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I don’t believe in spanking or any other form of corporal punishment (though I do believe in consequences, another story entirely). Knowing my stance, a friend asked what I thought of a painless little swat on the diaper when kids act up. I don’t agree with that, but I am curious whether you believe it is too early. I feel you can just as easily redirect a child that age.
Redirecting a young child is indeed easy. Of course, redirection doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything beyond stopping today’s bad conduct.
Suppose I’m driving my car 120 miles per hour, and the cops address the problem by putting barricades across the road, redirecting me to a smaller, rougher road where I cannot drive as rapidly. Have they prevented me from speeding? Yes, for today. Have they taught me that speeding is foolish or given me any incentive not to speed tomorrow, when the main road is clear? Not at all.
Redirection does not instill the idea of consequences, nor does it deter future conduct. However, neither does a painless swat. In the interest of saving words, I’ll offer you a synonym for “painless swat.” Just call it a “pat.” And don’t call it punishment.
Yes, you can spank children of diaper age. But what would constitute a spanking for a 12-year-old is certainly not appropriate for a 2-year-old. For a young child, a light slap on the back of the hand might be enough of a deterrent. Any spanking stronger than that is probably inappropriate.
I tend to think children’s behavior springs from how they are raised, rather than genetics. But I know a few cases where patient and calm parents have angry or short-tempered kids. Since I became pregnant, I’ve tried to keep my temper under control. But even if I can change, many people in my family have short tempers, and I’m worried about the nature vs. nurture issue. Does my family history mean there’s a chance my children can grow up to be short-tempered? What can I do to prevent my kids from growing up to be the people who throw tantrums, hold grudges, or lack the patience to wait in line?
The nature-versus-nurture argument has raged for centuries. Why such staying power? Because neither side can prove the other wrong.
Some behavioral traits appear to pass down from generation to generation. Studies show that tendencies toward mental illness or alcoholism tend to linger in families. Other researchers have claimed similar hereditary connections with impulsiveness, nurturing, and aggression. Nature does appear to make a difference in behavior.
However, children also tend to imitate their parents’ behavior and in many cases take on the characteristics of their parents. If Mommy smiles at everyone, baby may do the same. And if Mommy yells every time someone blinks, baby could grow up seeing that quick temper as normal conduct.
You need not panic. Even if your family is full of hotheads, your children may not follow in their footsteps. Your own conduct will go a long way in setting the tone. But at the same time, you must prepare yourself for the possibility that your children will have short tempers. Many children do. Some grow up to be quick-tempered adults, but not all of them.
Don’t waste too much of your time and energy worrying about the behavioral traits your children could possibly develop down the road. You can’t do much to alter their natural tendencies. However, you can take action to help them control those tendencies if needed.
Just set the best example you can for your children and pay attention to how they react to stimulus. If you see them developing bad habits, correct that behavior immediately. Parents are and always will be their children’s best teachers.
Thank you for reading today’s Q&A. Check back here tomorrow for another installment of the Ask The Dad advice column. If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to email@example.com .