’s poor actions. For example, a child who doesn’t complete his homework will fail the assignment, or a child who stays up late will be exhausted the next morning. Rather than punish your child, allow your child to see how their poor choices affect their life. Then have him fix it. For example, if your son fails an assignment because he chose not to do it, have him ask the teacher for extra credit to make it up. Natural consequences permit children to see the effects of their actions so that they can change their behavior in the future.
For older kids, it’s called being “grounded” and for younger kids, we simply call it “time-out.” Being denied an expected privilege such as telephone use or television viewing can be an effective tool in the discipline toolbox, but it must be done consistently and correctly. Grounding a child by making him stay in the house and off the phone for a week means you have to play watchdog for a week as well. If you are not prepared to stay inside for the duration of your child’s punishment, pick another consequence or get the help of neighbors and relatives. When you’re out, have them make random stops by your house to check on the child.
When young children throw tantrums or become defiant, place them in a corner, away from other children and toys. Have them sit there for a short amount of time. Some child experts suggest a minute for each year of the child’s life (i.e., six minutes for a 6-year-old) or until the child becomes less difficult. Time-outs are especially effective for toddlers when you firmly tell them why they are being punished and are consistent with when and where you give them time-out.
Don’t forget to praise your children when they do good things. For example, if your child cleans his room without being told or completes his homework before watching television, tell him how proud you are of him. You may even want to reward them with their favorite dish at dinner or extend their curfew for a night. You will find that your child will enthusiastically repeat the behavior that is praised.
Discussion and education
When your child displays an inappropriate behavior, discuss why they did it. For example, if your preteen son hits a girl at school, don’t just say, “Boys don’t hit girls,” and think that hitting him will solve the problem. Instead, ask questions, such as, “Why did you think you could solve your problem by hitting?” “Where have you seen boys hit women before?”
Questions such as these will lead to an in-depth discussion about bullying and domestic violence. Afterwards, sit down with your child and watch movies where bullying or domestic violence is apparent. Discuss how these issues affect the characters. Finally, talk about ways to prevent violence in school and at home. Discipline that is this wholesome will only lead your child to think critically about the choices he makes and take more responsibility for his actions in the future.
Instead of raising your hand to your child, test out one of the discipline strategies above. You’re likely to receive even better results and happier, healthier children.