I’ve noticed that most parents who spank really don’t want to. They feel that they must spank their child in order to achieve proper behavior, teach a lesson or just in general, produce a good citizen. There seems to be a general frustration among many parents in simply not knowing what else to do when they have tried other methods that have failed.
For those of you looking for alternatives to spanking, I want to encourage you that it is absolutely possible to raise a very well-behaved child without resorting to physical punishment. It just takes a little extra effort, some research, some ingenuity and the faith that it’s possible.
Spanking, unfortunately, is a one-size fits all solution. Discipline is not, should not, and cannot work that way. Discipline is teaching. Teaching has to be tailored to the child and the lesson you wish to teach. So I can’t offer you one magical tool that will solve every discipline problem. But I can offer you a starting point to give you the confidence that spanking can be avoided.
Here are some alternative strategies for some common toddler behaviors that parents find challenging.
Remove the forbidden items and either place them out of sight or lock them up. Secure furniture to the wall so it cannot fall on the child and when you catch her climbing, simply take her back down. The less interesting the object is to climb, the less likely she will be to climb it. She is exploring. She wants to see what is at the top of whatever it is she is climbing. If there is nothing to find, she will stop.
Touching forbidden objects
Remove the objects. Again, the toddler is hard-wired at the brain level to learn about his environment through exploration. This includes touching. This is not the appropriate time in his life to teach him about forbidden objects. Just remove any items you don’t want him to have or touch. You will be freed from telling him to stop and he will be freed from the frustration of wondering why one item is okay and another is not.
You can also put up locking gates to secure rooms in the house or areas that are not safe for him. If you have an office or a basement that you can’t make entirely toddler-proof, just make it off-limits. He simply needs to explore. Let him explore areas that are safe for him and you won’t have to constantly intervene.
Finally, you can put locks on cabinets and drawers that you don’t want him accessing. This allows you peace of mind and allows him the freedom to learn as he was designed. Again, the object is to avoid disciplining him when it’s truly not necessary. Remove the problem and there won’t be a conflict.
This is one of the most common problem behaviors with toddlers. And there is a good reason for that. She doesn’t yet have the language to express her feelings. If your toddler is hitting because she is angry or frustrated, the simplest way to eliminate this behavior is to teach her the words she needs to express those feelings. All human beings need to learn emotional intelligence. This is a skill that is learned over time. As she learns to use words, she will no longer need to use her body to tell you how she feels.
When she hits, you can gently stop her and tell her,
“We don’t hit. We use our words.”
Then, give her words.
“Are you sad because I told you can’t play with your blocks right now? You look sad and angry.”
This is a process and it takes time. But it’s important. She needs to be able to associate her feelings with language. Walk her through the words that go with her feelings. She will not only learn the words but she will also learn that her parents understand and appreciate her feelings. This teaches her to express herself in a socially appropriate way while also nurturing the parent-child relationship.
Tantrums are another expression of emotion. The toddler is a young human with limited experience in the world and a limited vocabulary. A tantrum is simply a means to express internal emotions.
You can quickly halt a tantrum by using a method called “mirroring.” Get down on your toddler’s level and matching his tone, repeat back to him what he saying. Do this with empathy, not mockery.
For instance, if he is having a tantrum because you told him he cannot have a snack before dinner. Get down near him and say,
“You are really, really angry and sad that you cannot have a snack right now! You want a snack!”
Most toddlers will stop their tantrum right away when they realize that you understand what it’s about. At that point, you can repeat words that match the emotions. This is a teaching moment.
“You feel angry and sad that you can’t have a snack? I understand. I would feel upset, too. You can’t have a snack right now. But you can help me choose which plates we will use for dinner tonight. Would you like to use the red ones or the blue ones?”
This process acknowledges his feelings, teaches him the words to use, redirects his attention to something else and gives him a sense of control by offering a new, yet limited choice,
Parenting is a learning process, just like childhood.
No one method will work every time or for every child. But we have to keep trying. Spanking may seem like a quick fix but when it’s not necessary and generally makes everyone feel badly, why do it? Keep reaching out for solutions, keep trying different tactics and you will manage to teach your child. Every child deserves a peaceful childhood and every parent deserves the chance to give them one.
Have you struggled with finding alternatives to spanking? What are your best tips and tricks for challenging toddler behaviors?