This fall, football season comes with a heavy dose of controversy.
One of the National Football League’s struggles that’s reached national debate is the use of corporal punishment – spanking – to discipline a child.
The debate around spanking has carried on for much of the last century, with both sides passionate in their opinions.
Even though spanking has its defenders, it is not an endorsed or recommended method for discipline.
How will you discipline?
While the physical nature of spanking is a problem, it’s not the only concern. When parents react to situations by hitting, switching or spanking, they’re doing more than correcting behavior – they’re setting an example of how to behave.
For discipline to be truly effective, it must be rational and consistent. That’s why it’s important for new parents to develop a plan for discipline early – you don’t want to be in the throes of potty-training frustration when the need first arises.
Different age groups respond to different forms of discipline – for babies under one year, you should redirect their attention, but use time-outs and talk about feelings with toddlers or older children. For all ages, though, the best way to correct behavior is to avoid misbehavior.
As a parent, you’re the best judge of your child’s needs and moods. Staying aware of potential stressors or triggers, such as missed naps or snacks, can help you head off any brewing tantrums or meltdowns, which will eliminate some needs of punishment or discipline.
When does spanking cross the line?
Despite strong objections, some families will always rely on spanking as a disciplinary tool. However, there is a very firm and clear line where spanking becomes abuse. And that occurs whenever spanking is done in anger or frustration, or if it leaves marks on a child’s body.
At that point, spanking ceases to be punitive. It is maltreatment, and children and their families need help.
For mistreated and abused children, there are options.
If you know a child with injuries that are clearly not accidents, who act fearful in ordinary situations, or who tell you they’re being abused, don’t hesitate to speak up.
Every report turned in to the Department for Children and Families is kept confidential, and you can choose to remain anonymous.
My role is to evaluate these children medically. The Child Maltreatment Clinic at Wesley Medical Center, the only one of its kind in our area, evaluates children for signs of abuse and neglect, reviews their care, and makes medical recommendations to the authorities. We then work with a team of physicians, mental health professionals, developmental specialists, social services, and law enforcement, to support the child and keep him or her safe.
But when it comes ensuring our children’s safety and security, it really does take a village, which is why we must rely on well-informed, caring parents and communities – like you.
Kerri Weeks, M.D., is a child abuse pediatrician with KU Wichita Pediatrics.