“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This does not mean that if you don’t spank your kids, you will create spoiled children! The rod is discipline itself, not an implement to hit with. If you don’t set limits and discipline your children, they will be spoiled (not necessarily spoiled as in “bratty,” but spoiled as in wrecked!”
Children who are raised without limits to their behavior have no consequences for what they do. It is like being in a car that is continually speeding out of control. How frightening would that be, especially for a kid? There is a book called “The Whipping Boy.” It describes in vivid emotional clarity, what children go through when they aren’t given any limits. It is quite sad.
Being raised that way evokes a host of difficulties throughout that child’s life, including being shunned from social and school activities (or expulsion from school) because of the out of control behavior. This robs the child perpetually, and it isn’t the child’s fault. The children in these situations know something is awfully amiss in their lives, and undoubtedly, they feel unloved. I’ve known a few children raised like that, and they suffer as much as children like me, who were reared with cruelty and excessive discipline. Either extreme can produce similar results, ironically!
To love a child is to provide firm and fair discipline, and to set boundaries and limits to their behavior. Discipline does not mean spanking! Never saying “no,” nor giving any consequences for misbehavior, tells a child very plainly “I don’t care what you do.” A child raised this way will not learn to put limits on his own behavior–he won’t have a clue how to do so. How will he understand how his actions affect others when no one explains it to him? Therein, lies the key to empathy. Explanation.
Be direct. For instance, “Beth, when you hit your sister, she feels hurt and angry, just like when your brother hit you, and you cried buckets! It hurts to get hit, and it hurts your heart when someone you love hits you. I know you love your little sister, even if you get mad at her sometimes. How do you think she is feeling right now? What can you do to help her feel better?”
If this is a repeat offense, and between siblings, it probably is— that is when the consequence must come. Set the limit, “it is not okay to hit anyone. If you hit people you will be punished.” Spanking a child for striking another only teaches that it is okay to hit if you’re bigger. You can easily see where that thought leads.
If there is no discussion between a parent and child about negative behaviors, how will the child begin to understand why what she did, is wrong? Simply stating, “don’t hit! doesn’t cut it. The child needs to know why he/she shouldn’t hit, in order for it to make any real impact on his heart, and then so he will want to change his behavior. The next step is to give the child tools to deal with situations that make him want to hit someone else.
Consequences are the glue in which the limits are set, and they remind children what happened the last time they did a certain thing, What breeds empathy though, are the explanations given for why one shouldn’t do various things, full of words that convey emotions.