Learning to defy parents when they are absent
Professor Bussey says children who’ve been spanked, don't internalise the rules behind why they're being spanked. While the parent might get short term compliance from the child, they don’t actually register the reason why they were spanked in the first place.
“In fact, as soon as these kids get a chance, they will defy whatever the parent wants. For example, if the child is told not to watch television and the parent is there, they might comply. But as soon as a parent is not looking, they'll go against their parent and do exactly what they want to do,” Dr Bussey says.
“All the child gets from the spanking is, ‘I know that if I do this, I'll get spanked and, if she's not here, then I can do it’. So, because of the lack of internalisation, they're much more likely to defy parental requests, particularly when the parent isn't present.”
Spanking teaches children to be violent
Dr Bussey says, in many cases, the only thing spanking achieves is it teaches a child to be violent.
“The parent is a role model. How will they resolve conflict if they’re going to hit a child? All they are doing is showing the child aggression. But what we worry about the most is that spanking is the biggest risk factor in ongoing physical abuse.
“There might be one or two little smacks today, but that can soon escalate into full blown child abuse. It’s the strongest predictor of child physical abuse occurring.
“And because spanking is such a problem, one way of dealing with the high levels of child physical abuse is to completely outlaw spanking. This has happened in several countries (such as Japan) but not here. In Australia, we have outlawed it in certain categories, for example, you’re not to hit a child on the head, but you can still spank a child.”
Professor Bussey reasons that if a parent in Australia, who is legally allowed to hit their child, (so long as it’s not on the head or face), hit another person’s child, it would be regarded as assault.
“So, it's very strange that the same behaviour is defined differently, depending upon the relationship with that particular person. In other words, these kinds of practices are allowable with your own children in the guise of teaching them a lesson,” she says.
“If you want your child behaving well, the best way is to reason with the child and give them reasons for what they should be doing. Build up a relationship with them, rather than smacking them.
“By spanking your child, you’re not building up a positive relationship; the child wouldn’t want to spend time with you. We’ve found children who get a lot of spanking, tend to want to spend more time with their peers and not their parents.”
Professor Bussey believes parents should be letting their children know that they are valuable and that it's important to be concerned about others; and that harming other people is not acceptable behaviour.
Teach children about rules and reason with them
Children need to know the importance of abiding by the rules, and told why rules are so important.
“They need to be taught that disagreements need to be dealt with in another way – not with violence or aggression. Parents must make sure the child understands right from wrong and knows not to hit other children. Kids need to be taught that they can talk to their parents about any issue.
“If a parent starts off reasoning very early with their child, then that kind of strategy is going to work later. What often happens is if a parent has a very bad relationship with a child, they will lash out and smack them. And, what accompanies a lot of this smacking is blaming the child. ‘If you had a child like this, you’d smack them too!’
“So the child gets blamed, and they start to think that they're a bad person. It’s very important to instil in the child that you think that they're a good person.
“If they’ve misbehaved, tell them you’re very sad at what's happened and that they shouldn’t do it. You need to simply reason with them, and let them know they’ve done something wrong. It’s never a good idea to physically discipline a child.”