Difficult Topics, Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#103 What’s the Hubbub Surrounding Spanking? (with Alison Smith)

The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out a strongly worded statement arguing against spanking because the AAP argues that spanking can harm kids. This is controversial because a lot of parents spank their kids as part of discipline and no one wants to hear that they are doing the wrong thing, especially when they feel like they don’t have a good alternative. So what’s the deal with spanking? And are there good alternatives?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out a strongly worded statement arguing against spanking because the AAP argues that spanking can harm kids.

What are the arguments in favor of spanking?

  • “I got spanked and I turned out fine.”
    • Years of research show that most people who were spanked usually aren’t “fine”.
      • Anecdotal evidence vs. research based evidence
        • Anecdotal evidence is a true story of one person in one particular set of circumstances in his/her own results.
        • Research takes lots of anecdotal evidence into account and the person’s particular circumstances, as well.
    • Is it really worth the risk?

What are the consequences of spanking?

  • It does do harm, but it often appears over time.
  • We have laws and ethical standards against hitting animals, spouses, strangers, so how are children biologically different that makes hitting them ok?
  • Any force, whether physical, emotional, etc., from a larger adult to a child has subtle and significant impacts.
  • The idea of spanking is to inflict at least temporary pain or discomfort.
    • How can we then say that it is not causing pain or discomfort?
  • When they are touched in a private area (the buttock) that they are supposed to protect; they feel shame and humiliation because they’ve had no choice in that.
    • This causes uncertainty and confusion about whether the buttock is a private part of the body.
    • Children can’t articulate this, but they know that something feels off, uncomfortable, or “icky.”
    • Under the age of approximately seven, children have not developed in the part of the brain that judges whether something they see or hear is true or not. So, if someone they love/respect and has a place of power does something to them and says it’s their fault, children take that in internally that they are bad and have done something wrong. They don’t even know how or why, but they feel uncomfortable, knows it has something to do with the private parts of their bodies, and that they must deserve it if this loving person is doing this to them.

Many parents believe that they have to spank their child. There are interventions that work just as well in the short term and are better for the long-term, without the risks associated with spanking.

What are a few good discipline techniques?

  • Allow them to feel like they can come for help without the fear of something bad or uncomfortable happening that may cause them to lose part of that connection they have with you. Then there’s an opportunity to work with your children to help them see the possible outcomes of all of their choices, which then builds the trust and connection between you and your children for next time so they will be more likely to come back to ask for guidance.
    • Keep a good, open communication with your child.
    • The decision making part of the brain does not fully develop until the child is 25-30 years old.
  • Teach the problem solving process and give them safe practice.  
  • Expect them to mess up.
    • There was a fear of messing up because of the thought of being in trouble. This kept us from taking healthy risks and from learning important things. It stifled us.
    • Our goal is to teach them in the moment how to make those right decisions.

But, there has to be consequences sometimes…

  • Consequences are a natural result of something.
  • Some consequences we don’t want them to experience.
  • It takes time and intentional effort.
    • We need new skills to teach us how to do this.

Where do parents go for help now that parenting has changed?

  • Parents can visit a
    • Parenting specialist
    • Therapist with specialized backgrounds in parenting/family dynamics, relationships, problem solving
    • Parenting consultant/coach/educator.
      • They focus on prevention. They consider relationship as much as possible.
  • Follow the links below.

What constitutes spanking? I have a friend who gives her son just a little tap when he’s messing up and she argues that he immediately stops and corrects his behavior. She argues that this is not spanking.

  • I would argue that it is in fact a form of spanking – she is hitting her child and that is physical punishment. And I think that teaches the child that hitting is okay – because his mom is modeling that behavior for him.
  • It teaches that might makes right.
    • Whomever has the size, strength, or power, and if they are motivated enough then they can use their size, strength, or power and it’s ok.
  • It confuses the child on what’s private, what their in charge of, and what someone in power can do.

Summary of how spanking is harmful:

  • There’s more than physical harm. It affects the way they think, the way they internalize the mistakes that they’re making, and it has a lasting impact.
    • Parenting is the most important relationship.
    • People can heal, but it takes more work to counteract those early years.
  • Being spanked has been linked to lower self-esteem, depression, masochism, and psychological distress.
    • It has an emotional affect.
  • It impacts the relationship between parents and children when power is taken out of the equation. The bond and trust we have is important to protect.

References & Resources:

Alison Smith Parent Coach

A Gift from Alison Smith: The Gentle Parenting Manifesto from

The Happy Student episodes on discipline:

“The General Rules of Discipline”

“Types of Discipline”

“Giving Logical Consequences”

“What To Do When Your Kid ‘Talks Back’ with Alison Smith”

“The Bizarre Time-Out Controversy”

“Lighthouse Parenting”

Debra L. Stang has put together some excellent arguments against spanking, using both research and common myths in favour of physical punishment. I shared a number of points from her article. https://nospank.net/stang2.htm

GENERAL SPANKING RESEARCH LINKS

https://stopspanking.org/research/

https://stopspanking.org/2013/06/20/what-researchers-say-about-spanking/

Hard-hitting essay on the evolution of society’s view of what constitutes violence.

https://medium.com/@tommycrow/parents-who-spank-should-be-worried

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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tips on disciplining children
Difficult Topics, Discipline, Parent-Child Communication

Just a Little “Bop”- A Conversation On Disciplining Your Children

Don't Hit Your Kids

So recently a mom was telling me that when her son does something she doesn’t like, she just gives him “a little bop” on the hand. She doesn’t consider this spanking. And she believes that it has really helped him learn what he can and cannot do.

March at Fireborn was really dedicated to discipline and parenting, so just to quickly review the point of discipline: it’s to help kids learn how to self-discipline. Discipline teaches kids how they should behave in the future.

So if you “bop” your child every time he messes up, what does he learn? He does learn to stop doing things that you bop him for. He also learns that when someone does something you don’t like, you should “bop” them.

[bctt tweet=”Bopping like this encourages kids to do as their parents say, but it doesn’t teach them how to communicate with others nor does it teach them why what they are doing is wrong.” username=”@SisuFireborn”]

And that’s a problem because people do not get to go around bopping other people when they do things they don’t like.

Bopping like this encourages kids to do as their parents say, but it doesn’t teach them how to communicate with others nor does it teach them why what they are doing is wrong.

Kids mimic their parents’ behavior. So if you hit or bop your kid, they will hit and bop others. And friends don’t like to get bopped, so it could also hurt your child’s social circle.

So perhaps it is not technically spanking, but it has a very similar outcome: kids who are more likely to act aggressively with other kids. And I don’t think that’s what anyone wants for their kids.

Listen to the podcasts here…

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what to do when kids talk back
Difficult Topics, Discipline, The Happy Student Podcast

Episode #62: What To Do When Your Kid “Talks Back” with Alison Smith

Parent Coach Alison Smith joins us to talk about what to do when your child “talks back”. Alison’s gentle approach allows parents to parent with compassion and boundaries. She teaches us that when kids talk back it’s a surprisingly great opportunity to teach kids how to communicate well!

what to do when kids talk back

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“Parenting is a tough job on any given day, but a lot has changed in the last five, ten, even fifteen years not just in our challenges as parents, but also in what we know about children, brain development, and optimal relationships. So, the way that we parent changed more in the last few years than it ever has.” -Alison

Her definition of talking back involves:

  • a way to show disagreement
  • the tone
  • the sass/disrespect
  • an attempt to express their needs and wants in a way that doesn’t allow discussion

Why would kids talk back?

  • In some ways it’s a good thing because it’s a way the child can express how he/she is feeling (open communication and respect).
    • When they get to their teens you want to have this open relationship so that your child can come to you when things are difficult.
  • When parents were younger they did not have this sort of open communication with their parents so they become defensive in that they question why their child is “talking back” to them.
    • “Don’t they not realize that I’m the parent here?”
  • Look at it as a cry for help (if it’s not usual).
    • Be calm and ready to help.

What should parents say when their child talks back?

Options:

  1. Walk away, ignore it, and hope it doesn’t happen again.
  2. Fight fire with fire (a power struggle).
    • Regardless who wins, it’s not going to help anyone.
    • Can affect the rest of the family too.
  3. A pause (by the parent).
    • Get curious about it.
      • What’s going on with my child?-think of why your child may be acting like this.
    • Ask your child what is going on.
      • She may say I don’t want to talk about it right now and that’s OK.
        • But it’s not getting away with it. Address it at a point when it will have a greater chance of an impact, not when she’s ready to fight and not when you are hurt
        • By bringing it up you are acknowledging that it happened and that it’s not ok
          • “What’s up honey, this isn’t like you?”

Option 3 has the best outcomes.

 

“Connect then direct” -Alison

  • Connect
    • Get back on track with the relationship to make sure that they are ready to listen.
    • See from their point of view.
  • Direct
    • Have a conversation.

What do you do if your child is always “like this?”

  • Repair the relationship!!
    • Go back to when they were a baby/toddler: invited them in to you, create that safe space to let out emotions, talk about how the world works and what we do when faced with a challenge, then ask what they need.
    • “Offer that invitation as opposed to a demand because none of us likes to be bossed around and demanded.” -Alison
    • Look at prevention.
    • Have some tough, honest conversations with ourselves.
    • Extend that olive branch over and over again.

The Gentle Parenting Manifesto:

  • Skills that we need to manage our complex world
    • Ex: How do manage our emotions, how do we make amends and apologize?
  • Where are we at in this relationship?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you choose to handle your children when they talk back.

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Discipline, The Happy Student Podcast

Episode #60: Types of Discipline

Last week we talked about some general tips for discipline. And those general tips, like remaining calm and staying focused on why the behavior was bad and not giving the impression that you think the child is bad, are really good things that you need to do. The problem with that advice is that it’s so general and I like to be really specific so it’s easy for you to bring what you hear here into your real life. So today we are going to talk about a few different ways you can discipline your kids.

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Logical consequences:

  • Discipline needs to make sense and be fair.
  • Consequences need to make sense based on the misbehavior to show that that behavior is not okay.
  • When you pair logical consequences with the general discipline guideline of providing an explanation of why the behavior is not okay, you help your child learn to make better decisions next time.

Loss of privileges:

  • These happen when your child shows they are not responsible to have that privilege.
    • To regain that privilege the child has to show that they are responsible.
  • This teaches them how to make responsible decisions when you aren’t there.

Example of both a logical consequence and a loss of privilege:

For younger kids, perhaps a privilege is 15 minutes of play before bedtime. So, if you brush your teeth and put your pajamas on right when your parent tells you to, then you get the entire 15 minutes of playtime with your parent. But for every minute you whine, you lose a minute of playtime.

Ignoring attention-seeking behavior (ex: tantrums or interrupting):

  • Sometimes tantrums are used to manipulate you into getting what they want and that is when you want to ignore tantrums.
  • Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, authors of The Whole-Brain Child, point out that sometimes your child is throwing a tantrum because they have so many emotions and they don’t know how to control it and they need your help.
  • You can redirect tantrums to help teach her to self-soothe and again to make better decisions.

Timeouts:

Guidelines for timeouts:

  • First, verbalize the reason. “No hitting. Hitting hurts.”
  • Then give a warning, if possible.
  • If your child does not stop, she goes to a boring, time out spot to think about what she did.
  • After a just a few minutes of thinking, you come and have a brief discussion with her about why what happened was wrong.
  • Once it’s over, move on.

Getting curious:

  • It’s about communicating an observation about your child and figuring out why she is feeling so mad, angry, or frustrated.
  • Then, find a more appropriate solution to their feelings that lead to the inappropriate behavior.
  • This makes discipline a teachable moment.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you handle your day to day tasks and everyday to-do lists!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Discipline, The Happy Student Podcast

Episode #59: The General Rules of Discipline

Working to make this enormous topic of discipline manageable, Fireborn continues its series on discipline by talking about the general rules (guidelines for parents) of discipline: Remain calm; Provide an explanation; Give a warning; The consequence needs to make sense and be fair; Follow through; Return to your warm relationship; and Always focus on the behavior.

The General Rules of Discipline

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General rules of thumb when it comes to disciplining your kids:

  1. Remain calm and avoid yelling.
    • Show them how to be calm and how to respond to stressful situations without yelling.
    • If you catch yourself yelling you could say, “I’m sorry I’m yelling. We will talk about this later when I am calm.”
      • This shows your kids enormous self-awareness and models really good behavior for them.
      • It’s ok to stop yourself… as psychologist Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman says, “Would you keep falling down the stairs because you’ve already fallen down a couple? No way! You would stop yourself!”
  1. Provide an explanation of why the behavior is not ok
    • If they don’t know why something is wrong, they won’t have much motivation to change their behavior in the future when you aren’t there.
  1. Give a warning and time to process if you can.
    • You can incorporate an explanation in this warning if possible.
  1. Any punishment or consequence needs to make sense and be fair.
    • There should be a clear connection between what your child did and the consequence or loss of privilege.
    • You want to avoid providing overly harsh punishments because then the child does not think about what they did wrong, but rather how unfair the punishment is.
  1. Follow through.
    • If you don’t follow through then the child will learn that it doesn’t matter what your parents say, you can do what you want without consequences.
    • It’s ok to change your consequence if you think it is too harsh.
      • This will show your child that you are fair and reasonable and that changing our minds is okay.
  1. After disciplining your child, return to your loving, warm relationship – do not keep punishing your child by being angry.
    1. If you remain upset after discipline is over, your child will start to think that you don’t approve of him and that is hugely problematic.
  1. Discipline is always about the behavior, and never about the child being bad.
    1. When disciplining, we never want to attack our child’s self-esteem or self-worth.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you handle your day to day tasks and everyday to-do lists!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Discipline, The Happy Student Podcast

Episode #58: The Purpose of Discipline

Discipline is a pretty overwhelming topic. It can also be pretty overwhelming when you are trying to discipline your kids and follow all of the advice! How do you provide logical consequences? How do you stop bad behavior? What’s the deal with timeouts? What does effective discipline actually look like? There’s a lot to think about and that can make discipline in the moment very hard! In a series on discipline, Fireborn will be breaking down this enormous topic – starting with “The Purpose of Discipline”.

The Purpose of Discipline

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Consequences

The different types:

  • Often parents threaten really serious consequences to try to deter their child from misbehaving. However, when the child goes ahead and carries out this serious offense, the parents can’t actually follow through on the threatened consequence.
    • This teaches children “I can do what I want no matter what my parents threaten.”
    • Or, when parents do follow through with a major consequence, the child focuses on how unfair the punishment is rather than learning from their mistake.
  • Or parents do not provide a consequence (and are overly permissive).
    • In this case, the child will not learn how to behave and how to make good decisions.

Discipline

  • The purpose of discipline is to teach kids how to self-discipline, that way they will make good, moral decisions when you aren’t there.
  • Discipline should be a teachable moment not a time to exert control.
    • So discipline isn’t about punishment. It’s about teaching your kids to do the right thing.
  • Kids whose parents discipline in this learning to self-discipline way have better outcomes. They are more socially adept, they are less likely to be bullies or be bullied, and they also tend to do better in school academically!
  • Remember the goal for discipline and outcomes when you are thinking about what consequence makes sense.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you handle disciplining your children and what works best for you?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Lecture
Discipline, Parent-Child Communication

Parent Child Communication: The Lecture Misstep

The nice thing about being an adult is that, mostly, we have figured out right from wrong, what do to in difficult times, and how to think through problems to find the correct solution. We have learned from so many mistakes over our lifetimes that we are experts when it comes to seeing when our children are making a mistake and how that mistake is going to play out. Therefore, when our children are about to make a mistake, we see the consequences before they can and we take action, typically in the form of a lecture. What a great parent, we may think, I’m teaching my child to not make the same mistakes I did.

However, if you think that, chances are you are wrong because chances are good that your child will react defensively to your attack on her autonomy/decision-making ability and she will go ahead with the planned mistake (perhaps even knowing you were right!). Why? Because she wants to feel in control of herself.

And who wouldn’t want to feel that way? Do you want your mom telling you that you are making a huge mistake when you quit your job? Have a baby? Eat another piece of cake? Have an argument with your sibling? No. Because you are an adult and you have autonomy.

Kids want to feel that way too! However, it is much harder for them to feel that way because so much is out of their control. You get to tell them whether or not they can have a playdate when it is time for dinner, when it is time for bed, how much television they can watch, and the list goes on. Therefore, when you lecture, when you tell them the consequences of their mistakes before they have had the opportunity to think the situation through, they may still go ahead with their plan in an effort to exert some much-needed autonomy.

Let’s say it is Tuesday morning. Yesterday was a hard day for your son – Carl was mean to him on the playground. At breakfast, this morning your (very sweet and kind) son interrupts the normal programming and proclaims that he is going to hit Carl today to teach him not to be such a meanie anymore.

Immediately the following thoughts go through your head (in an absolute flash because you are such a pro at this): If you hit Carl on the playground, he is not going to learn to be nice to you. He’s probably going to be mean to you. You are both such good friends. That could be a tragic end to the friendship. You should always try to use your words first. Have a conversation with Carl. Maybe Carl was having a bad day too and will say sorry today and if you hit him first, he won’t have a chance to apologize. If you hit Carl, you will get in trouble. You will have detention. You will not be able to go to recess. Your teachers will look at you with greater suspicion in the future – you will have lost some of your goodwill with the teachers! You might start getting into more fights and get into more and more trouble…. You could probably keep this up for hours.

Therefore, you react to your son’s declaration with a horrified look on your face (giving away your disagreement with the idea) and say, “Oh no! You can’t do that!” And you launch into a lecture on exactly why he “can’t” do that. To prove you wrong (that he, in fact, can punch Carl), your sweet son goes ahead, punches Carl, and is denied recess for the rest of the week.

To avoid your child making this mistake, you need to do three things:

  1. React calmly. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg recommends “radical calmness”. Your child is looking for a reaction out of you. That is why he said he was going to hit someone. If he did not want your reaction, he would not have told you. If you do not react with that horrified look, but instead react calmly without judgment, your child will be off-guard with defenses lowered and will be ready to talk with you.
  2. Do not lecture. Who likes to be lectured? No one. What is your child actually thinking when you lecture her? Probably something like, “I get it. I get it. Goodness gracious.” But actually probably using stronger language than that.
  3. Ask questions to help him figure out the consequences of each potential action. Questions need to be step-by-step.

So your son says, “I’m going to hit Carl”.

You say: “Oh. Okay. Well, what do you think will happen when you hit Carl today?”

Your son definitely was not expecting that…

He says, “I don’t know.”

You say, “Well, he might hit you back. What happens then?”

He says, “I’ll hit him some more!”

You say, “Okay. How will that make you feel?”

He says, “That will probably hurt.”

You say, “Yeah, that probably will hurt. And then when you are done fighting, what will the teachers do?”

He says, “Probably give us a detention and no recess.”

You say, “Yeah and that would be upsetting.”

He says, “Yeah… but I just won’t let him hit me back!”

You say, “Okay. You could try that. So you will hit him and just run away?”

He says, “Yeah, I will run away.”

You say, “What if he chases you?”

He says, “I am faster.”

You say, “Hmmm… okay. But if you are faster and you hit him, he might go tell the teacher.”

He says, “Yeah… and then I’d have detention again…”

You say, “Yeah… Why do you want to hit Carl anyway?”

He says, “He was mean to me yesterday on the playground! He would not let me play with the football!”

You say, “I see. He hurt your feelings when he would not let you play with the football. What if you said that to him?”

He says, “Hmmm… I do not know. Maybe he would say sorry.”

You say, “Yeah… maybe he would say sorry…”

Go through each scenario with your child, asking questions, so that he comes to the conclusion that the best course of action is talking with Carl, not hitting him. This gives your child autonomy and helps him to think through the consequences of his actions without making the mistake!


Resources:

Ginsburg, K. (2015). Building resilience: Preparing children and adolescents to THRIVE. Learning and the Brain Conference: Boston.