Spanking has been used through generations as a disciplinary method to instill discipline and compliance.
However, it is one of the most controversial behavior-shaping methods among parents, child development experts, and child educators today.
Almost every parenting method or the parenting decision you make is likely to get debated about. But no disciplinary parenting method seems to come on the hit list as spanking children.
Spanking involves a few swats on a child’s buttocks with an open hand while fully the child is clothed.
How to Give a Spanking: How Many Spanks Should a Child Get?
If you decide to use spanking, you should deliver spanks with two to three open-handed blows on a child’s fully dressed buttocks. Never use belts or other objects that can seriously hurt a child and cause permanent damage.
The spanking should always include an explanation of why you are punishing a child with the spanks. Such explanation should be provided before and after the spanking.
Is Spanking an Effective Way to Discipline a Child?
There is an ongoing debate among parents, psychologists, pediatricians, and child educators whether spanking is an appropriate discipline strategy.
Opponents of spanking argue that any form of physical correction borderlines child abuse. However, those in favor of spanking believe that, when used appropriately, spanking can be an effective disciplinary strategy.
So, should you use spanking as a way to discipline your child? And how many spanks should a child get? There are some important factors to consider.
The Challenges of Early Childhood
Parenting involves a great responsibility of teaching children positive behavior.
Raising a child is both a privilege and a challenge. Teaching children positive behaviors promotes their development and helps them understand and manage their feelings. Disciplinary methods can teach children to appropriately deal with challenging situations and emotions such as anger, disappointment, or sadness.
However, young children have difficulty following the rules as they don’t always understand them. Their thinking is egocentric, which means that a preschooler cannot understand another person’s point of view.
At the same time, they are naturally motivated to explore their environment, pursue independence, and test boundaries.
Also, young children still lack the social and emotional skills to express their feelings and needs appropriately. Because they cannot put their feelings into words, kids may express them through inappropriate behaviors such as temper tantrums, excessive anger, or defiance.
Therefore, parents and caregivers must provide support while developing their social-emotional skills and learning to manage their emotions.
Major Behavior-Shaping Styles
To develop into healthy and well-adjusted adults, children need parenting styles that communicate love and understanding. To shape the child’s behavior, most parents use the following strategies.
- Positive Reinforcement
When using positive reinforcement, parents encourage patterns of behavior by providing rewards when the child exhibits. Positive reinforcement includes managing your child’s behavior by rewarding positive aspects of their behavior rather than giving attention to negative ones.
- Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement means fostering positive behavior by removing unpleasant outcomes or events after they show the desired behavior. In other words, you remove restrictions from a child when he follows the rules, which helps establish desired behaviors.
- Punishment: Negative Consequences for Unwanted Behaviors
Punishment is necessary sometimes. The primary purpose of punishment is to reduce or eliminate challenging behaviors.
There are many challenges with using punishment in behavior modification, though, as punishment does not necessarily lead to desired behaviors because it only tells a child what not to do. Also, punishment can cause fear and increase aggressive behavior.
However, there is a big difference between appropriately used spanking and an out-of-control physical punishment.
If a parent is raging and using spanking to vent out their emotions, this is physical abuse.
How to Appropriately Discipline a Child with Spanking?
Spanking that stops the behavior but doesn’t allow the child to understand why a particular behavior isn’t a good one has no teaching value.
In some cultures, spanking is a natural form of discipline, so many families use it as a regular punishment method. Other parents use spanking with young children to prevent them from engaging in dangerous situations. For example, you may spank your toddler when they are about to get hurt by touching a hot stove.
- Offer the Explanation
As with punishment in general, spanking only teaches a child to avoid specific behavior or behave and be good, without understanding why they should behave in a particular way.
For example, if your child runs across the street and gets spanked, they will learn not to run in the road anymore. But they will not understand why they shouldn’t do that.
Therefore, an explanation should precede and follow the spanking to let the child know why a specific behavior is unwelcome or why they are getting spanked.
- Consider the Child’s Age
Properly administered spanking is most effective as disciplining tool in preventing or restricting undesirable behaviors in toddlers and younger preschoolers. This is because reasoning and explaining the consequences often don’t work with children this age.
Spanking should never be used for infants. Also, as children get older, spanking should gradually be replaced by other, non-physical disciplining methods such as time-out, removing privileges, redirection, or positive reinforcement.
- Use Spanking in a Limited Capacity
One study showed that three-year-old children are more likely to be aggressive when they get older if spanked frequently. Also, frequent spanking has been linked to mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood.
When considering how many spanks a child should get, a general suggestion is that the number of spanks you give should equal the number of times the child has broken the same rule.
This would mean starting with a non-physical punishment or warning for the first offense. Then, if the child repeats undesirable behavior, that would equal two spanks, and so on.
- Never Use Spanking to Vent Out
Spanks should never be given out of anger, fear, or any other emotion you may feel the urge to vent out. Similarly, it should never be used to intimidate the child. When administering a spanking, always follow up with an explanation and affirmation of love for the child.
While properly administered spanking may be an effective behavior-shaping tool for younger preschoolers, try to use it as a last disciplining resource whenever possible. Instead, opt for alternative disciplining methods such as redirection, time-out, positive reinforcement, ignoring misbehavior, or removing privileges.