Stopped at a red light recently on Fifth Avenue, a busy Brentwood street, I noticed a woman walking with two children. The baby, who looked to be about 6 months, was in a stroller, and the toddler, who was about 2, the same age as my son, Jonathan, was walking beside her, closer to the traffic. She was not holding the young boy’s hand and as she crossed over the train tracks, I began to get a sinking feeling that he might make a break for the four-lane street. He did.
The woman quickly grabbed the child before he could get too far off the sidewalk, but then proceeded to spank him.
Dr. Kristene Doyle, a psychologist and therapist with the Albert Ellis Institute in Manhattan, who does not endorse corporal punishment, explained that a child that age would have benefitted from a timeout, taking away any stimulation enjoyable to the child, instead of a spanking. After securing the safety of the children, the doctor said the woman should have explained, very specifically, what was wrong with the child’s behavior so that he understood.
“Hitting him and saying bad boy doesn’t explain anything,” the Hofstra graduate who lives in Manhattan said. “You must define the behavior. Don’t label the child as bad, running into the street is bad.”
In terms of spanking, parents must tie the consequence to the behavior so that a child understands why they are being spanked, but she cautions that this type of punishment could negatively impact a child’s mental health leading to depression, anxiety, more aggression and relationship difficulties.
Doyle suggests instead taking emotion out of discipline. “When you punish out of emotion, often times the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”