To cane or not to cane?

To cane or not to cane?

Attitudes towards physical punishment have changed from previous generations, but statistics suggest that around half of parents today still spank their toddler when he misbehaves (although more usually give a slap on the hand, rather than a whack of the cane).

You have to make up your own mind about how to manage your toddler when he misbehaves. If you're for such forms of punishment, you'll justify it with the following arguments:

It can get an instant response

The shock of your outburst, coupled with the pain of the slap or rotan, typically stops your kid in his tracks. At that moment, he ceases to misbehave and is stunned by the intensity of your reaction towards him.

It can release your frustration

You have told him at least 20 times today to stop touching that precious ornament Grandma gave you as a wedding present, and yet he continues to do so. A smack on his hand releases your tension and frustration.

It can be immediate

Repeatedly telling your child to behave himself can be a long process stretching throughout the day, but spanking is an instant solution. Rather than wasting any more words on your impetuous tot, a quick slap can sort things out at once.

It can teach him that his behaviour has consequences If he learns that his misbehaviour will inevitably result in a slap on the hand or the dreaded rotan, he will soon understand that he is responsible for the consequences of his actions. Spanking sends a very clear message.

It was part of your childhood

Chances are, you remember being caned by your parents when you were a child. And as far as you are concerned, that didn't do you any harm, so you now accept it as a normal part of parenting.

On the other hand, parents who would never lay a hand on their kids may argue that:

It can be ineffective

Research has shown that parents who spank when their child is four years old are still doing it when he's seven - in other words, it is unlikely to be an effective long-term solution for managing misbehaviour.

It can damage parent-child relations

No parent wants their toddler to be afraid of them. They would rather their two-year-old behave properly because he knows that's the right thing to do. Spanking can easily make your young one fearful of you.

It can easily become too extreme

You are only human, after all. After a long afternoon of persistent annoying behaviour from your toddler, it is all too easy for a quick slap on the hand to become an overly strong, extremely painful smack, or for you to inflict more rotan strokes than you intended.

It can encourage your child to be even more devious

If your little one knows that his misbehaviour is likely to result in a spanking, he will almost certainly try harder to hide the fact that he was the one, say, who scribbled on the walls.

It was part of your childhood

You remember being smacked by your parents when you were a kid - you hated that and are determined to raise Junior using positive discipline methods.

So the decision is up to you. You'll reach it on the basis of your fundamental ideas about parenting, on the type of relationship you want to have with your young child, and on your own experiences.

Think about the pros and cons mentioned earlier so that you make an informed choice. Be prepared to reach your decision independently without being unduly influenced by other parents and family members.

Spanking can easily make your child fearful of you. But some parents would rather their tot behave properly because he knows that's the right thing to do.

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Young Parents. Young Parents, published by SPH Magazines, is available in both digital and print formats. Log on to http://www.youngparents.com.sg/subscription to subscribe and for more parenting stories.

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