Parenting has undergone much changes, in particular how to discipline our children. Is smacking a child no longer acceptable? Is it effective? What are the right ways to discipline our children? This article explores smacking, its impact on our children and on the parent-child relationship.
First Thing First: What is Smacking?
Among the many debates on smacking, one blurred line is what does smacking constitute? To be clear, smacking is hitting a child, using mild physical force to discipline and control the child’s behavior. It is not punching the child in the face or torturing the child, which are clear-cut illegal acts. However, smacking is unlikely to be effective in the long run with many wrong messages sent to the child. Here are 10 reasons why smacking is ineffective!
Why Smacking is Not Effective
1. Punishment is not Discipline
Smacking is more of a form of punishment rather than discipline. It is the child getting a physical consequence for doing something the adult disapprove rather than the child learning to do something which is right. Smacking often seems effective because it has the immediate shock impact and condition the child not to do the act in front of the parent.
2. Smacking does not help the Parent-Child Bond
Children who grow up well have been studied to come from a loving relationship with their parents. These parents are not lenient, child-centered parents but firm in their discipline and setting of boundaries. However, the effectiveness of their discipline (non-smacking) comes from a strong relationship with the child and it is in valuing this relationship that the child adopts the right behavior. Smacking goes against that as it does not contribute to the loving and trusting relationship.
3. Lower Emotional Intelligence
Increasing studies are linking children who are physically punished to higher rates of anxiety, aggression, isolation, depression and more prone to using physical violence on their spouse and child. These are behaviors associated with lower emotional intelligence.
4. Lower IQ
Studies also show that children who are subject to physical punishment have lower IQ and weaker vocabulary. It may be due to more force being used as a form of communication instead of talking to the children.
5. Easy to Over-Smack
If you search online for definition of smacking, you will find various interpretations. While we can agree that hitting the child’s hand with the adult’s hand is likely considered mild, some parents may view hitting the child with a belt as smacking. When does discipline become abuse? The line is difficult to draw and very easy to cross over, and prone to escalating physical force.
6. Physical Injury
It is possible that given the small frame of a child, the force of the smacking may harm a child especially when delivered to more vulnerable parts of the child. For instance, shaking a young child can cause trauma to the head.
7. Physical is not Conflict Resolution
Typically, there may exist a conflict or some form of tension from the child not complying with certain behavior before the smacking. When the smacking comes, the child sees the parent using physical punishment to resolve the conflict. For instance, does it mean that if someone does not do what you desire, you smack him?
8. Physical violence in Marriage
There are also associations noted with higher physical violence between spouses in families where physical punishment of children are accepted. Although the cause-and-effect is not clear, using physical force is not a desired form of communication in families.
9. Smacking does not teach Self-Control
It is impossible to be with the child for life and thus, much of parenting involves teaching the right values from young and the child being able to make the right decision for himself. Smacking does not steer the child in that direction, instead remove the chance for the child to internalize making that right decision as he is motivated by not getting punishment instead.
10. Smacking reinforces Negative Feelings
Smacking reinforces feelings of anger, revenge, humiliation, resentment and frustration and increases the likelihood that the child may be thinking of these bad feelings instead of processing why the behavior is not desired.
Instead of using smacking, parents can adopt other forms of discipline that build on love and trust in the parent-child relationship. Boundaries set should be easy to understand for the child, reasonable and consistent. Time-out can be used to allow the child to process his mistake and talking to the child on why a certain behavior is not approved. Positive reinforcement, such as praise for the effort, has been shown to be more effective. Parent modeling the desired behavior, for instance sharing, is a good way to encourage the child to adopt that behavior.