For many parents, one of the most difficult aspects of child rearing is discipline. Modern society doesn’t make life any easier for a parent; if you allow your child to throw a fit in a store or restaurant, then people believe you are rude to others and can’t control your child. If you give your child a swat (or two) on the behind, then you can get funny stares or even a conversation with law enforcement.
For the most part, researchers in child behavior are of the opinion that spanking does not work, however the majority of parents do use spanking as one of their tools in the parental tool box and there is small but convincing group of researchers that believe spanking can be effective. So what is a conscientious, loving parent to do? Because neither my own four children nor my counseling background give me the ability to settle this debate in one column, I will offer the following: IF a parent is going to spank it should be rare, and only for the most serious offenses such as safety concerns. If you find yourself spanking very often, or after your kids are in elementary school, please take a parenting class to add to your parenting repertoire.
If you have been following this column, you know that I make a big deal out of the fact that life is a building process and it is very difficult to skip steps and still be successful. In few areas of life is this more apparent than in parenting. Taking the time to find a compatible, healthy, balanced spouse, engaging in premarital counseling, developing a strong marriage, going to pre-parenting classes, and last doing all you can to insure a healthy pregnancy, are all key steps to becoming a great parent to fantastic kids.
I would also suggest in the strongest terms you and your spouse have discussed your parenting philosophies in depth and often. Then age appropriately you sit your children down and chat with them often as well as to your expectations and goals for them. This should most definitely be a give and take, not a lecture. You want their buy-in.
Be empathetic to the fact that at the end of the day they are kids, trying very hard to learn the rules of life, negotiate relationships, get an education, and grow and mature. I believe I can make a powerful argument that kids have it much harder than adults. Besides, how often do we as adults make mistakes, even when we know better? In my case fairly often.
Next week I am going to provide some very specific suggestions to effectively discipline your children. Until then, you will find it impossible to spend too much time with them, show them too much affection, or love them too much.