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My husband and I disagree on discipline. He was raised to believe that spanking is ok, and I don't believe it is. We have a toddler going through a normal bit of defiance, but the problem now rests with us disagreeing on how to handle it. I want to use time-outs and he wants to lightly spank our son. Any advice?


Dr. Steven Kairys Replied: I don't think spanking works well and has the problem of hitting in frustration, rather than spanking as a planned and organized response. Whatever you decide, be consistent and also loving. Ignore what you can and give immediate positive feedback and attention for the right behaviors. Try to redirect and give a another chance before using something like time out. A star system for the right behaviors is often very positive.
Posted On 2008-03-24 14:18:59
Janet Whalley Replied: As a mother and a grandmother of a toddler, I understand your dilemma. When I was a young mother I thought that a light tap on the hand or bottom was OK. At this stage of my life, I think that spanking is not necessary in raising a cooperative child who is a pleasure to be with. Though some experts believe that spanking leads to violence, others believe that spanking doesn't always mean, "abuse". I would suggest that you try some other discipline methods for a few months and see if you can get the desired results. Then you can discuss spanking or not again. First, you both need to talk about the behavior that is not acceptable to you, such as hitting you or other children; damaging your furniture, walls, or his toys; having a temper tantrum; or hurting your pet. Then you may want to discuss what behavior is undesirable, but sometimes is acceptable, such as being silly at the table; yelling loudly at the grocery store; or picking his nose. Of course, any dangerous behavior and activities would be stopped immediately too. Finally, you'll need to create a plan of ways to stop the behavior and to teach him the proper behavior. Here are my thoughts on possible discipline methods other than spanking: 1. Change the environment in your home and yard so that there are fewer things that might cause problem behaviors. For example, remove items that could be broken or damaged by a toddler or try changing his eating and sleeping routines if they may be affecting his behavior. 2. When your son does something 'wrong', use your angry voice and say, "No, don't do that." Be specific about what he should stop doing -- "Stop pulling the cat's tail". Plan to give him two verbal warnings, and then move to action. (If he is doing something dangerous, loudly use your frightened voice and move to action after only one warning.) 3. Move to action: Walk to him and say something like, "Since you can't play with the cat without pulling her tail, you won't be able to be near her now." Then move your child or the cat. 3. Be consistent and persistent in your discipline. Sometimes it takes numerous times of showing your toddler what to do before he can learn how to behave. I remember that someone told me when I had young sons that it usually takes 6 to 600 times before they'll learn to stop doing that undesirable behavior. 4. You could try time-outs, but I think a 2 year old is too young for them to be very effective. Often moving him to another place or another room is all you'll need to do. I recently read a good article by Jan Faull in the Seattle newspaper about time-outs. The article was called "Make time-out more meaningful with 'time-in' teaching". You can find it at the website - and looking for the article for Saturday, January 5, 2008. 5. To control temper tantrums or other 'out-of-control' behavior, I suggest that you try the technique of gently holding your son and say. "I know you feel upset now and I'm going to help you get control. When you feel like you can take control again, tell me. Until then I'll help you stop doing that." If your son has a temper tantrum at a restaurant or a store, you can use this same technique while you take him outside. When I think of 'discipline', I think of teaching the right behavior not just punishing the wrong behavior. Also, I believe that parents need to have clear guidelines about appropriate behavior and teach their children what is acceptable in their home and family. A book that is helpful for parents of young children is "Love and Limits: Guidance Tools for Creative Parenting" by Elizabeth Crary. It is based on child development and gives different suggestions depending on the age of the child. I hope that this has been helpful and has made you think about options to use to discipline your son. Sincerely, Janet Whalley
Posted On 2008-03-21 20:41:41
Sharon Silver Replied: As a society we've learned a great deal about preschool behavior since the days when your husband was being raised. We've learned that parents really are a child's first teacher. We've learned that just like adults, the way you speak to a child determines whether he fights with you or listens to you. We've learned that a child's foundation, the core of who he is, is being built during early childhood. A child learns whether or not her emotions are accepted or punished. She learns whether self-control is managed for her, by spanking or consistent punishment or she learns, by how her parent deals with defiance, that ultimately, she needs to control herself. Based on all that knowledge, plus the love parents have for their child, I wonder why anyone would spank in this day and age? As your child's first teacher what lesson do you hope to send your child when you spank, even if done lightly? Unfortunately by the time your child becomes a preschooler he will have learned that the way to get what you want from another person is to hit them. Is that what you intended to teach? Timeout for little people has some issues as well, let me explain. After 17 years of teaching parenting and 29 years of raising kids, in my opinion, timeout for preschoolers, no matter how long they sit, just doesn't work "well" for little people and here's why. Timeout was designed as a time…out for both parent and child to take a short break so they can get calmer and then come back together to resolve the situation. That's not the way timeout is being used today. These days timeout is being used as the "acceptable" way we punish our children, and there's a big difference between the two. Parents usually begin using timeout around 18-20 months because normal developmental defiance has begun to appear. Every parent I've ever worked with started out with the best intentions for using timeout. The parent starts out being calm, gets down to eye level, says the right words, and is as loving as possible on the way to timeout. Then as the child approaches two or three the way a parent uses timeout begins to change. The parent's best intentions squarely meet the child's developmental stage and temperament and a collision happens that goes something like this. The child refuses to listen or cooperate; he wants what he wants. Now's the time to teach the child about his behavior, but the screaming the child does causes the parent's brain to become confused. The confusion from the crying, screaming or constant demanding stops the parent's ability to think clearly about what to do next. Not being able to decide what to do next makes the parent frustrated or angry, and can cause yelling to begin. The parent is unconsciously hoping that the yelling will be the magic key that when inserted into timeout will end this, sooner rather than later, so this can stop. Unfortunately the yelling upsets the preschooler, possibly to the point of hysteria. I don't know too many adults that enjoy being screamed at when they're upset either! The crying causes the preschooler to revert back to a younger emotional place, just to survive the yelling. You know that emotional place; it's what's going on when you say to your preschooler "why are you acting like a baby?" or "stop crying, you're acting like a baby!" In order to survive the yelling, the preschooler shuts herself down and stops listening. Ladies, you know this one well; we've been accusing men of this for years! Because the child has difficulty processing her crying, your yelling and thinking at the same time, a preschooler is forced to gain more of the information about the situation from your body language and tone of voice than from your words. And since she's young and still relies on immature reasoning, what has she learned? All she's learned is when I cry or don't do as I'm told, I'm sent away from you—to a place called timeout. No real learning has occurred. The child has no idea what she's supposed to do instead. The child was never allowed to try again so she could learn how to manage her emotions and resolve it in a better way next time. Then the behavior happens again and she's sent to timeout, again. Her behavior is stopped, for the moment, but she still hasn't learned how to manage this so it doesn't happen again, and this goes on day in and day out. When you see it broken down this way you understand how young a preschooler really is, and you begin to wonder, does timeout work "well" for preschoolers, is there a better way? The answer lies in this statement; "sometimes the best way to get a child to do something is to speak their language." I believe that preschoolers need corrections to be made at the preschool level. Don't forget, your preschooler has only been on the planet for a few years. Even though he's walking, talking, potty trained and maybe in preschool, he isn't as old as he looks, especially when it comes to discipline and the ability to change behavior. Why do I say this, because adults have the ability to use reason and logical thinking; preschoolers haven't even developed the ability to use logic, and that doesn't begin until around age 7. Does that mean you can't use timeout? No it doesn't mean that at all. It just means that a better way to use timeout would be to match the concept with a preschooler's developmental needs. Just like our computers, I believe that it's time for "timeout" to get an upgrade! Here are three things I think need to be included in preschool timeouts. 1. The teaching a parent does needs to be done at the preschool level. An "emotional" child learns best when information is scaled down to just a few words and the words are something the child can understand even through the tears, words like sit down, no hitting, or use your words, versus that's not appropriate. 2. The amount of time a child sits in timeout really can be much shorter than 1 minute per age. Having a child sit in timeout for a shorter period of time takes advantage of what I call "child time", the true amount of time your preschooler can pay attention and hear you when she's emotional. 3. The ability to "try again" needs to be included with your discipline. Saying to a child, "you need to try again and show Mommy how you wait for a cookie instead of grabbing one from sister", needs to be included so a child can learn what you expect them to do instead of what they did. Deciding how you're going to correct your child can seem over whelming at times, especially if you and your husband have different points of view. My entire website and online seminars are totally devoted to the subject of disciplining preschoolers. Take a look at, (notice .net). The online store has two new versions of timeout, one for really little ones 1-3, and one for older preschoolers 3-6, that incorporate all the things discussed here and so much more. Good Luck.
Posted On 2008-03-17 21:08:58
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