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Practicing Positive Discipline for a Healthier Community

By:  Kelly McBride, Executive Director, DVN

Here at DVN, we talk often about healthy relationships, we educate high school students about what a healthy relationship looks like, and we discuss consent and warning signs of teen dating violence. In reality, healthy relationship education should begin much earlier. It needs to start at home with positive discipline.

In a 2014 study, 81 percent of parents stated that it was sometimes appropriate to spank a child. Yet spanking not only sends mixed messages to children, but it is also detrimental to their health and well being.

In a 50-year longitudinal study, it was found that spanking actually has the opposite effect on children that parents wish it to have. The more a child is spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents, and to experience mental health problems and difficulties connecting with others later in life and can lead to aggression towards others, including a dating or life partner.

It’s hard to comprehend, to me, why spanking is such a hot button issue with parents. We teach our children not to hit their friends (and often times this is taught by smacking the young child’s hand – mixed messaging!). In society, it is unacceptable to hit another person or animal, yet we continue, as a nation, to hit our children.

Their tiny brains are growing, learning and adapting for the world around them. It is our job, as parents, trusted adults and caregivers, to help guide this growing brain into becoming a healthy, contributing member to society. We undo all of this when we hit our children.

I understand the frustrations of parenting – I have two kiddos myself. It is certainly much easier to swat them on the bottom when their behavior is unacceptable to us, rather than to take the time and explain to them why their behavior is unacceptable and how to correct it for the future. Yet, taking these extra few minutes will help form their little brains into being able to develop healthy, meaningful relationships in the future as well as protect them from adverse mental health consequences.

If you read the Facebook comments on articles around spanking, a large percentage of adults believe that a lack of spanking is what is leading to violence in our streets perpetrated by young people. But what if spanking actually causes or contributes to this behavior? Would you be more inclined to not spank your children?

Practicing positive discipline and attachment parenting is a more effective way to obtain the desired behavioral outcomes you wish to see from your child. Positive discipline and attachment parenting certainly take more time and effort on the parents. It may feel unnatural to you, especially if you were spanked as a child. However, shifting to this method of discipline will help create a happier, healthier community that will ultimately lead to less violence.