No matter how angry you are with your children, never raise your hand to teach a lesson. Spanking will not teach your child to behave better, but rather teach them that physical aggression is an acceptable response when they are angry.
But if your child is acting out, you have to discipline – so how?
First, remember, when you spank your child, it really boils down to you inflicting your anger and frustration, more than teaching a lesson.
Second, you know spanking will not make them think logically and reasonably.
Last, reacting physically against wrong behaviour is a shortcut to losing respect. You might gain your child’s attention for a short period, but you will lose his/her trust for a very long time.
I know children can be a handful, and they sure know how to push our buttons.
But think of your child as your coworker, especially at the moment you want to teach them something and you are upset at them. You are not going to smackdown your intern because he/she made a mistake that wiped out three hours’ worth of your work.
Your children do not have the developed brain of the intern – not to mention, they are physically small.
Instead of inflicting physical pain, show consequences – and be persistent. If you hit your brother, you do not get to play with your tablet for a day.
You might say it does not work and that is why you were pushed to the point of spanking your child.
What happens when a child gets spanked?
According to the article, “Harvard Researchers Find Spanking Can Harm Child Brain Development in Ways Similar to Severe Abuse” in The Harvard Crimson, children who had been spanked exhibited a higher level of brain activity in multiple regions of the prefrontal cortexes. These happen to be the same regions that show dysregulation in cases of severe abuse such as physical violence and sexual abuse.
The article also explained that spanking could have negative effects such as predisposing children to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression and promoting violent or aggressive behaviour.
How to forgive yourself for hitting your child
You made a mistake. But this mistake can carry long-term consequences that can cause bigger problems than you can even imagine right now. It has to be stopped now and never repeated again.
When you know you are about to lose it, maintain physical distance. Close your eyes and breathe. If that is not enough for you to calm yourself down, then walk away from your child.
You do not have to teach your child right at that moment – there is always another time. The more important thing is to not lose your temper in front of your child. Instead of teaching, you will be showing wrong behaviour that your children can easily imitate.
How to repair a relationship after spanking
Fortunately, children are more resilient than we think. If you happen to mistakenly use the wrong method to discipline your child, it is time to take the right path.
But first, you have to apologize sincerely and admit you were wrong, and promise it will never happen again. Your words have to be sincere and genuine to get through to your child.
As long as you stick to your word and do not repeat your mistake, and you pour your devotion into your children to assure them of your love, eventually, they will see your mistake as an isolated incident, and not a defining part of who you are as a parent.
Should I hit my child back?
If your child is physically aggressive, you are running out of solutions, and you are considering a physical punishment, that is a horrible idea. It is like pouring oil on an active fire.
Instead, teach him how to let out his anger without physically hurting anyone using this 3-step method.
1. Describe their position for them
Many times when children are overwhelmed by their emotions, they cannot process their feelings, so it is important for you to spell it out for them. By doing this, you let them know that you understand their feelings.
“I see you are angry/frustrated/mad.”
“Yes, it can be annoying.”
“I get that it is frustrating.”
You do not really have to be sympathetic here -you are simply saying out loud what you see from their actions. This helps children understand and think about their emotions.
2. Say what they want
It is like reading their minds for them. This technique actually helps them on many levels, and often even helps children calm down.
“You want to say your brother shouldn’t destroy your lego?”
“You mean daddy has to stop working for a few seconds and listen to you?”
“You cannot do your homework because your sister makes too much noise?”
3. Redirect your child to express their thoughts verbally
It might sound weird, but many children simply do not know how to express their needs, despite our belief they are easily capable of doing that.
“Could you say, “I’m mad because daddy doesn’t listen to me”?”
“Could you say, “I don’t like when Jenny practices her piano when I’m doing homework”?”
You might also have to incorporate some tools for your child, like letting him punch a pillow or a punching bag. Discuss his interests to find a few methods to let off steam, such as sports or dance.
I once watched a national champion cheerleading team consisting of students who had been labelled as violent and troubled. They expressed that physical performance was their best method of channelling built-up anger to achieve greater outcomes.
In the end, we all get emotionally drowned from time to time, being moms. But the most important thing about discipline is not punishing your child, but teaching right from wrong.
When we teach our children, we try our best not to let our emotions get ahead of us, because when we get too emotional, we tend not to make the best choices for our children or ourselves.
To wrap it up, in order to not punish your child by spanking:
First, when you feel your patience getting thinner by the second, remove yourself from your child until you can be yourself.
Second, if you want to teach your child a lesson, you do not have to do it when you’re upset – there is always another chance.
Third, disciplining a child is about teaching right from wrong, not punishment.
Lastly, you might have to repeat your words 1000 times to teach one right action. Lower your expectations – they are children, after all.