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Honour the Child

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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Today's Guest is Amanda Morgan, MS. 
Amanda is the author at Not Just Cute ~ a blog dedicated to "intentionally and mindfully supporting the development of the WHOLE child" (♥♥!) and her post today is a thoughtful and gentle consideration of the tools that we parents have~ and the ones we need to develop. 
Readers are encouraged to leave their own thoughtful and gentle responses in the comment section for this post.
Welcome, Amanda!

Imagine you’re about to start a new business. You’ve built a brand new fix-it shop in town and you’re about to open your doors. You will have to be ready to handle all kinds of problems: broken windows, leaky pipes, squeaky doors….If it’s a problem- you can fix it!

You’re about to start fielding phone calls from frantic home owners with all kinds of problems, and you need to make sure your tools are ready. So you check out your toolbox. Inside your toolbox is one, solitary hammer. It’s shiny and new, and handy in many different situations, but is it really enough to get you through every situation?

My husband is a pretty handy guy to have around. He has a toolbox that is so heavy, just hefting it from its spot on the shelf to the worksite could lead to a series of chiropractic appointments. He has hammers to be sure: sledge hammers, small hammers, rubber mallets. But he also has pliers and drills and 42,ooo different types of screwdrivers. He has a zip saw and a chalk line and even a tool designed for shoeing horses. Did I mention we don’t own any horses?

The point I’m trying to make is that you can’t approach every challenge with the same tool.

Tools of the Trade
Just as you can’t use a hammer for every household problem, you can’t approach every behavior challenge with the same technique. It’s like trying to get a screw to go in by hitting it with a hammer. So often you hear people say, “But it worked with ‘this child’ or in ‘this situation’, why doesn’t it work now?” Or you find people responding to every misbehavior with a time out. Consistent….sure. Effective…not necessarily. 
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<tr><td class=(tools) Robert S. Donovan

Just as you would need to be familiar with a variety of tools to be prepared to approach the assortment of home-repair jobs, you also need a wide selection of guidance tools at your disposal to effectively address the multiplicity of challenges that arise in child behavior.

I recently came across this question from a frustrated parent in the online forum, JustAsk at
Q: How to Discipline a Two Year Old Boy: I have a two year old son who does not listen. He hits his sister and pulls her hair. He gets angry and lashes out by hitting or throwing what ever object is closest to him. He continues to do everything he knows he is not supposed to it seems just to spite. I know he knows that it is wrong because right before he does something naughty he asks if it is a no no. I have tried time out and after two hours of constant struggle finally gave up. Swatting on the bum does not work either. He looks at me and says "ow" then proceeds to do whatever prompted the spankings. I have no idea what to do next.”

This sort of desperation is not uncommon among parents and teachers of very young children. The work can be grueling as they appear to knowingly press your buttons, over and over. They’re testing you for consistency, not because they’re bad, but because toddlers are little scientists and every experiment must be replicated!

What stood out to me in this example, however, was that this parent was working with only two tools – spanking and time outs. These are probably the two most common tools for dealing with child behavior, but not necessarily the most effective. It’s like trying to run your fix-it shop with two broken hammers.

Let’s talk briefly about spanking.

There are two over-arching premises in opposition to spanking. One is that it can be abusive, and the other is that it is simply bad practice in terms of its effectiveness in teaching children correct behavior.

I was spanked on occasion as a child, and I certainly don’t think I was abused. But I do know that some people believe they are “disciplining” their children when they resort to abusive tactics in the name of “spanking”. When does spanking become hitting? That line can often be so small it’s nearly invisible. I’m not one to say that spanking always constitutes abuse. But I will certainly say that it can.

In a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the danger of spanking’s diminishing returns is explained:

Although spanking may immediately reduce or stop an undesired behavior, its effectiveness decreases with subsequent use. The only way to maintain the initial effect of spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate into abuse. Thus, at best, spanking is only effective when used in selective infrequent situations.”

Spanking a child does nothing to teach good behavior. It doesn’t build problem-solving skills, or communication skills, or magically instill them with the ability to share.

But even if you are quite certain you would never spank out of anger, never cross that line into abuse, spanking is simply not good practice. While many will argue as to whether or not the practice is damaging, there is larger agreement that the practice is generally not effective. If you’re trying to teach good behavior, can that ever be accomplished by using broken tools?

Better Tools
Many people are skeptic when they hear a parent will not spank. They envision a passive, laissez faire parent with an unruly child as a result. But it isn’t a lack of spanking that causes poor behavior. It is the lack of tools. Spanking is a broken tool. But it’s a tool many people cling to because it’s the only one they have. Once parents become aware of a full assortment of tools they can use as a replacement to effectively guide child behavior in a positive way, they can be more confident as they lay their broken tools aside.

  • Excerpt from Parenting with Positive Guidance: Tools for Building Discipline from the Inside Out, by Amanda Morgan of the blog Not Just Cute. Readers of Beneath the Rowan Tree can get the ebook for only $7.50 by using the code “Rowan” at the checkout. Offer expires Friday, July 1st. Click here to get the ebook.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way of discussing the spanking issue. I occassionally spank but as she has said it is becoming less and less effective and time outs are almost impossible to use succesfully on my daughter. Looking forward to learning about the tools. Thanks for sharing!

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