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IN these modern times, parents face unique challenges in effectively raising their children and oftentimes age-old practices are seen as ineffective, irrelevant and in some instances abusive. Corporal punishment, more commonly known as 'spanking', is one of those parenting tools that is now in question and stirs significant debate.
Recent video recordings showing parents violently assaulting their children have further cracked the whip on the efficacy and humaneness of spanking. Family and Faith Magazine therefore sought answers from respected family counsellor and CEO of Family Life Ministries Dr Barry Davidson.
Dr Davidson categorically explained that much of what has been seen from the viral videos is abusive behaviour, where the parent seems to be venting destructive anger on a child.
Still, he was keen to point out that “there is a place for spanking”.
“I know it is not the politically correct thing for me to say, but I say it because that is what I believe,” he explained.
Dr Davidson explained that, “spanking is punishment and is not something that you do very often; it is something that you rarely do, but there is room for it. There is room for it when you really want to let the child know that this (negative behaviour) is not something that you are going to tolerate.”
The family counsellor was, however, adamant that parents need to know when to spank.
“You need to know when not to spank and you need to also know how to spank,” he said.
When not to spank
“I don't believe you should spank for childish or immature behaviour which is consistent with a child's age,” Dr Davidson asserted.
He also warned against spanking when a child becomes restless as a result of sitting too long at an event or function.
“A child who is in church and the service is going on too long (and the attention span for a child is much shorter than for an adult) and because the child is disturbing you, because the child is restless, you take the child outside and you spank the child — you shouldn't spank for that because the child is being him or herself,” he explained.
“You don't spank for lack of ability — you may have one child who is very good at math and the other is not. Don't compare children and because one isn't doing well you spank. You don't spank for lack of ability.”
“You don't spank for accidents — if a child is playing cricket and the ball accidentally breaks a window, you don't spank for that; however, if you say to the child, 'don't play cricket here anymore', and the child continues, that is a different situation. That is now disobedience,” he explained.
Further, “never spank out of anger. Never spank when you are irritated, when you feel depressed or when you are tired because that's when you lose control, that is when you become very, very abusive,” he said.
When to spank
He explained that spanking as a form of punishment can be done when there is disobedience.
“When a child is deliberately disobedient — when a parent says over and over, 'don't do this', and the child continues, what that child is doing is challenging the parental authority and so what the parent has to do is let the child know that this will not be tolerated and the child must know why he or she is being spanked. And the parent should be very calm and very careful,” he explained.
“I think also that children can be spanked for uncooperative attitudes. If they are not willing to cooperate and again you have spoken to them, you have tried to help them to understand the importance of cooperating with the family — you might have to make a point. Because spanking is really punishment and punishment is making a point. It is letting a child know that hey, this is not going to be tolerated.”
Dr Davidson added that parents could spank for lying, stealing and cheating — known character flaws.
“These are things that should never be tolerated or encouraged. They could be embarrassed one day, in prison one day, and so we need to understand that what we are doing with children is preparing them, helping them to live in the real world, and that real world has consequences for actions that right now we are helping them to change,” he explained.
“I have three children and one of my children never, ever got spanking; the other probably got two in their entire life; and the other probably got five or six — and yet still I was a believer in spanking. But I knew when to spank and when not to spank,” he admonished.
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