How to Include Spanking in Child Discipline

Four Parts:Spanking Only as a Last ResortEstablishing the RulesAllowing ConsequencesUsing Time Out with Preschoolers

Effective discipline is when a parent or caretaker is able to shape a child’s actions to create desirable behavior. The focus of any disciplinary action should be on creating order and promoting good moral character. Although there are many different ways to implement correction some strategies have been proven to be more effective than others. Therefore, t’s very important to educate yourself on how to most effectively discipline your children.

Part 1
Spanking Only as a Last Resort

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    Find a private area. Conducting this type of discipline in a private area preserves the dignity of your child and prevents unnecessary embarrassment. The focus should be on discipline and additional embarrassment for your child should be minimized.
    • Most experts are adamant that children should never be spanked under any circumstances. Nonetheless, some parents believe that spanking is the best way to get children to adhere to rules. Whatever your position is on spanking, it’s clear that spanking can have some negative consequences. Therefore this method of discipline should be used sparingly and only to prevent your child from engaging in dangerous activities.
    • Be sure that siblings and other children are not present during the spanking.
    • If a spanking occurs in a public place you should take your child to a private area away from onlookers.
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    Explain to your child why he/she is being spanked. It is important that your child understands why he is being disciplined so that he learns what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.[1] Try to use all discipline, including spankings, as a teaching opportunity and not just punishment.
    • Be sure to use clear age appropriate language that your child understands when you explain the consequence.
    • For example you could say, "Donnie, you were running through the house with the scissors and almost ran into your brother. I have already given you a warning about this behavior so now it is time for a spanking."
    • Whenever possible, give your a child a warning before proceeding to spanking. This will allow him/her the opportunity to adjust his behavior to avoid the spanking.
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    Allow younger children to lie across your lap with their bottom facing up. This position allows you to spank the child appropriately without causing injury. However, older children may stand up facing forward.
    • Make sure that your child is fully clothed during spankings. Spankings on bare skin can cause bruising and other avoidable injuries.
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    Pat your child on the backside. Be sure to use an open hand and use limited force. Pats should never leave any bruising or marks of any kind. The focus should be on teaching your child better behavior, not hurting him/her.
    • Objects should never be used to spank your child and you should limit spankings to approximately three to four pats on the backside.
    • Never spank your child when you are angry. Any spankings should be done when you are calm. This will help you avoid unintentional injury.
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    Allow your child to return to his normal routine. When the spanking concludes your child will likely be upset. Allow him/her the opportunity to calm down. Let him/her know that when he is ready that he can resume normal activity.
    • For example you could say, "I know that you are upset. When you are ready you can come back downstairs."

Part 2
Establishing the Rules

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    Decide on the family rules. Make sure that you and your spouse or any co-parents in the home are in agreement with the rules. It is very important everyone is on the same page with discipline so that your children are unable to split or divide parents and caretakers.
    • You can include your children in making some of the rules. It’s important that children feel like they are a part of family decisions. However, don’t be afraid to be firm about the important issues. For example, if your teenager needs to be home by 11pm don’t allow him/her to argue his way into a 2am curfew.
    • It is important to communicate your expectations regarding your child’s behavior with relatives, babysitters, and other caregivers outside of the home. If the caregiver is unable or unwilling to adhere to your behavioral expectations with your child, then you should consider putting your child in the care of someone whose parenting beliefs better align with yours.
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    Explain the rules to your children. After a rule is finalized, it’s very important to be clear about the expectations so that rules are clearly understood.[2] Make sure that the rules are explained when your children are calm and be sure to use language that they can easily understand. Trying to explain your expectations when your child is upset or tired will not really be helpful. You should be calm and well rested when having this discussion as well.
    • Make sure that the rules are concrete and specific so that there is no room for misinterpretation. For example, it’s better to tell your ten year old, “Be home by 7pm” instead of “Be home before it gets dark.”
    • Make sure that the rules are explained in advance. Try not to only discuss rules after one is broken. Instead, explain them in advance, even if it means repeating yourself. For instance, you could say, “We walk when we are at the pool” before arriving at the pool.
    • Try to word rules in an affirmative manner. For instance, you would want to say, “We walk when we are at the pool” rather than “Don’t run while at the pool.”
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    Enforce the rules consistently. Be consistent with the rules so that your children can clearly understand them. If you only enforce rules sporadically then you will confuse your children. This confusion will make it difficult for them to clearly understand your expectations and boundaries.[3] So, if the rule is that your child is home by 7pm then when he calls and asks if he can stay at a friend’s house later, remind him/her that the rule is that he is home by 7pm.
    • If there was no rule formerly in place about a particular behavior when it occurs, then it’s important to take time to establish the rule and clearly articulate it after the undesirable behavior occurs.
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    Avoid arguments with your children about the rules. No, this does not mean to give in to their every whim. Instead, it means to avoid going getting into no-win arguments with your child. If you have made the rules clear and he is still trying to argue his way into submission, it’s okay to stop the conversation. The rule is still valid but you have removed yourself from the argument.[4]
    • For example, if your preteen is screaming, “It’s not fair, Ben gets to stay outside until 10pm” you can just respond by saying, “I know he does.” Or maybe your teenager is still beating the drum about using the car to go out on a school night; you could say “What did I say?” or “I said no” without additional discussion.
    • This approach should only be used after you’ve already explained the rules to your child and he is still trying to get his way. It minimizes the power struggle and helps to make it clear that the rule stands.

Part 3
Allowing Consequences

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    Reinforce positive behavior. Decide what behaviors you want to see more of in your child and reward that behavior. Your child is not born knowing what he should or should not do. As his parent, it’s up to you to train him/her and mold his behavior. Therefore, it’s essential for you to identify what behaviors you want your child to develop and reinforce them.[5] Rewarding positive behavior with positive consequences is actually more effective than having to implement negative consequences for misbehavior.
    • Rewards for positive behavior should be consistent with the actual behavior. Verbal praise usually works well for most positive behavior whereas larger rewards should be reserved for more significant milestones. For example, straight As on a report card may warrant a celebratory dinner out.
    • You could also use a token system to reinforce positive behavior. A token system is when your child can earn points or small tokens for appropriate behavior throughout the week. At the end of the week, he can trade in the tokens or cash in the points for a larger reward.
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    Ignore annoying behaviors or habits that are not harmful to your child or others. Instead, respond to him/her when he is demonstrating the behavior that you want to see and you will see more of that. When you take away the attention from the negative behavior then he no longer has an audience. Often this process will reduce the undesirable behavior and increase desirable behavior.[6]
    • For example, if you want your child to stop throwing tantrums, do not respond to him/her when he begins to demonstrate tantrums. Instead, wait until he is calm and is engaging in appropriate behavior before you respond to his requests.
    • Only ignore behavior that poses no harm to your child or other people.
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    Identify the reason for any misbehavior. There will be times when your child acts out. Most acting out behavior is normal and developmentally appropriate. If you can figure out why your child is misbehaving, then you may be able to prevent future misconduct. Keep in mind that there are generally four reasons that a child may misbehave: to feel sense of power, because he feels inadequate, to get attention, or to get revenge.[7]
    • If your child is acting out because he feels powerless, then you may decide to give him/her other age appropriate opportunities to assert power. For example, he could start having more choice about what to wear to school or what to have for breakfast.
    • If your child is struggling with feelings of adequacy then perhaps you could help him/her identify his strengths and allow him/her to participate in activities that he does well in to build confidence.
    • Attention seeking behavior can be easily remedied by giving your child plenty of attention and praise when he is engaged in appropriate behavior. If you are giving him/her a lot of attention before he acts out, this will decrease negative attention seeking outbursts.
    • If your child is seeking revenge, sitting down and having an age appropriate conversation about how to better manage his anger is important. For example, you could say, “I know that you ae upset and I’m sorry that your brother made you mad. However, it is not okay to punch anyone. Instead, use your words and come talk to me or your dad about it.”
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    Decide if a natural consequence is appropriate. A natural consequence is the natural result of a child’s own behavior. These consequences are purely the result of his actions and are not inflicted upon him/her by the parent.[8] For example, the natural consequence that occurs when your son does not put his dirty uniform into the hamper is that his uniform is dirty on game day. If the natural consequence is appropriate, then allow your child to experience that consequence. Sometimes they are the best teachers.
    • Natural consequences should ONLY be used if the child is not in danger of being harmed. For example, you would not want to allow your toddler to touch a hot stove. The natural consequence would be that your child is burned and that is never appropriate.
    • After the natural consequence occurs, be sure to have a conversation with your child about why it happened. For example, you could say "Jon, you did not put your clothes in the hamper so now your uniform is not clean for today's game."
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    Decide on a logical consequence. If a natural consequence is not appropriate, then implementing a logical consequence is the next step. A logical consequence occurs as a result of a child’s behavior, however a parent or caregiver imposes it.[9] The most effective logical consequences should be related to the behavior. Also, the consequence should not be overly punitive nor should it be so minor that the child is unaffected.
    • Here’s a good example of a logical consequence: if you find that you keep telling your son not to lay his bike in the driveway then you could say, “Jon, when your bike is lying in the driveway, it prevents me from being able to pull into the yard after work. Worse, if I do not see it, I may accidentally run over it. The next time that I see your bike lying in the driveway, I will be putting it in the garage and you will not be able to ride on it for 2 days.” This is better than using a consequence that is unrelated to the behavior such as “You cannot watch TV for two days;” overly punitive such as “You can’t go to your friend’s house for a month;” or too minimal such as “You will have to come outside and move it when I beep the horn.”
    • Always use respect and avoid being judgmental when utilizing consequences. For example, it is better to say, “I know that you are excited about going on the trip with your friend. However, your room must be clean before you go. If the room is not clean then you will not be able to go;” rather than saying “You are so sloppy and I’m not your maid. Clean this room immediately or you’re not going anywhere.”
    • Allowing your child to help choose the consequence can be helpful. For example, you could say, “You were running in the house and broke the mirror. How are you going to replace it?” Or you could say “Jon, if you are going outside then you have to wear your play shoes. If you want to keep on your school shoes then you have to stay inside. The choice is up to you.”
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    Follow through on the consequences. Do not allow your child to negotiate out of the consequence. Once the rule is broken then the established consequence should be imposed immediately. If you have given your child a choice about what consequence to utilize, he should stay within the perimeters of the choices. It is very important to follow through on any consequences that you say that you are going to impose.

Part 4
Using Time Out with Preschoolers

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    Give your preschooler a warning. If your little one is struggling to maintain self-control, as most toddlers do from time to time, start by giving him/her a warning.[10] Make sure that the warning is clear and spoken in language that he is able to understand. You might want to say, “Jason, if you hit your friend again then you will take a timeout.”
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    Guide him/her to the timeout area. If the inappropriate behavior continues, then guide your toddler to a timeout area. An ideal timeout area is a quiet place that is free from distractions such as television, toys, and other children[11]
    • It might be helpful to have a predesignated timeout space in your home or other places that you visit frequently. This way you can avoid the added frustration of trying to figure out a good timeout spot.
    • Be sure that you tell your child why he is being taken to timeout. And be sure to criticize the behavior and not the child. For example, you might say, “It is not okay to hit Sam” rather than saying “You are a bad boy for hitting Sam.”
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    Require your child to stay in timeout for the designated time. Most experts agree that the most appropriate timeframe for time out is one minute per year of age.[12] So, your three year old would be in timeout for three minutes, your four year old would be in timeout for four minutes, etc.
    • Your child may resist staying in timeout and this is completely developmentally appropriate for a preschooler. If he refuses to stay put, firmly but gently hold him/her down by his shoulders. You may also try placing him/her on your lap and securely holding him/her there while he remains in timeout.
    • Some parents prefer to take a timeout away from their child instead when the child is resisting. This could simply mean telling your child that you are taking a timeout from him/her and then staying in the same room to monitor him/her but not responding to him/her.
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    Resume normal activity. Reintroduce your child back into a positive activity after the recommended time in timeout is complete. If he is still engaging in agitated or frustrated behavior, it may be helpful to give him additional time to cool down. Let him know that he is free to return to the other activities as soon as he stops crying or whatever behavior he is engaging in.


  • Be sure to set a good example by modeling appropriate behavior for your children. Kids learn best by watching their parents.
  • Never punish accidents. Children need to learn to be independent without fear of disapproval for occasional, inevitable mishaps.
  • Be sure to always explain to your child why a consequence is occurring or in the case of natural consequences, after the consequence occurred.
  • Don’t back down because you’re afraid of ruining your child’s fun. Remember, kids benefit from limits and appropriate consequences.
  • It is best to wait until your child is old enough to understand the concept of timeout before you begin to use it. Around three years old is a good age to start.[13] Additionally, timeout should only be used for serious infractions such as kicking, biting, hitting, etc.


  • There are laws that control or prohibit spanking in some countries.Spanking is illegal in Albania, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Kenya, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela. .
  • * Most experts agree that spanking is not a very helpful discipline method.[14] In fact, there is some evidence that suggests spanking promotes even more negative behavior and hinders brain development.[15] It should be used very sparingly and only to prevent situations that would otherwise result in danger or injury for the child.
  • Under section 43 of Canada's criminal code, spanking is restricted, but not illegal. Attempts to repeal section 43 have failed. It was most recently upheld in 2004. It is strongly recommended in Canada to avoid(1) spanking a child under age 24 months, (2) spanking a child age 12 or older, (3) spanking with any kind of implement such as a belt, switch or paddle - regardless of the age of the child, (4) spanking children you are not the parent of, and (5) spanking "bare bottom", regardless of the age of the child.[16]

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Categories: Behavioral Issues