As a parent, I used my hand as the implement of punishment for child misbehavior, but only with my first two children and not with my last two. In between I learned some alternative methods of more effective parenting.
Pain and fear are the least effective tools of teaching. What we teach children by physical punishment is that the solution to a problem is violence. The only real discipline is self-discipline, and nonviolent ways of teaching self-discipline have to be learned by parents first.
Children, like adults, learn better through cooperation and reward than through coercion and punishment. What children often want is parental attention — the feeling of importance that comes when we notice them, talk to them respectfully, and spend time with them.
Well-spanked children may be well-controlled, but the spanking that went too far is the most common form of physical child abuse. Our laws on child abuse, moreover, don’t recognize the hidden injuries done to the child’s personality that often do not heal.
Do we want hitting to be part of our parent-child relationship? If a lot of parental violence admittedly does hurt children, then is there a threshold below which lesser violence does not have a harmful effect?
Jim Stoffels, Richland