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Seven Alternatives to Spanking Your Child that Actually Work

Seven Alternatives to Spanking Your Child that Actually Work

Spanking is a controversial subject. Some parents justify it as a form of effective discipline and some parents insist that it teaches children to feel disrespected and that it is okay to disrespect others.

This article is for those who are in the camp that does not believe the short-term effectiveness of spanking is worth the long-term unintended consequences. That is, that the fact the child will not disobey for the time being is not worth risking the child’s sense of self-respect and respect for others, damaging the child’s trust, heightening anxiety levels, teaching the child that it is okay to hit when angry, etc.

Here are seven alternatives to spanking that teach the child the lesson they need to learn, but don’t include the unintended consequences that accompany spanking:

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1. Natural consequences.

If Tommy keeps running away at the supermarket, secretly watch him from a hidden place until he panics that he is lost. If Tommy picked the flowers from the neighbor’s new garden, have him knock on the neighbor’s door and offer to do work to make up for the damages. If Tommy keeps throwing his truck, it is time to simply take the truck away. If Tommy is resisting his bedtime, tell him he can choose his bedtime, but tired or not, he has to get up at 7am with the rest of the family. If Tommy made a huge mess, make it his responsibility to clean it up.

2. Model and teach understanding and respect.

If the problem is disrespect or talking back, etc., then something is going on that spanking will make worse. If Tommy talks back, that’s the opportunity to sternly tell him that is not okay, and then drop the subject. Later, when he is calm, open a dialogue about what Tommy is really angry about, and teach and explain how he might express himself more respectfully.

If Tommy is acting out or having a meltdown, becoming angry will make it worse. Simply give him space and time to calm down without giving in to his demands. When he is calm, explain to him that it is not okay to act that way, but you are perfectly willing to listen to him express himself calmly. This method doesn’t escalate the child’s disrespect and doesn’t reinforce such behavior by providing positive or negative attention. Instead, it models understanding and respectful ways of communication.

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3. Calmly change the environment.

If Tommy keeps trying to jump down the stairs, put a gate on the stairs. If Tommy keeps sneaking cookies, put them in a place where he can’t access them. If Tommy keeps sneaking out of bed, consider a lock on the outside of the bedroom door.

4. Manage your own frustration or anger.

Most of the time when parents spank it is in order to expel their own anger and manage their own powerlessness, not to teach the kids anything. I think all parents have fallen into this trap of punishing a child for their own benefit as opposed to the benefit of the child. In these circumstances, it is good to practice delaying the consequence by walking away from the situation, and telling the child that you need a moment to think of a proper consequence.

5. Meet them where they’re at.

Sometimes, due to developmental factors, well-meaning kids continue to make mistakes. In these situations, it is best to surrender to the fact that the child is not developmentally able to “behave” at this point before providing opportunities to practice underdeveloped skills. Toddlers have limited language abilities, limited impulse control, limited abilities to reason, and limited abilities to control emotional responses. It is developmentally normal for older kids to assert themselves against the rules, to lie, and to have difficulty with frontal-lobe tasks such as planning, judgment, insight, and delaying gratification. Certain kids are more developmentally prone to seeking sensation, taking risks, hyperactivity, unintentional selective listening, difficulty with organization, or behavioral issues.

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Sometimes a kid who keeps tackling other kids is just sensation-seeking; a kid who looks like they are never listening may be legitimately unable to focus; a kid who is irritable and testy may simply be tired or hungry; a kid who is acting out or tuning out may be overstimulated and unable to cope with the noise or visuals around them. In these situations, it makes sense to acknowledge the reality of the child’s capabilities before holding them accountable for making gradual, realistic improvements.

6. Take away something good or add something bad.

If it is impossible to create a “natural consequence” (i.e., Tommy keeps running into the street, and you can’t exactly let him get hit by a car), then adding an arbitrary consequence is sometimes called for. My favorite examples of this type of consequence are removing a toy, removing a privilege, or giving a child chores.

7. Consult with the child.

Remember, the point of parenting is not to just get the child to listen to authority, but is to teach the child to be able to make good choices on his or her own so that he or she will be happy and successful. If a child engages in a certain behavior that is dangerous or inappropriate, ask them why they suppose that would or wouldn’t be a good idea. Ask them for suggestions for alternative behaviors that they could do instead in the future. Encourage the child to begin to think for themselves, but if the child is very young or just has a hard time providing ideas, offer up simple answers. This consultation process can happen whether or not there will be additional consequences or natural consequences to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Sis5769 via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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