S is for Spanking

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Spanking: Pros and Cons

Other studies have found that kids who are hit or verbally abused are more likely to suffer depression or fits of uncontrollable anger as an adult, lashing out in rage at their spouses, children, coworkers, and others around them. Spanking may work in the immediate moment to stop a child's annoying behavior, but research shows that it's not effective in the long run; it results in more misbehavior and aggression, not less. Many parents also find that once they start spanking, they soon need to escalate -- to spank more and harder in order to get a child's attention.

Hitting a child, while yelling, "This is the only way I can get through to you," is an act that makes the statement come true. And spanking an older child is proof in itself that this form of punishment isn't working: You should be able to control your pre-teen's behavior by reasoning with him, not hitting him. Experts have also found that over time, spanking makes a child angry and resentful and less -- not more -- willing to do what you ask. Researchers have found that children who are hit rarely remember what they were punished for. So they don't really learn anything from the experience, except that "My parents might hit me when they're mad.

While a significant number of parents still use corporal punishment, recent research shows that the majority are now choosing not to physically discipline their children. A survey by the Gallup organization found that 94 percent of parents said they had physically punished their 4- and 5-year-old children, and nearly 30 percent of the parents admitted to hitting children between 5 and 12 with belts, paddles, or other objects.

But a University of Michigan poll suggests a national trend toward non-physical discipline, with just 38 percent of parents saying they are likely to spank or paddle children between the ages of 2 and 5. All parents get angry with their children. But if you make an ironclad rule for yourself that you won't hit your child -- ever -- you'll avoid all the negative consequences of spanking. Most of all, you won't have to worry about having a light slap turn into a dangerous blow. It also helps to remember that when children enter elementary school, they'll be expected to manage their own behavior in a world that is far more demanding, competitive, and critical than what they have experienced before.


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School-age children are expected to act like adults-in-training, and are held accountable for their failings and mistakes. They are scrutinized and judged on everything from their academic performance to their prowess on the athletic field; they're rated by other kids on how fun, cool, and smart they are. These passages are stressful and sometimes humiliating. The pressure can lead to a lot of acting out as kids seek to relieve their anxiety and fear, express their frustration and anger, and rebel against the authorities controlling them.

However empathetic you are, you're still going to get frustrated and angry at times -- it's simply inevitable. Be sure to develop your own supports to help you keep your commitment to your decision -- friends or family you can call in a pinch, ways of getting time off when you are feeling stressed out and fear you might lose your cool.

Hitting children undermines their well-being in the long term.

Your pediatrician or your birth hospital should be able to help you find one. Finally, demonstrate to your child with your own actions the kind of behavior you want from him. If you make a mistake, don't be afraid to admit it and to tell him you're sorry. Hyman, Jossey-Bass.

Shure, Pocket Books. D, with Joan Declaire, Simon and Schuster. Kesey, Ed. Child Trends Databank. Attittudes Towards Spanking.


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  5. University of Michigan Health System. Spanking out, talking in: Most parents opt to talk with misbehaving kids.

    Spanking Can Be an Appropriate Form of Child Discipline

    Last Updated: Jan 1, All Rights Reserved. Follow Us On. Should I spank my child? Parents may erroneously think spanking seems like a direct and effective way to do that, but it delivers other messages that we don't want to send: Fear.

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    Spanking teaches your child to fear you -- not to listen to you or respect you. He may also be humiliated and resentful, and retaliate by being uncooperative. The result: You'll be less able to reason and communicate effectively with your children. Spanking teaches your child that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems. And it should never be administered harshly, impulsively, or with the potential to cause physical harm.

    Along those lines, we caution parents who have a hard time controlling their temper to choose alternative forms of discipline. There is never an excuse or an occasion to abuse a child. For parents who do choose to spank, the proper philosophy and approach is extremely important. Too begin with, as with all forms of correction, the concepts of punishment and discipline are absolute opposites.

    The Pros and Cons of Spanking

    On the other hand, discipline is motivated by love for the child, focuses on the future, and results in obedience and feelings of security. What we want children to understand is that the gentle sting of a spanking is connected to the greater and often long-term pain of harmful choices. Simply put, prevention is easier than cure. A child should always receive a clear warning before any offense that might merit a spanking and understand why they are receiving this disciplinary action.

    If he or she deliberately disobeys, the child should be informed of the upcoming spanking and escorted to a private area.

    The spanking should be lovingly administered in a clear and consistent manner. Afterward, the lesson should be gently reiterated so that the child understands and learns from this teachable experience. Disciplining our sons and daughters is part of the tough work of parenting, but it will pay big dividends in the long run. So spanking, when used judiciously, appropriately, and in combination with other disciplinary techniques, can be a helpful part of training our children.

    Let me offer a final word on the national tragedy of child abuse. The pain from these horrific memories lingers with many of these individuals for a lifetime. Abusing a vulnerable child is always, and extremely, damaging and wrong. Parenting is a hard job.

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