When many Jamaicans think about disciplining children, what often comes to mind is corporal punishment. The average Jamaican experienced spanking in his/her childhood, and many parents are still determined not to “spare the rod and spoil the child.” This proverb is actually not from the Bible, as many think, but the good book does give instructions to “chasten” or discipline children for their own welfare.
Pros & Cons
Among the proponents of spanking is Robert Larzelere, a professor of research methodology and statistics at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. He argued that “backup spanking” – a swat or two across the rear end following other disciplinary methods such as timeouts or taking away privileges – can be an effective tool, mostly among 2- to-6-year-olds.
Several studies have shown that children who were disciplined in this manner were found to be doing much better during adolescence than those whose parents were “overly punitive and did not show love in various ways to the child.”
Of course, not every parent or researcher practises spanking. In fact, many are adamantly against it. Murray Straus, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire in Durham points to the fact that several studies have shown that the more parents spank, the more likely the children are to retaliate. Additionally, they are at a higher risk for committing juvenile crimes, assaulting other children, being depressed as adults and hitting their dating or marital partners.
Disciplining without Beating
If you are anti-spanking and looking for ways to keep your children on the straight and narrow, here are some tips from a recent Gleaner article.
- Set the right example for your child. Children learn by example. They watch you and follow what you do. If you set rules, you must also follow them.
- Let your children help you as you set the rules for the family. Get them involved in deciding what is and is not acceptable, and what should be done when the rules are broken.
- If your child does something wrong, give them a time out – that is, make them sit in a quiet place away from others. A time out gives you time to cool off and also gives the child time to think about his behaviour.
- Taking away something the child likes is another option if your child has misbehaved.
- Praise your child when he or she does well. Reward good behaviour and let your child know how proud he or she makes you when they behave well.
- Spend time with your children. Get to know them. Communicate with them. Try to find out what their concerns and problems are. Encourage them to speak freely with you.
- If you feel that parenting is challenging and that you cannot provide discipline for your child, please seek help.