Changing a way of thinking is difficult, especially when it has been generally accepted over a long period of time. Beliefs about child-rearing go back hundreds if not thousands of years. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” was a tenant for years. Consequences for children of disobeying or misbehaving often included a hand, stick, or belt to the rear end. While this may have been an efficient means to an end (pun intended), it has only been in recent history that there was a challenge to this methodology.
By recent, I am referring to Dr. Benjamin Spock who first published Baby and Child Care in 1946. Of his book, many considered the best use for it was across the backside of a misbehaving child. It appears that children acting out either as a reaction to stress and frustration or just out of their own playfulness has been going on as long as there have been children. Dr. Spock was a pioneer in suggesting a better correction than physical punishment.
Even today, one can go to “wikihow” for fourteen suggestions on how to deliver a proper spanking. But the fact remains, if you are willing to invest the time and energy into it, there are so many better alternatives to behavior change, from distracting the child to reasoning with the child. Physical punishment is used because a) it is efficient, you let the child know in short order that their behavior displeases you, and b) as a reaction to an emotionally charged moment – you’re angry. Exactly the wrong moment to choose to be physical. And do you really want to be efficient with your children? Be efficient with things, be effective with people.
Dr. Spock felt strongly that physical punishment increased the acceptance of violence. “My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.”
The alternative to physical punishment is not abstinence to discipline. There are plenty of good books already written on the subject including Boundaries With Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, and Parenting the QBQ Way by John and Karen Miller. Don’t give up the fight, just the fighting.