Monthly Article Archives: March 2009

Spanked with Words: More Damaging than We May RealizeRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

While conducting therapy with children, I often ask them about their understanding of why their parents discipline them and the kinds of disciplinary practices in which their parents engage. I also attempt to gain their perspective of how justified they consider the disciplinary measures to be and what, if anything, they learn from their parents’ actions. Interestingly, when I initiate a discussion about discipline, almost all children respond as if discipline were synonymous with punishment. I might add that their parents respond in a similar fashion. That is understandable since the word discipline typically evokes images of punishing or being punished. Yet, as my colleague Dr. Sam Goldstein and I emphasize in our book Raising a Self-Disciplined Child, we believe that one of the most effective and powerful forms of discipline is positive feedback and encouragement. Punishment teaches children what not to do rather than reinforcing what they should do. Consequences and Spanking As many of my readers are aware, I am a strong advocate that when children misbehave there should be consequences for their negative actions, although I believe that any punishment should be guided by the use of natural and logical consequences. Such consequences promote responsibility and accountability

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