I was very interested earlier this week when an article reflecting the latest research regarding the ineffectiveness of spanking, timeouts and sleep training was released. You can read the article here.
I agree 100% with everything in the article. The old discipline models are not effective, and that is for many reasons. However what this article lacks is putting together a model to support mums, parents and primary caregivers in changing. There is no point just publishing new research without giving mums an action plan to help them change their behaviour.
With all of my clients I have found that these harsh discipline techniques (spanking, time outs and sleep training) are often used at a last resort because mums have become so frustrated with their child’s behaviour and feel overwhelmed, can’t cope and don’t know what to do. The other time parents purposely uses these techniques is because they are influenced by others or fall into the trap of “it’s just what’s done”. This is of course where I come in, helping mums to manage their emotional reaction when faced with the challenging behaviour of normal childhood development and choosing to be the type of parent that they want to be. I always advocate for gentle parenting because if you want to have your children be gentle, kind and respectful towards you and their friends, then you should be the same way to your kids.
Research and articles like this are of course very beneficial in updating the current parenting tool kit so to speak. However often they can be met with resistance. Mums, parents, caregivers do not like to be told that what they have done in terms of raising their child is either harmful or has potential negative impact on a child’s psychological development. I’ve seen it so many times on the mother’s group pages. A mum will post about gentle parenting and it creates an uproar! The bullying and the trolls that happen in these pages astound me! Honestly it’s worse than high school!
We must recognise that parents have in the past and currently parent in the way they do with the best intentions for their child and with the resources and support that they have available to them. Every mum I speak to only wants the best for their child. They love them so much and even with spanking, time outs and sleep training it has been done with the best intentions of it being a way to help their child. The majority of parents don’t smack their child just for the sake of hitting them, they want them to learn discipline. Parents don’t leave their child to cry just because they don’t care, they want them to sleep. There is a positive intention behind all of these.
There has been a major shift recently in the way parenting experts, paediatricians, childhood health nurses and child psychologists have looked at these harsher parenting behaviours. We know from research that spanking, time-outs and sleep training negatively impact the attachment between child and parent. If we take sleep training for example, mums will say it is successful and their child self-soothes and sleeps through the night (a milestone of being a good mum if you listen to all the external forces), however as Roger Thompson discusses in the article there is a biological and neurological effect to this household silence. The flood of cortisol that occurs in your child’s body when they are left to cry (which induces a stress-response in their body), can create emotional and biological health issues. But it goes beyond this. The child who is left to cry experiences attachment issues because the parent who she relies on for all comfort and security has suddenly left her and will not come back when she cries out for her. The child’s brain is not wired and developed enough to understand the positive intention behind being left to cry so instead it is just processed as abandonment (Thompson, 2015).
What Thompson and this article fails to discuss however is how we can support parents to manage their child’s sleep without resorting to harmful behaviours. Is the mum so exhausted from trying to do everything that by the evening she doesn’t have the energy to use gentle sleep techniques with her child? Is she so resentful of having to do everything for her family 24/7 because she is not supported to have time off for herself and to do things each day that make her feel happy and fulfilled outside of being mum? Or is she being pressured by other family members and doesn’t feel like she has the strength to stand up to them and say no this is not how I want to be as a mum?
The concept of a “time-in” instead of using time outs has been around for a few years now. I know many parents who use it and I myself use it with great success. But I know there are plenty of mums who don’t. I’ve witnessed mums trying to use time-outs with their young children and it comes to a state where they are almost throwing their child in the corner because they are so frustrated with their behaviour. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to keep calm. The kid of course doesn’t just sit there and think about what they’ve done, they fight back yelling, screaming, hitting etc… If techniques like this worked then you’d only have to do it a few times, your child would understand it and the problematic behaviour that triggered the time-out wouldn’t happen again. This isn’t the truth. It’s a continual cycle of increasing “bad” behaviour that keeps escalating.
On the flip side, time-ins are incredibly gentle and foster connection, teaching moments and emotional regulation in children. When I mention these to mums, I often get told “I don’t have time for that”. Mums are busy. They’re working or running a household, and often both. They have the tasks of daily life, often raising more than one child and outside societal pressures. They’re trying to do everything for their child, their husband or partner and trying in vain to fit sometime in for themselves to really enjoy their life. How can you do a time-in with your child when you have no time yourself I get asked.
Here in lies the solution… creating more time for mums! It’s about getting mums to put themselves on the list so that they have enough energy to use the parenting techniques that do take a longer time to implement and achieve the desired outcomes, but are respectful and conducive to healthy physical and psychological development of children.
Yes we now have the research that shows that smacking, time outs and sleep training are harmful and should be avoided, but when are we going to support mums to change? Just saying “don’t do that, do this” doesn’t fix the problem. The question for me as a life coach who works exclusively with mums, is what’s going on in the background that is causing a mum to use these techniques? If we can address this and empower mums they they don’t need to use these now unacceptable parenting techniques.
We as a society put too much pressure on mums to do everything. And mums put too much pressure on themselves. The mums who come to me want to be better mums. They want to do better for their children’s sake. They know they shouldn’t be yelling, smacking or leaving their child to cry, it doesn’t suit the type of mum that they want to be and it doesn’t work! Rather than tell them they’ve potential harmed their child and be negative to their past actions, I help them look to the future. It is about the choices you make today! The type of parent that you chose to be from today. The help that you seek that will empower and support you to be that type of parent!
So if you’ve read the article and this blog and you’ve decided that you want to change for the benefit of your child’s psychological and emotional well-being, and so that you can enjoy being a mum and be the type of mum you want to be then now is the time to take action! This is why I am here! There is no judgement here! Please get in contact with me at email@example.com or give me a call on 0432 936 867 and let’s have a quick conversation about what’s going on for you and how I can support and empower you.
You are a great mum! The fact that you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this lengthy blog is tantamount to your commitment to being and doing the best for your children! Keep that momentum up and get in contact with me.
I believe in you! I know that you can do it! I guarantee it!
P.S. The article link again: