Alternatives to Spanking

There is no greater debate in the parenting community than spanking. Only a couple of generations ago spanking was a given, it was seen as an effective way of punishing and disciplining children.

However, over more recent years society has become more aware of how violence breeds violence and therefore spanking a child is arguably showing children that it is okay to hit.

Therefore, many parents now believe that spanking children is counter productive and are looking for more helpful ways to teach a child how to behave.

Similarly, a lot of psychologists have focused on spanking over the past couple of decades and they have found that spanking leads to an increased risk of behavioural problems, low self-esteem, and mental health issues.

As a result of the growing understanding of the impacts of spanking, many parents are now trying to find alternatives, so we have compiled a list of some of the most effective ways of teaching children positive behaviour without the use of physical violence or aggression.

Time Out

In many respects using a time out as a punishment serves the same purpose as spanking without the detrimental impacts. It is a negative consequence of negative actions.

Not only is a time out effective as children have the biggest FOMO (fear of missing out) of all and therefore this is a consequence that they will want to avoid but it also gives them time to reflect upon their actions.

Losing Privileges

Taking away privileges is an effective response to bad behaviour displayed by children of all ages. It shows a direct consequence of the actions that the child commits.

This tactic can be used from about the age of 18 months as by this time children have the mental capacity to process the consequence and they have an understanding of object permanence.

The privilege lost would depend on the age of the child for instance, a very young child may lose a toy, an older child a phone and a teenager an evening out with friends.

Not Responding

Simply ignoring bad behaviour may seem counterproductive as it does not challenge the child’s actions or show consequences but sometimes no response can be the most effective response of all. This is because a lot of the time when children are acting out it is in order to get your attention, so in giving the child negative attention you are inadvertently still giving them what they want therefore completely ignoring the behaviour may be more effective.

Obviously, this can only be applied in certain situations for instance if the child was putting themselves in danger or about to break something valuable this would be impossible to follow through with.

The Naughty Step

The naughty step is a very traditional form of punishment and has proven effective generation after generation. Not only does it serve as a punishment, but it also gives the child the much-needed time to reflect on their actions and re-evaluate how they may react differently next time.

Having a specific space which the child is sent to when they misbehave such as the step is also effective as the child will learn to associate the step with reflection time.

Rewarding Good Behaviour

Focusing on the positives rather than the negatives could have a positive impact on everyone in the household’s mental health. Rewarding good behaviour acts as an incentive to behave and therefore can prevent negative behaviour.

Arguably prevention is better than cure and so giving a child a positive reason to behave well could be much more effective than punishing a child when they have behaved badly. The rewards could vary to suit your wishes and affordability and could be anywhere from a nice chocolate bar to a trip to their favourite amusement park.

Praising Good Behaviour

Sometimes a physical reward such as a new toy or a packet of sweets is not needed and praise can be enough. Children often look up to their parents and crave their approval.

Therefore, a simple “Mummy is so proud of you” can go a long way. The positive feelings that they will get from this response will make them want to behave again in the future and therefore it will act as a deterrent from bad behaviour.

Praise and positive reinforcement are also proven to increase self-esteem and improve mental health which is helpful as children with low self-esteem and poor mental health are much more likely to misbehave. Therefore, praising good behaviour could have not only short-term impacts on behaviour but also much more long-term impacts.

Be Consistent

In terms of both punishment and praise, consistency is key. If you are not consistent with your responses to a child’s behaviour their moral compass may become confused, and they will start to struggle to know the difference between right and wrong. If a child is not aware that their behaviour is wrong, combating it will become much more difficult.

Being inconsistent with a child who has behavioural issues also suggests to them that you are not sure how to respond and therefore decreases your status as an authority figure within the household. This can make the child feel as though they can get away with more and more bad behaviour.


Sometimes when a child is misbehaving all they need is a simple distraction. This is because the child’s behaviour could be out of frustration at a particular thing or situation so distracting them can be a quick way to diffuse the situation.

Although this doesn’t involve punishing the child, sometimes supporting the child can be more effective.

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences allow a child to learn from their mistakes themselves. It also allows the situation to be dealt with without putting strain on your parent and child relationship.

For instance, if they are playing with their books in the bath and refusing to put them down the natural consequence of this would be that the books will get soggy and damaged.

Create A Nice Calm Down Corner

Creating a nice calm down corner can allow you to redirect your child to a calm and safe place when they are misbehaving. The corner could contain pillows, blankets, soft toys, and some of the child’s favourite belongings.

When the child starts misbehaving you could simply say “Why don’t you take yourself to the calm down corner?” This allows the child to decide to walk away from the situation for themselves. This is a great way of developing skills to manage anger and negative emotions.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is important that parents are aware that there are an infinite number of alternatives to spanking a child, which have much fewer negative impacts. The use of violence and aggression when punishing children is gradually fizzling out as it does much more unrepairable damage than the alternative options.

It is important that your child knows that good behaviour should be chosen over bad behaviour however, there are countless ways that they can learn this and usually a combination of both positive and negative reinforcement can achieve this.

Therefore, using a combination of the spanking alternatives listed above could create a very well-rounded armour for combatting bad behaviour.