Dr. Britten Cole's Blog: Why I Have Used Spanking to Discipline My Children in the Past
"Although I'm not opposed to a spank, there are some very important caveats that I had to keep in mind," Dr. Britten Cole writes in her latest PEOPLE blog
Please welcome back celebrity blogger Dr. Britten Cole!
Dr. Cole, an anesthesiologist and mother of two, splits her time between Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, where she’s starring on the inaugural season of Married to Medicine: Los Angeles. Aside from appearing on the hit Bravo series’ new spin-off, she is currently working on finding permanent medical employment on the west coast.
Before she became an anesthesiologist, Dr. Cole worked as an officer in the Navy alongside her best friend, Married to Medicine: Atlanta star Dr. Contessa Metcalfe.
Dr. Cole and husband Mack Major share two children: Mack Jr., 7, and Ivy, 8. You can find her on Instagram @brittencolemd.
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Disclaimer: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, corporal punishment should not be used as a method to discipline children. In a December 2018 advisory, the organization said that parents should “be encouraged” not to use spanking for punishments, with doctors noting that “there appears to be a strong association between spanking children and subsequent adverse outcomes.”
PEOPLE also spoke with Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center, in June about the effectiveness of corporal punishment — and she pointed out how “research over the past several decades confirms the negative effects of spanking, any corporal punishment and verbal shaming.”
“The temporary change in behavior does not outweigh the negative outcomes: more aggression, damage to the developing brain and problems in development and relationships,” she said. “This does not vary by race, ethnicity or income level. These punishments are not good for children.”
The decision to spank your child is very personal and controversial. Believe it or not, most Americans believe that children need a good ol’ spanking every now and again — and quite honestly, so do I. I think that when spankings are used in conjunction with other methods of discipline, within a foundation of a caring parent-child relationship, it can be an effective tool to alter behavior.
For example, when a very close friend of mine’s daughter was 5, she found it amusing to run away in a full sprint and would even run through intersections! When repeated scoldings, timeouts and conversations failed, a quick spanking immediately eliminated the dangerous behavior. Most children receive spankings between the ages of 2 and 7. This is a time where kids are learning to become independent and, as a result, push boundaries.
In my experience, when logic and reason are not on the table and other means of discipline fail me, I have spanked my children’s bottoms. I found a few taps to the bottom grabbed their attention, stopped patterns of misbehavior and helped them to rethink and redirect their future actions.
Although I’m not opposed to a spank, there are some very important caveats that I had to keep in mind. I define a spanking as a few swats to the backside — no switches, belts or closed fists. I don’t believe in hitting a child in the face or genitals.
I created my own boundaries around spanking when a timeout or offering choices was not effective:
- Spanking should be one of the ways in which a child is disciplined — not the only way.
- It should be the last form of discipline used, or to call immediate attention to a behavior that should never be repeated.
- Spanking should be used infrequently.
- Not every child needs spankings, and not every parent should use them. Parents who have trouble controlling their emotions and anger should focus on other methods of discipline (e.g., timeouts, redirection, taking away luxuries, positive reinforcement).
- Don’t just spank without using the moment as a teaching lesson. Give your child an explanation and level of understanding as to why his behavior was inappropriate and worthy of a spanking.
- You will lose it eventually, so try to postpone the spanking until you are no longer upset.
RELATED VIDEO: A Show of Hands: Yes or No to Spanking Your Kids?
Admittedly, the last rule can be a bit difficult to follow at times. But it’s worth it to take a pause and tell your child, “Wait until we get home,” or, “Go to your room.” This can provide some emotional space between the misbehavior and the spanking, allowing for a reassessment of whether the spanking is still necessary. Again, you will lose it! When nothing seems to work, you might have to seek help. Look for professional advice — talk to a pediatrician or behavioral specialist for ways in which to discipline your child.
At this stage in my children’s lives, I don’t spank them. They are old enough to understand consequences and a conversation; more meaningful forms of discipline reign supreme. Taking away a cell phone, internet privileges or other favorites has proven to have major bargaining power to get them to participate in household chores.
I can even give them “the look,” which garners the immediate effect of, “Don’t do that again.” It’s an effect that, in the past, a spanking could have: to stomp out repetitive defiant behavior.
More from Dr. Cole’s PEOPLE.com blog series:
- Dr. Britten Cole’s Blog: The Real Reason I Chose to Be on Reality TV
- Dr. Britten Cole’s Blog: Why My Husband and I Have a “Family Bed” with Our Kids
- Dr. Britten Cole’s Blog: Strict Boundaries I’ve Set for My Kids When It Comes to Screen Time
- Dr. Britten Cole’s Blog: How to Be Prepared in Case Your Children’s Nanny Suddenly Quits
- Dr. Britten Cole’s Blog: Are Baby Dolls Making My Black Children Feel Inferior?
I’ve found that spankings are useful at times, in certain situations and for specific children and parents. But no form of discipline is effective if the art of teaching the lesson behind the discipline isn’t there.
Parenting is an individual journey and, unfortunately, no pamphlet or rule book exists. If we parent with love, focus on being good role models and discipline in a meaningful way, hopefully we’ll all become better versions of ourselves.