Is It a Coincidence I’ve Never Spanked My Children and Yet They are Known for How Well Behaved They Are? “Misbehavior” is a Signal a Child is Hungry, Tired, Bored, Lonely and/or Sick

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel for Family Friendly Daddy Blog where I asked everyone for help, tongue-in-cheek, about what I should do since it is normal for parents to spank their children, yet I never have, explaining that my children are known for how well-behaved they are.

Even just this past week, my 7 year-old son was invited to go to Chili’s with another boy his age in our neighborhood. The first thing the boy’s dad told my wife and I when they returned from dinner was this:

“Your son is so well-behaved! I’m not used to that. Usually, I’m spending my time getting the boys to settle down. But I never had any issues with your son as the friend my son chose to take along! He’s great!”

And for both all of Kindergarten and 1st grade, whenever the teachers have given us feedback it’s always the same:

“He is a very well-behaved boy. And smart, too! Yes, I have to remind him not to talk to his friends during class at times, but he truly is a model student.”

As for my daughter, she just turned 2 years old, but she is also known for being a bright, yet mild-mannered little girl.

So here’s the question:

Is it just a coincidence that both of my children are known for their good behavior; and as their parents, my wife nor I have ever spanked them?

It raises the question of how necessary spanking actually is:

If what I’ve been doing as a parent has yielded a well balanced, well behaved children, what is the point of spanking them?

But if I’m not spanking my children in order to get them to behave, then what am I doing? Because, no, my kids were not just born with some magic gene where they automatically know how to behave.

And granted, they still require much teaching and direction regarding how to behave. But I provide that for them, instead of physically striking them. I accept they are still kids, too.

So I don’t freak out when my son leaves a note on the couch for his sister, with a picture of her with an “x” through it, saying, “go home away“.

The way I see it, it’s not a matter so much of disciplining my children. Instead, it’s about proactively managing their physical, social, and psychological needs.

It’s a simple 5 step program that I invented years ago. When a young child is perceived to be “misbehaving”, I recognize they don’t yet have the emotional intelligence to verbally communicate what they really need. I interpret that “misbehavior” as a predictable signal or warning to the parent that they are at least one of the following:

Hungry

Tired

Bored

Lonely

Sick

So as their parent, I am constantly prepared to feed my children, help them get to sleep, find a way for them to entertain themselves, socialize with them, or restore them to good health.

It’s true that my method isn’t the norm. Only 20% of parents worldwide are like me, in that they don’t spank their children.

I’m okay with not being normal. Especially if my kids are known for being well-behaved without having to hit them.

Here’s the question that I want to close with:

Is it a coincidence I’ve never spanked my children and yet they are known for how well behaved they are? Or am I on to something with my simple 5 step program?

Photo courtesy of April Milan Photography.

Instead of Spanking, Answer the 5 “Distress Calls” of Your Child “Misbehaving”: Tired, Hungry, Bored, Lonely, or Sick

I am writing this blog post for any open-minded Millennial parents who want a new perspective on how to discipline their children, without using physical force. This is not designed to change the minds of anyone who defends spanking; nor do I judge parents who believe in spanking- if I did, I’d be judging 80% of American parents!

After all, I’m the strange one when it comes to child discipline: I represent the 20%, the minority, of American parents in that I don’t spank my children.

“Well I was spanked as a child and I turned out alright-

I’ve never killed anyone and I’ve never been to prison.”

That, by the way, is the cliché line you’ll typically hear from other parents who spank their children. But “not being a murderer” and “never spent time in prison” are not good selling point in defense of spanking a child.

In fact, that concept only reinforces that spanking is counterproductive, or ineffective, at best:

Look at the people who actually end up in prison and who actually are murderers. While spanking a child doesn’t mean they’ll end up in prison or murder someone, documented research shows that “spanked children are more likely to break the law.”

But beyond that, I say this isn’t even a question of, “Well then how do I discipline my child without spanking them?”

No, that’s the wrong thing to be asking.

The right question is this: “How can I proactively prevent my child from misbehaving to begin with, or at least care for their actual needs instead of physically striking them when they do misbehave?”

I am basing my logic from Albert Einstein, who said this:

“Intellectuals solve problems. Geniuses prevent them.”

You’re the parent. Your job is to provide for your child’s needs, not hit them because they have those needs in the first place.

Here’s a reminder that you, the adult, are more much emotionally intelligent than your child, who is not necessarily capable or likely to communicate what is wrong. Instead, they “act out” to get attention from you, as the emotionally intelligent adult, to figure out which of the following issues they need you to solve.

I see the word “misbehave” as the wrong word anyway. Instead, the child is sending the parent a “warning signal” that they need the parent’s help.

It’s this simple. As the parent, your job is to constantly ask yourself this question:

“Is my child tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick?”

If the answer is yes to any of those 5 things, then here’s what you do:

You facilitate your child taking a nap, you feed your child, you help your child find a constructive activity to do, you pay them attention, or you provide medical assistance.

Imagine an adult hitting a child’s butt because that child is too emotionally unintelligent to verbally communicate with the parent that they are tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick.

Now compare that to my solution.

My son was the first child to be chosen by his Kindergarten teacher this year to as the “Student of the Month” in his class, as his teacher saw that he is not only well-behaved, but also well-balanced and involved in class. He’s also in the Advanced Reader group.

Additionally, at his “before care” school, both his teacher and the director have individually approached me to tell me the same thing:

“I have watched your son day after day. He is the most polite and helpful boy here. Whatever you’re doing as a parent, just know… it’s working.”

Only 20% of American parents don’t spank their children. And I am one of them.

The Only Time I Got Paddled (Spanked) in Public School: Gym Class, 8th Grade, May 1995

The Only Time I Got Paddled (Spanked) in Public School: Gym Class, 8th Grade, May 1995

While I’m definitely in the minority (20% of Americans) in that I don’t believe in spanking my own child as an efficient form of discipline, I think it has become a collectively weird thought for us as American parents to consider that not that long ago, students were still being spanked (with paddles!) in the public school system.

I managed to make it all the way through 13 years of public school (that includes Kindergarten, obviously) with only getting one paddling.

I had just turned 14; it was at the end of my 8th grade year, 20 years ago: May 1995.

It was a Friday at the end of gym class, during a “free play” day. A bunch of my friends were running towards the wall, then jumping as high as they could, to see how high they could press our feet on the wall.

The wall was built of concrete cinder blocks, so we could easily measure how high we jumped by the grout in between them, using the grout lines to measure the height of where our feet hit the wall.

Turns out, I jumped the highest that day. However, no one bothered to tell me that the gym coach had just warned the other guys that the next person he saw jumping on the wall would be paddled…

So the male gym coach took me to the locker room and paddled me 3 times with a wooden paddle, while the girls’ coach witnessed it.

I could sense she felt awkward being there; knowing I was “the good kid” who was playing the scapegoat that day.

When I emerged from the locker room, having just been hit by a wooden plank on my “bum”, all my friends were lined up waiting to give me a high five and cheer me on.

I suppose it was a perfect way to score some “cool points” just in time to prepare for high school.

The paddling was obviously not effective; especially since I wasn’t aware I was breaking the recently established rule until it was too late.

All it really did was make my friends think I was cool. It was like part of an initiation process, apparently.

Isn’t it bizarre to imagine that paddling (spanking) in the public schools was still going on in our lifetime?

These days, something like that could easily be perceived as harassment or abuse. Right?

5 Reasons My Young Child “Misbehaves”: Tired, Hungry, Bored, Lonely, or Sick

Louis C.K. spanking quote

I am of the 20% of the American population, the minority, who does not believe in spanking in order to discipline my child.

With that being said, I always give a disclaimer when I write about this: I have no interest in judging other parents for their decisions. If anything, today’s post has more to do with defending my own unusual parenting style.

My theory is that it’s easy and natural as a parent, especially a new parent (which I no longer am), to assume your child is “misbehaving” when really they are needing your attention as a parent, but are incapable of explicitly communicating that to you.

I simplify the symptoms into 5 simple categories. When my child “misbehaves,” he is really just tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick.

As his dad, it’s my responsibility to recognize these as symptoms of a greater issue, instead of problems themselves.

Otherwise, I could allow myself to believe my child is misbehaving simply because he is “being a brat right now”.

It comes down to emotional intelligence. I’m a 34 and a half year-old man. I am good at communicating how I feel and at understanding emotions.

However, my son is a month away from being 5 years old, so he’s got about 3 decades less of communication experience and emotional control than I do.

I feel it would be unfair to my child to physically strike him simply because he is tired, or hungry, or bored, or lonely, or sick; blaming him for “misbehaving” when really, he’s in need of my parental provision.

So instead, whenever he is “acting up”, I ask myself this simple question:

“Is my child tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick?”

There has yet to be an instance where at least one of those symptoms was not the answer.

I remind myself, that again, my son typically is not going to simply state what the problem is:

“Daddy, the reason I am crying and refusing to sit still is because I didn’t take a long enough nap today at Pre-K. Therefore, the best solution is to put me to bed tonight sooner than usual.”

If I myself am tired, I recognize that fact and make plans to try to sleep; like yesterday, I used my lunch break at work to sleep in my car.

If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m bored, I find a way to entertain myself. If I’m lonely, I engage someone in conversation. And if I’m not feeling well, I do something about it.

But imagine babies and young children, not being able to necessarily recognize those issues about themselves. They need their parents to recognize these issues and proactively handle, and even prevent, these from even happening.

With my 2nd child due to be born in April, I feel I will be better equipped with this knowledge than I was with my 1st child.

I feel I will be less frustrated because I will clearly understand that a newborn has no way, other than screaming and crying, that he or she is tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick; and is depending on me to be proactive enough to do something about it.

So instead of spanking my 4 year-old son, I follow these simple guidelines I learned from back when I was Parents.com’s official daddy blogger for those 3 years:

1. Ignore attention-seeking behavior.

2. Pay attention to good behavior.

3. Redirect your child.

4. Teach consequences that make sense.

5. Use time-outs for serious offenses.

What Makes a Person “a Bad Parent”? (Being Your Child’s Friend Instead of Their Parent, Setting No Expectations, Not Being Consistent)

We all recognize the phrase; so now I’m going to talk about it.

One of my favorite TV shows to zone out to is Wife Swap.  Yes, it’s extremely over-the-top, it’s purposely corny, and the families they find to be on the show are never the least bit normal.  But I guess what intrigues me most about the reality show is that typically by the end of the episode, there are mutual accusations from the parents to each other to the effect of: “You’re a horrible parent!”  Of course, the word “horrible” can be replaced by “lazy”, “tyrannical”, “unfit”, or any word that I can not quite make out because the censors have bleeped it out.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what makes a bad parent, whether it’s on the news, on a blog, or as a facebook comment.  It seems that in the likeness of someone “pulling the race card”, a trendy low-blow is for people to call each other a bad parent, sometimes finding a minor exception in another person’s otherwise “good parenting” record.  But sometimes it really is true- the person actually is a bad parent. So for the next venture for my accidental series What Makes a Person? , I asked for feedback from my facebook friends to try to help pinpoint what truly makes a person a bad parent. The actual feedback can be found underneath the picture of the Super Nanny at the very bottom of this post, but ultimately if I were to summarize it all, it amounts to this: “A bad parent is someone  who is not positively present in their child’s life, nor do they set expectations or follow through with discipline.”

Interestingly, most people didn’t bother mentioning child abuse, since that has nothing to do with parenting, but instead refers to a person who has psychological issues that need to be dealt with.  Obviously, abusing is not parenting. For most people I asked, it appears that when they think of “bad parenting”, what comes to mind is naturally “the lack of parenting”.  And a major part of defining the word “parenting” is discipline. So in order to explore the topic of bad parenting, it’s important for me to explore the evidently common occurrence of the lack of discipline in modern day parenting.

Recently I made a $10 bet with someone about how I will discipline my son when he is old enough to need it.  The bet is that I don’t have in it me to spank him, especially when he looks up at me with sad eyes and a quivering lip, knowing he deliberately disobeyed me.  But I do have it in me.  Call me old fashioned.  I take it as a compliment.

I have a large amount of experience in dealing with kids: I worked two summers as a camp counselor, two summers teaching English overseas in Thailand, and two years working in an after school program.  As much as I enjoyed it and found that I had a natural ability to mentor and teach children, when it came to disciplining students, this is what often went through my head, “Man, if that was my kid being disrespectful and acting out like that, they would be getting spanked by now.”

It’s becoming politically incorrect to spank your children; because of the extreme of actually abusing a child.  Super Nanny tries to lead by example in teaching us the new, trendy “time out” method.   So maybe I wasn’t raised politically correct because I was definitely spanked when I disobeyed as a kid; though not many times, because I got the point pretty quickly.  I’m old fashioned, so I take this verse in the Bible very seriously: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).

I would imagine there are people out there who would say I am a bad parent for endorsing spanking instead of the much cooler “time out” method.  So to some people, I am a bad parent.  To others, I am being a good and responsible parent by carrying out discipline in the home.  And this divide of opinion shows how truly complicated the term “bad parent” is.

Children crave structure; no doubt about it.  They want to know what is expected of them.  They need to see discipline (whether it’s spanking, time-out, being grounded, etc.) actually carried out, not just simply used as a threat.  I am a good communicator.  Therefore, I will clearly communicate behavioral expectations I have for my kids; just as I will also clearly communicate my love for them and encourage their creativity, hobbies, and playtime.  I definitely understand the difference between being a kid’s parent, not their friend.

The way my parents raised me was very effective.  They were, and still are, ideal parents.  I want to duplicate the way they raised me.  And though they may have thought they didn’t know what they were doing at the time, they did indeed know what they were doing; they just didn’t know that they knew.

When I am at restaurants and grocery stores, I am always extremely observant of families with children.  These days it’s quite normal for kids to make a scene by having a temper tantrum when they don’t get exactly what they want, yet I still find well-mannered families in public that appear to be having fun.  So there are still kids who can behave in public. That’s what I want.  I look forward to doing what it takes to lead a happy, old-fashioned family.

Ultimately, this isn’t about whether or not parents should spank their children or even about discipline; because personally I truly don’t care about the issue unless it involves my own kids.  (So I sure hope that doesn’t become the distracting focus here, with people having a blog comment war on the topic of spanking.) The question I am seeking to answer is simply “What makes a person ‘a bad parent’?  Here’s what I came up with, based on observation, common sense, and help from my facebook friends:

Rules in Being a Bad Parent

1. Do not set expectations for your child.

2. Do not follow through with discipline nor be consistent with your words and actions.

3. Do not praise your child, pay attention to them, or spend time with them.

4. Let them decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong; Don’t force your own religious beliefs on them or live your life consistent to your religion.

5. Don’t worry about embarrassing your kid, speaking condescendingly to them, or calling them names, especially in public.  Because they will get over it.

6. Make sure they always like you, because most importantly, your job is to be your child’s best friend.

I think that I’ve always been a dad, I just didn’t have a kid until now.  I crave to raise well-mannered kids that are cool.  And though I have technically zero experience in that field so far, I can’t wait to prove it can be done.  So, Super Nanny, I will not be needing your help.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Nick Shell It’s time to help me with another future website post. Answer me this: What makes a person “a bad parent”?

Wednesday at 6:52pm ·  ·  

    •  

      Jessica Y:  being irresponsible in front of your child. such as drinking, doing drugs, cussing out other people. basically setting a bad example fro your child. we all want our children to grow up better than we did so as a parent we should show them how to be better. 

      Wednesday at 7:02pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Lee Ann L: I am more strict, so I think letting your child run wild is one. In the store or wherever. Keep an eye AND a hand on your child when they are little. Maybe that is just annoying to me, but letting a wee one walk yards ahead of you were they could easily get into traffic is life threatening. Personally, I do not think Marc or his ex OR her husband were good parents. I don’t really want to get into it here, but being too lax is part of it. UGH! I can feel my stomach acids flowing. 

      Wednesday at 7:08pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Cyn Z:  Putting yourself before your kid(s). 

      Wednesday at 7:12pm ·  ·  2 people
    •  

      Hjordis C:  Child abuse and neglect! 

      Wednesday at 7:13pm · 
    •  

      Diana T: Just not accepting them for who they are. They’ll do things in their own time and on their own terms and love means accepting that no matter. 

      Wednesday at 7:15pm · 
    •  

      Crystal A:  I agree with Cyn and Hjordis. The two biggest things to me is putting yourself before your kids. Neglecting them and abusing them. They are a gift from God. We will raise our children to be the future. So we must take great care of them. 

      Wednesday at 7:16pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Ferne E: I think a “good parent” is a person that takes an active role in their child’s life. They celebrate their successes, but bolster their confidence when they fail. A good parent encourages their child to explore their strengths, but to work even harder to overcome their weaknesses. They teach their child to love others and love themselves. A good parent puts their child’s safety first above being their friend. I’d say a “bad” parent would do the exact opposite. 

      Wednesday at 7:17pm ·  ·  3 people
    •  

      Crystal A: I love Bens answer. We must take an active role!!! 

      Wednesday at 7:18pm · 
    •  

      Bethany S:  I agree with Jessica that being irresponsible is something that makes you a bad parent. I think that there are many other things also that can make you a bad parent. Abusing or neglecting your child can make you a bad parent. Allowing someone else to abuse a child can make you a bad parent. Not raising a child to know God should be considered in the “bad parent” role according to the Bible. We should be an example of God that shows them how to be more like Him. 

      Wednesday at 7:19pm · 
    •  

      Alissa K:  being selfish with time, money, anything. 

      Wednesday at 7:21pm · 
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      Krystin P: I agree with everything above. Another “bad parenting” habit is not being consistent. When your child doesn’t know where their boundaries are, they will be one of those out-of-control, trantrum-throwing, self-centered brats. And there is no one else to blame but the parent that did not train up the child right. 

      Wednesday at 7:22pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Laura K: i teach mine to NEVER judge others and they wont be judged. to love unconditionally and to put others first. i do admit that they get their way sometimes but they know when i mean business… its my way! 

      Wednesday at 7:44pm · 
    •  

      Steven H:  Some one who isnt willing to sacrifice everything for the better of their children. i.e. — “since we had little jane i NEVER get to go out clubbing with my girls and i hate it. oh i only got 10 dollars and i need cigarettes and baby formula…. maybe her bottle will last her till tomorrow i need my smokes.” honest things i heard people say when i bagged at foodland. 

      Wednesday at 7:49pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Sara H: Selfishness. You have to have a life and a relationship with your spouse outside of parenthood BUT you must always make sure your children are aware of how utterly important their happiness and sucess is to you. *dislaimer* I’m not a parent yet but I had great parents! 

      Wednesday at 8:00pm · 
    •  

      Laura T:  A bad parent is someone who is not there for the child either physically/mentally and emotionally……a parent who does not discipline their child or hold them accountable for their actions….a parent who does not have time for their child or puts their needs ahead of the child’s….you have to be a parent first and friend second…you ever watch “The Nanny”? OMG I can’t believe that parents let their kids get so out of control and they are ruling the roost. 

      Wednesday at 8:16pm · 
    •  

      Michelle C:
       

      Now, I can only speculate as I don’t have any children of my own yet, but my husband and I have decided that we are both too selfish with our own spare time that we are not ready for children. 

      This is actually kind of tricky because you do…See More

      Wednesday at 8:58pm · 
    •  

      Felisha H: A bad parent to me, which I don’t have children yet, but as I see it a bad parent is someone who is too much of a friend to their child instead of a leader. A good parent guides their children through life and brings them up to be good adults. 

      Wednesday at 9:16pm · 
    •  

      Jeremy D: A bad parent is one that dosen’t live a Godly life before their children and instruct them in the Word. Lord, help us all not to cause a child to stumble or be led astray. 

      Wednesday at 10:28pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Sarah I:  Since I am at the same place in parenthood as you, Nick, I can’t really say much from a parents point of view yet, but as a teacher I would say that a parent who fights all their kids’ battles for them rather than equipping them with the skills to deal with things on their own is not good. A parent who spends all of his or her time trying to shelter children from consequences is not incredibly healthy. 

      Thursday at 3:45am ·  ·  1 person