Cracking The Whip: Why Your Discipline Doesn’t Work

February 7, 2011  |  

So what about that rod we spoke of earlier?  If you ask most parents, nothing deters bad behavior better than a good ole’ butt whipping.  While physically discouraging bad behavior may work some of the time, the truth is that when it is abused it begins to prove ineffective.  Spanking works best as a short term fix for young children because it instantly teaches them to associate pain with things that can compromise their safety.  If you want to teach your young child to not touch fire or stick objects in electrical sockets, then a quick slap to the hand will do that temporarily.  Adversely, severe punishment can traumatize a child and teach them that the only thing compromising their safety is you.  It can place a child in a position of constant fear, especially if they feel they lack the confidence to make good decisions.  Scientific evidence shows that when children are raised in a constant state of fear, they spend most of their time in the limbic section of the brain which is responsible for emotion and the “fight-or-flee” response that deals with stress.  This can lead to a hyper-sensitive and a highly alert child who spends less time in the cortex area of the brain which is responsible for learning and problem solving.  When children fear for their safety they respond emotionally to external stimuli instead of rationally.

Balance is an important part of healthy discipline.  Make sure that you are applauding the child’s good behavior as much as you chastise the bad.  Research shows that the best way to get children to behave well is to recognize when they actually do so and encourage them to continue. Also, have a variety of options when it comes to teaching about rules and proper conduct.  Don’t overdo any one type of discipline; anything can become unhealthy if it isn’t done in moderation.  Follow through and consistency are extremely important.  If you talk a good game, but fail to back it up it will only help your child improve their manipulation skills.  This is especially important when it comes to co-parenting; both parents should have a meeting of the minds or children can learn to play one against the other.

So the next time you find yourself about to flip out because your child misbehaves, consider that discussion and understanding of consequences may have more to do with the success you are then the belts and butt whippings.  To teach good choices you have to display that you are capable of making good choices.  Discipline is a learned behavior with many cultural influences. Most of us discipline according to the way we were raised not because it works or is something we agree with, but because it is the only way we know how.  It may take some trial and error; cut yourself some credit before cracking the whip.

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