Have you heard? Smacking is out. It’s a controversial topic these days and with summer being a season of BBQ’s and parties the different approaches to parenting have most likely been in your face, whether your like it or not.
So if smacking is out, what is in? And why should we say goodbye to this age-old tradition when generations before smacked and we are all perfect specimens of the human race?
You may have noted the facetious tone used here. Not least because there are many psychological problems that people face but also because the reason for smacking kids (i.e. “…because my parents smacked me and I turned out fine”) is not a compelling one.
The reason that smacking is out
Children will respond to smacking because it’s painful and aversive. It will stop them in their deviant tracks, IF you are next to them. If you are not next to them, they will have no reason to stop what they are doing. So herein lies the main point of the argument against smacking. If you want your child to learn to make decisions based on whether you are there to smack them or not, then keep smacking. But if you want your children to learn how to make wise decisions of their own accord, you will need to find another way. Simply put, ask yourself this. For a behaviour that you tend to smack your child for, do they continue doing it?
The other main argument has to do with the development of the child’s brain (or neurodevelopment). Think about the natural instinct of a child when they are hurt: run to their parent/caregiver for help. Now think of the natural instinct of a child when they are in pain: run away from the pain. So if a parent is the one who is inflicting pain on their child, what happens in the child’s brain? Essentially, you have two opposing neurological processes operating in unison, which creates a disorganised pattern in the brain. If this happens repeatedly, and to extreme levels of severity (think child abuse), these actions can permanently change the way that the brain develops, causing problems in a person’s ability to relate to others (i.e. a disorganised attachment style).
So there are two good reasons here: it can be problematic on a neurological level, and it isn’t very effective anyway, unless you want purely obedient (but unwise) kids. Now, if you have smacked your kids, don’t freak out. It is unlikely that you have created a disorganised attachment style. But you may be steering towards finding alternate solutions. However, a word of warning: the alternate solutions are not fool proof and are not necessarily easier.
Not smacking can require you to hold in your temper and persevere with planned approaches when all you really want to do it throttle your “three-nager”. Not smacking requires you to have other tools up your sleeve and Emotion Coaching is one that can help.
Alternate solution: Emotion Coaching
Emotion Coaching has been identified as a way of parenting that leads to more resilient, socially responsible, and academically capable kids. It is based on the notion of emotional intelligence and the premise that children aren’t born with the ability to manage their emotions; they often cannot even identify emotions! So as a parent, you can coach your children to identify and track their emotions. Only then will they be able to manage their emotions. When children develop this ability, they will make wiser choices overall, even if you are not around.
If you recognise that you smack your children and yell too often, you might like to reconsider your approach and find new solutions to dealing with the tough side of a child’s development.
Where can I learn more about this?
Dr Nick Marsden will be delivering an interactive presentation (via Facebook) about emotion coaching to explain the benefits and give you some useful tools for raising your children. Follow us on Facebook to ensure you don’t miss this excellent opportunity.
Alternately, register your interest to attend a seminar in person by sending us an email with “Emotion Coaching” in the subject line (firstname.lastname@example.org).