Spanking kids, slapping them with rulers, and other forms of physical punishment used to be much more common in our society. However, those methods of “discipline” taught children that it was okay to react physically when upset, frustrated, or mad. From a therapist perspective, those techniques teach a child to react quickly and fiercely, further cutting away at their ability to self-regulate their own behavior. Many children struggle to learn how to calm themselves, how to use language to work through a difficult situation, and how to self-soothe when highly aroused. Parents and teachers need to model this behavior. It is unacceptable to hit a child. Even the most reactionary child can be held firmly in a protective hold to keep them from hurting themselves or another until they are calm. I’ve worked with parents who have learned how to do this with large teenagers. If your child is struggling with reactionary behavior, an occupational therapist is a great resource for self-soothing and calming strategies. Ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral.
Time Magazine recently reported on the first real-time study of parents spanking their kids. I love the author’s technique at the end of the article of teaching her child to place his hands in his lap to calm himself. Picturing some of the scenarios in the study can make you slightly queasy. As a parent, I’ve learned it’s better to walk away for a minute and close myself in the bathroom (or place my child in her crib, bedroom, etc.) than react before I can calm down. Sometimes I need to a moment to calm myself down before handling the situation. But by deep breathing and silence, or removing myself for a moment, I’m modeling to her how to react when hyper-aroused. Here’s the link to the article:
The First Real-Time Study of Parents Spanking Their Kids