As of late, the topic of spanking a toddler as a disciplining measure has begun to weigh heavily on my mind. A common phrase we’ve all grown up around is, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” But what constitutes a rod in this modern age? Have we progressed so far as humans that we should be capable to discipline purely by intellect alone, using psychological methods such as time-out, reward/praise, selective ignoring, providing consequences, or withdrawing privileges? Is using Pavlov’s theory of association with a loud clap or slight sting of the hand on a child’s thigh antiquated for toddler discipline? What if all the psychological methods don’t seem to be enough for a resolute tantrum?

In my own practice, I’ve determined to keep my hand out of the discipline—literally. Not to say I won’t spank, but I want to save that as a last resort upon the failing of all other practices. Although I fear that the time is drawing near; especially with my son’s most recent unyielding bursts of dissatisfaction from being disciplined. He seemed to almost work his self into hysteria with practically-hyperventilated cries of, “I want to get up.” I was able to sooth him by continuing the time-out punishment in my bed where I laid quietly holding him until he was calm and responsive. Of course, his requests still continued, but then in a normal, soft speaking voice. I then reasoned with him that his need for discipline was due to his own behavior and that he had to stay a few calm minutes in time-out before he could get up. But was this the best course of action, or could a slight sting have facilitated a similar result?

I believe it’s true that a toddler needs rigid boundaries and consistent discipline. I’ve even discussed in previous posts how I can see in my own son’s development his need to communicate and express his self. They naturally need limited choices and routine schedules to give them a sense of independence and structure. Not to say they won’t test those boundaries. I think sometimes they crave a parent’s attention so much, that they’ll even look for it in discipline; if that’s what it takes. We all want to be recognized and feel important, or at least know that someone is willing to make some kind of fuss over us—even if it’s negative.

In time I may find a need to squelch inappropriate behavior with a spank. I’ve spoken to other parents who have successfully curved similar behavior with a slight sting to the thigh; of course, never in anger. It’s apparent that their toddler still loves them and there is no shying away from the parents hand—their disciplining tool. Since each child is their own person and does react differently to the various disciplining methods, I’d have to determine how my son responds and if it is the appropriate method to use in extreme conditions. I think we can all agree we don’t want to spoil our children.

Whichever method you choose to use, I think the important thing to remember is to never do it out of anger. Every kid can frustrate the most patient of parents. When disciplining, may have to give yourself and your child time. Maybe take five minutes to cool down. Tag in another parent or trusted friend to allow you time to get in the right frame of mind. They’re only trying to communicate and want attention to get their point across any way they know how. Use your praise to show them which ways are acceptable, and your discipline to show which are inappropriate.