How to Discipline a Child Without Hitting or Spanking
(This post might contain affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy a product I love then I may get a commission - at no extra cost to you! For all the Ts and Cs go here.)
Are you working on giving up hitting/spanking as a form of discipline? Maybe you’ve been doing Gentle Parenting for a long time and resisting spanking your child isn’t something that you have to deal with. But for a lot of parents the transition into Gentle Parenting can be very difficult especially if they’ve been used to spanking their child as a form of discipline.
If you’re not already familiar, here is how I define Gentle Parenting:
Gentle Parenting is a long term approach to discipline that respects the child as a whole person and values the feelings of the child.
It seeks to teach children to do what’s right out of a heartfelt willingness to do what’s good by using love, patience and positive words over fear or punishment.
It equips the child with age appropriate skills to nurture independence.
And it sets firm boundaries to establish consistent and realistic expectations for the child’s best interest.
Gentle Parenting doesn’t use physical punishments
One thing you’ll realize about Gentle Parenting right away is that it does not use any type of physical punishments like spanking, swatting a child’s hand, tapping their leg, etc.
The reason for this is because Gentle Parents are shaping their child’s obedience in a very different way, where they are teaching their child the right things to do and giving them opportunities to make mistakes until they get it right. And by the time they get it right, they want their child to truly choose to the right thing out of a heartfelt desire to do what’s good, not out of fear of consequences.
So it’s time to quit spanking
There is a lot of good to be said about Gentle Parenting, and if you’ve decided it’s something you want to do in your family then you might be struggling with the transition from your old discipline style into using Gentle Parenting – especially with quitting an old habit of spanking for discipline.
This can be an especially difficult transition if your parenting partner isn’t on the same page as you, but the truth is spanking isn’t the best way to discipline children, and might not even work at all. Here’s some articles about spanking that might be useful for you.
How to discipline without hitting
Before you can start disciplining your child without spanking, you will need to learn some new skills. If your goal is just to stop spanking then you might feel frustrated if you don’t have any new strategies for discipline to replace that with, so here are a few tips:
#1. Develop more patience
Ok, easier said than done, but the more patience you have the easier it will be to stay calm and respond to your child.
#2. Put yourself in your child’s shoes
Try to look at the situation through their eyes. You can learn a lot about how to respond to your child best if you know what they’re going through.
#3. Learn the general strategies for disciplining your child at their age
#4. Learn Gentle Parenting strategies for the specific behaviours your child has that you were usually spanking them for
Get some gentle advice for the behaviours that are really challenging you. Maybe you’d be interested in one of these articles:
Having these new skills will give you something else to try instead of hitting/spanking.
Here is what to do to quit hitting and spanking as discipline so you can discipline without it.
Make a firm decision to quit spanking
By making a decision and a commitment to yourself and even family it will be easier to stick to it. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to completely quit cold turkey, but giving yourself a goal (of eventually no more spanking at all) will help a lot.
Give yourself grace. You are going through a process of overcoming old habits, and likely an old mindset. If you were spanked as a child, and if most parents around you endorse spanking, then it can be hard to change how you see things. You might be interested in this article if you’re concerned that according to the Bible you should be spanking (spoiler – that’s not what the Bible is saying we have to do).
In your firm decision to quit spanking, you should write down some of your WHYS. Why do you want to quit spanking your children? What are your personal reasons? When you’re struggle to resist using spanking, go back to these personal reasons.
With your firm decision, you should also be confident that not spanking truly is what’s best for your child so you don’t waver in a challenging discipline moment. Do the research, learn about the effects of spanking, and read some success stories about using gentle and positive discipline strategies. The more you believe in your new strategies and doubt the old ones, the easier it will be to discipline without spanking.
Listen & Talk with your child
In a moment where you’d normally spank your child, slow down so you can listen and talk to them. If you are feeling frustrated though take a moment to calm down. Take a few deep breaths, or if the situation allows step away for a moment to calm down and refocus on the positive strategies you want to use.
Then listen to your child’s side of the story, emphasize with their feelings, and talk them through alternatives they could have used in that scenario.
For example, “You were really angry that your brother took your toy. You pushed him because you were angry. Next time maybe you could ask him to give it back to you instead of pushing him. Pushing is not a gentle way to treat someone else’s body.”
You can also ask them what they think they could have done differently, but if they’re still angry give them a moment and some comfort to calm down so their brain will be capable of reasoning with you.
Don’t forget to find more Gentle Parenting strategies that are perfect for your child’s age and the common issues you have with them.
Remember that Gentle Parenting discipline takes time
Usually if a parent has been using spanking they have an expectation that children should obey immediately, and that disobedience needs a swift act of justice.
The truth is, with Gentle Parenting we’re not looking for immediate obedience from our children. We want child to choose to do the right thing, and even as adults sometimes we need a moment to do the right thing.
Have you ever bumped someone’s car in a parking lot and taken a moment before deciding you will leave a note?
Have you ever had an argument with your partner and grumbled internally a bit before saying sorry?
Even as adults we don’t always do the right thing immediately, and our brains are much more developed than our child’s.
It might take awhile for your child to “get it.” Gentle Parenting is a long process of teaching and guiding, whereas spanking is quick and often stops the behaviour in that moment (but maybe not forever). You have to recognize that your child’s response to Gentle Parenting strategies vs spanking will be very different. It might seem like they’re taking too long to “get it” but it’s because a lot of learning has to happen, but when it does it will definitely STICK. Spanking might seem like it gives an immediate change, but the lesson might not be internalized in the way that you’re hoping.
You can discipline without spanking
There are so many moms and dads who grew up getting spanked, always believed that it “worked”, used it on their own kids, but then later gave it up for something better.
It’s not impossible to give up spanking, but it definitely takes a commitment from you as the parent, and some new skills!
What’s the one behaviour you often find yourself spanking your child for that you need a new strategy to handle? Reply to me and I’d love to help you find a Gentle Parenting solutions to that behaviour so you can start disciplining without spanking.
I know anyone can do it!
Have a happy day friend,
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The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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