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.

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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.

My Original 5 Point Checklist for Parents When Their Child “Misbehaves”

My Original 5 Point Checklist for Parents When Their Child “Misbehaves”

I had every reason to be an advocate of spanking my child.

After all, I was raised Southern. (“Nuff said.”)

Not to mention, I was also raised Southern Baptist. And that means that a particular Bible verse got more than its fair share of attention; Proverbs 13:24:

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

Hence, the popular phrase, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

However, I now translate that verse as, “It’s better to physically strike your child with a wooden object than it is to refrain from disciplining them at all.”

It appears to me that one extreme is being compared to another; an “either/or” situation.

I am able to comprehend that disciplining my child and spanking him can be two separate entities.

Assuming that verse in Proverbs explicitly endorses spanking, in my opinion, would make hypocrites of us:

I’ve yet to meet a Christian who gouged out their own eye because of temptation to look at something that would cause them to do wrong, when Jesus said this in Matthew 18:9…

“And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter (eternal) life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Or their right hand either (Matthew 5:30):

“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose part of your body than for whole body to go into hell.”

In other words, address the actual issue initially, that way you don’t end up with a worse outcome.

Yes, it’s true: I am an official advocate of disciplining my child without spanking him.

But obviously, between how I was brought up and my son currently being 5 years old, something fundamentally intervened in regards to how I think.

What caused such an abrupt conversion in my life?

My wife.

Like me, and like nearly all of us parents who are Eighties Children, she was spanked as a child too.

We had always planned to spank our son, too. The deal was, that I would be the one to actually spank him. And that was it.

Never was the issue that “I simply just didn’t have it in me” to spank him. Because like most of us, I had reached the point of being “fed up” enough to do it.

Believe me, I had it in me…

But yet, I never have spanked my son; nor has anyone else.

And if you’ve met him, you know how bright, intelligent, creative, funny, and well-behaved he is. Is he simply the exception to the rule? Is it just because he’s the first born and therefore more eager to please?

I’m sure at this point, any skeptics out there are tempted to say, “You lucked out with your first kid. Well you just wait until your little girl is born in a few months. She’ll be a whole different story!”

To that, I could only say, try me. Let’s revisit that question in a few years, because you better believe I will on my end.

My official moment of conversion occurred during our first trip as a family to Louisville, Kentucky; to visit the zoo, when our son was around 2 years old.

It’s just about a 2 and half hour drive from where we live in the Nashville area. So we decided just to leave straight after work on that Friday.

What a miserable road trip there! No matter what we did as parents, he screamed and cried. I had to roll down the windows just to drown him out.

He finally fell asleep in the car, after about 10 PM.

But then the next morning, as my wife was buying food supplies for us at the local Whole Foods, my son and I waited in the car for about 20 minutes. He was screaming and “pitching a fit” the whole time.

While being trapped in our little car with him, I had reached my limit. I had officially decided that I would spank him for the first time.

Louis CK Spanking

Every cliché redneck phrase was going through my head:

“I’m about to show that boy who’s boss! He’s past due for some good ole fashioned discipline. It’s about time for me to put him over my knee!”

But like any good husband should do, I asked my wife’s permission first.

And she gave me the red light.

She simply pointed out that he hadn’t gotten good rest the night before, as we as the parents had thrown his sleep schedule off the night before, since we were driving when he would normally be put to bed.

From that day, until last week, I had accidentally been formulating a 5 point checklist to decide why my child is “misbehaving.”

I shared it officially for the first time this week. I came up with this alone; I did not extract it from any other website nor did I hear it first from any other person. This is my original work and let the time stamp of today’s blog post prove that true.

Hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick.

They need to know when to eat (hungry), when to sleep (tired), when to play (bored), when to engage in conversation (lonely), or when they are physically incapable of feeling well (sick).

These are the times when your child is simply more prone to have restlessly energy and/or be extremely sensitive to the slightest thing, causing them to have a meltdown.

While I alone did invent that check list, I didn’t invent the following 5 step check list for alternatives to spanking. I learned these while serving as Parents.com’s official daddy blog.

Ignore attention-seeking behavior; pay attention to good behavior; redirect your child; teach consequences that make sense; and use time-outs for serious offenses.

This is a lesson I am still learning/reminding myself of.

My wife and I have officially come to the realization that whenever we visit my parents for the weekend, we have to leave their house before 11:30 AM on Sunday; we can’t wait until after lunch.

Our son’s body starts shutting down by that time, as he is needing a nap. It’s not fair to him to expect him to “behave” when he’s having to wait later to eat and sleep later just so we can have “more quality time as a family.”

The exact opposite happens instead: He has a meltdown, and therefore, that extra time as a family is not quality time.

He is simply more prone to have restlessly energy and/or be extremely sensitive to the slightest thing, causing him to have a meltdown.

Instead, we need to leave earlier so that he doesn’t slip into that mindset, and therefore, we as the parents don’t get upset either.

I am so grateful I married such a level-headed woman.

Otherwise, I would be hitting my kid ultimately because as a parent, I wasn’t proactive to provide for his needs ahead of time; regarding him being hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick.

What about for the parent who read this and comments, “Well I have always spanked my kid, and they too, are very well behaved.”

I would respond, “That raises the question: If my child is well behaved without spanking, and yours is well behaved with spanking, doesn’t that prove that spanking is unnecessary? If the two methods are simply equally effective, why physically strike your child when there are equally effective alternatives (when applied proactively and consistently by the parent)?”

It is my belief that a lot of people assume the minority of us who don’t spank their children (about 20% of the American population) actually don’t discipline them at all. When in fact, I have a very proactive and detailed discipline system in place.

3 Bits of Parenting Advice I Wish I Had Received Beforehand: Cry It Out Method, No Fruit Juice, Discipline without Spanking

Louis CK Spanking

When you are expecting your first child, by default you are bombarded by people giving you what they think is good advice, when in reality, it’s just nonsense:

“Make sure you get plenty of sleep now, because once the baby arrives,

you’ll be wishing you had more of it!”

Lame.

That doesn’t even make sense. Even if you sleep 12 hours every day leading up to when that baby arrives, that won’t change the fact you still will be deprived of sleep once the baby is born.

It’s not like the outdated concept of “rollover minutes” on your flip phone from 2003.

Now that my second child is due in April, I’m collecting my thoughts on how to prevent making the mistakes I did with my 1st child.

Last week one of my friends I grew up with, whose first child is due a week before my second child, asked me over Facebook if I had any tips for him.

And that, of course, inspired this blog post today.

I should give this disclaimer, though: All 3 of my tips today are unpopular with the majority.

However, I know that these three tips have led to me being a more efficient parent personally and have led to the making of a good kid.

Seriously, my 5 year-old soon is a good kid. He’s bright, he’s creative, he’s active, he’s funny, he’s well-behaved, and he’s healthy. And he doesn’t get in trouble at Pre-K.

I say those things not to brag, but to provide evidence that the parenting tips I am submitting today are personally effective; not just simply my opinion.

This blog post today is written for open-minded, soon-to-be first time parents, who I am grateful are taking the time to hear what I have to say, in an effort to proactively seek help.

1) Use the “cry it out” method. I have now just revealed that I am not an “attachment parent” or a “helicopter parent”. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t learn this lesson until our son was 7 months old.

Your baby is depending on you to learn when night time is and when he or she should be asleep for several hours at a time. By answering your baby’s cries each time during the middle of the night, it is actually counter-productive as it prevents your baby from getting the necessary rest he or she needs; as well as yours and your spouse’s.

Yes, it can be psychologically challenging as the parent to apply the “cry it out” method, at first. It can difficult to choose efficiency over emotion, but my child is proof that this method is not damaging to the child’s psyche.

2) Fruit juice is not a healthy drink option. Yes, fruit juice contains vitamins and is hydrating. However, it doesn’t contain the fiber from the fruit needed for digestion and to balance out the sugar. So what happens is your child gets an unhealthy sugar dose (and possibly excessive gas.)

My son gets a skin rash anytime he drinks juice. That’s what fully convinced me it’s not good for him. Even my son’s dentist, Dr. Snodgrass, quickly agreed with me when I mentioned it to him during my son’s visit first. The dentist immediately acknowledged he can always tell when a child regularly drinks juice, because their teeth typically aren’t as healthy.

So with that being said, obviously sports drinks (like Gatorade) and soda are nothing less than taboo in our household.

Instead, your child can get vitamins from actual fruit and vegetables found in fruit packets; plus I highly recommend buying a Baby Bullet, to provide your child with the right nutrition.

3) Discipline your child without spanking them. Your job as the parent is to provide certain things for your child that, on their own, they are not capable of understanding they need in the moment. They are depending on your lead for these things.

They need to know when to eat (hungry), when to sleep (tired), when to play (bored), when to engage in conversation (lonely), or when they are physically incapable of feeling well (sick).

Unfortunately, it’s only natural as a parent to, in the moment, forget about these things and instead, assume your child is “misbehaving”.

Five years into this, I now know to go off the check list when I am tempted to think my son is “misbehaving”. Each and every time, he’s either hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick. (I invented that check list, by the way.)

My role is to proactively provide for his needs, not to physically strike him for seeking negative attention for those symptoms.

Additionally, here are my 5 alternatives to spanking that I learned from when I blogged for Parents.com:

Ignore attention-seeking behavior; pay attention to good behavior; redirect your child; teach consequences that make sense; and use time-outs for serious offenses.

Consider that professional psychologists who have actually studied spanking have come to the same conclusion: Spanking is actually less effective. Even if it was only equally effective, why physically strike your child if you don’t have to?

For me it’s all about efficiency as a parent. It’s about working smart, not necessarily hard.

No need to make yourself a martyr if you know what’s really going on in your child’s brain.

If you are open-minded to my personally effective methods I have shared today, please feel free to comment so I can get back to you.

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.

At What Point Can I Admit My Kid Turned Out Fine, Having Never Been Spanked?

I’m used to being in the minority. I’ve typically always questioned what society’s acceptance and endorsement of what is deemed as normal and/or popular.

So it should be no surprise that I represent the minority percentage of American parents who does not spank my child.

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.

I have no interest in trying to convert the majority, but I do believe it is relevant as a daddy blogger to show the other side of the story to those who are open-minded and/or curious.

Before I myself converted to the minority who doesn’t spank, I used to believe that “disciplining your child” and “spanking” had to be one in the same.

I feel that up until recently, there hasn’t been enough easily attainable, professional research on the subject.

So up until now, American tradition has overruled the possibility that not only is spanking less effective than “non-spanking child discipline”, but that spanking is indeed more likely to produce negative effects on the child. This is something I’ve covered before in “Is Spanking Actually More Effective Than The Alternative?“.

This point is also mentioned here below in this video featuring Robert Brooks, PhD Psychologist, featured on KidsInTheHouse.com (The World’s Largest Parenting Video Library)

With that being said, at what point can I admit my 4 year-old son turned out fine, having never been spanked?

As his dad, I am regularly told how well-behaved yet creative and full of joy my little boy is, by adults who teach him and watch him while I am not around.

He never gets in trouble at school. He’s a good kid. He’s intelligent. He’s not a brat.

That’s not to brag; instead, I’m saying that to demonstrate that my method of disciplining my son has been successful, and my method has never included spanking.

What age must he be before my method of discipline is accepted by mainstream America as effective? Do I have to wait until he’s a preteen or a teenager? Or should I wait until he’s lived a long life without a criminal record?

Is my son an exception to the rule? Or he is “just a good kid”? Or perhaps does my method of child discipline have something to do with him “just being a good kid”?

Must I proof that not spanking is effective by having more kids who all turn out to be good kids too? How many kids? At what point is my point legitimate?

As a parent, I am interested in using the most effective method out there; not necessarily the one that is most popular by tradition. For me, the evidence is right there in front of me every day when I see my son.

I would like to close with comedian Louis C.K.’s words on the matter.

Originally, I featured this in “I Find Louis C.K.’s Bit On Child Discipline Hard To Argue With“. Here’s a selection from his special, Hilarious:

“And stop hitting me, you’re huge. How could you hit me?! That’s crazy. You’re a giant, and I can’t defend myself.”I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. It really is–here’s the crazy part about it. Kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable, and they’re the most destroyed by being hit. But it’s totally okay to hit them. And they’re the only ones! If you hit a dog they… will put you in jail for that… You can’t hit a person unless you can prove that they were trying to kill you. But a little tiny person with a head this big who trusts you implicitly, f(orget) ‘em. Who (cares)? Just… hit–let’s all hit them! People want you to hit your kid. If your kid’s making noise in public, “Hit him, hit him! Hit him! Grrr, hit him!” We’re proud of it! “I hit my kids. You’re… right I hit my kids.” Why did you hit them? “‘Cause they were doing a thing I didn’t like at the moment. And so I hit them, and guess what? They didn’t do it after that.” Well, that wouldn’t be taking the… easy way out, would it?”

No matter what other parents choose for their own children, I can feel fully confident in my personal decision on not spanking. Thank you for your open-mindedness in reading my (unpopular) opinion on this much controversial topic.

At What Point Can I Admit My Kid Turned Out Fine, Having Never Been Spanked?