One expert weighs in on the age-old discussion and gives her recommendations on how to keep kids in line.
Whether it’s a timeout, a stern talking to or corporal punishment, conflict arises when discussing what methods are suitable when it comes to discipline.
Dr. Vivienne Lewis, a clinical psychologist at the University of Canberra, who has studied child and adolescent psychology, offers her suggestions on how to manage misbehaving children.
Is smacking ever okay?
Dr Lewis dismisses physical punishment as an adequate form of discipline, stating it is only a temporary solution to disobedience.
“When a child is yelled at or smacked, it does immediately stop the behaviour so [parents] feel the punishment is effective, but it doesn’t teach the child what they should do instead,” she says.
Dr Lewis recommends steering clear of physical punishment to avoid teaching children that wrongdoing is resolved by yelling or hitting.
“We know children in families where there is violence or physical punishment are likely to behave in physical responses themselves because that’s what they’re learning,” she says.
“If we yell we aren’t teaching children how to behave in social ways.”
After the wrongdoing
Dr Lewis reminds parents that there is merit in a verbal conversation as young children do have the capacity to determine right from wrong.
“When they are little, the reason they tantrum is because they are distressed,” she says.
“You need to help them regulate their emotions and teach children how to express themselves.”
Dr Lewis believes the best way to discipline a child is to explain what they have done wrong, the consequences of their actions and then tell them what they should do instead.
For young children she suggests taking away a toy or something of value for a short period of time and with older children, for a longer period of time.
“Never physically punish children or withdraw love and affection. Never withdraw them from connection with others,” Dr Lewis says.
Before they have done wrong
Dr Lewis stresses the importance of setting up rules and consequences ahead of time so your child knows what to expect if they break the rules.
She believes a rewards based system for positive behavior is just as important as punishing unwanted behaviour.
“When [children] do positive things you need to follow up with the intrinsic rewards and with the littler kids start with tangible rewards such as a treat,” she says.
“A lot of kids respond well to a hug or a nice thing from mum or dad. They learn it makes them feel good.”