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A Letter To The Editor: March 4, 2017

Mar 04, 2017 10:48AM ● Published by Jim

Editor's Note: This Letter is in response to a column previously posted by 
Sheriff Dale Schmidt - Monthly Column: Respect For Authority - Mar 02, 2017

I am writing to provide additional information to readers regarding Sheriff Schmidt's article in the March 4-5 Daily Citizen, regarding respect for authority and the need for discipline of children.  Since Sheriff did not specifically speak to forms of discipline and their effectiveness, I feel it both necessary and responsible to follow up with additional information for caregivers.

As far back as 1975, the American Psychological Association found that corporal punishment does not reduce undesirable behavior in the long term.  Momentary changes happen out of fear, and such discipline has the potential to instill "hostility, rage and a sense of powerlessness".

A 2008 report on physical punishment in the United States recommended that "parents make every effort to avoid physical punishment" and has been endorsed by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

A 2012 nationally representative study published in the journal of American Pediatrics found that "physical punishment is associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and personality disorders", all after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and family history of dysfunction.

With decades of information telling us physical discipline both doesn't work AND creates negative outcomes, why is it still practiced? The easy answer is because we are human, subject to our biased experiences and emotions.  We believe that if we were spanked and we turned out ok, it must be appropriate for our children.  We get angry or embarrassed when our children misbehave.  And worst of all, in my opinion, is that we are over scheduled. Taking time to work through problems with our children in our hectic lives is a challenge that perhaps our parents or grandparents did not face to the extremes we do today.

Positive discipline takes time and energy we are hard pressed to find, but is something we must make space for.  I have found the work and writings of both Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Standford University and Martin Seligman, author of "The Optimistic Child", helpful in improving my own parenting.

A few things that seem to have made a difference for our family have been:
1. Teaching an expansive emotional vocabulary (especially from a young age).
2. Accepting anger, rage, disappointment and fear as part of being alive and talking openly about what we are feeling- tantrums are okay, as long as you are in a safe space.  Work out those feelings - have a walk, kick a punching bag or pillow, find your breath to center.
3. Creating a "no questions" out for sticky situations - if you are unsafe, call.  Adults will be there, no consequences.
4. Counting our blessings, we have done this with both with "nightly nuggets" before bedtime in the early years and now a thankful jar at dinner time as we enter the teen days.
5. Finding something good each family member has done and verbalizing it to them and to other members of the family each day.

I hope you find some of these ideas useful, but don't take my word for it.  Go out and do the research yourself. When we know better, we do better.

Best of luck as we raise the next generation together, 
Jamie Kratz-Gullickson
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