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.