I was responsible for children’s discipline for most of 34 years—first as a preschool teacher, and then as a parent until my youngest turned 18. That experience has taught me that there is no need for spanking—ever. Before our oldest child was born, my husband, Terry, and I agreed to never spank our children. We kept that agreement.
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Our son, Will, is now 25, and our daughter, Christina, is now 20. They’re both happily married, and they both have bachelor’s degrees. We didn’t even have to deal with teenage rebellion. We’re very proud of how Will and Christina turned out, and I think most everyone who’s known them has considered them well-disciplined and polite.
So, how did we do it without spanking?
1. I used Montessori principles and had a Montessori classroom for Will and Christina when they were young. I owned and directed a Montessori preschool until Will was 3½. After that, I had a Montessori classroom as part of our homeschool. Montessori helped Will and Christina develop concentration, order, independence, and self-discipline.
2. We used techniques from Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.). P.E.T. uses a lot of therapy-like communication techniques. It was something that Terry, a Jungian psychotherapist, did automatically. I learned the techniques from the P.E.T. book. Parent Effectiveness Training is about treating children with respect and taking responsibility for our own feelings as parents. It emphasizes active listening, I-messages, and the “No-Lose” Method for Resolving Conflicts. For example, P.E.T. encourages parents to say, “I’m disappointed that . . ., “ rather than spanking or calling names. The book Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children is in its 30th edition. There is also a Teacher Effectiveness Training: The Program Proven to Help Teachers Bring Out the Best in Students of All Ages (T.E.T.) book.
3. We used logical consequences. Children seem to relate very well to logical consequences. Logical consequences are logical, after all. These work as well in the classroom as they do at home. For instance, if a child spilled something, I would calmly say, “You’ll need to clean that up. There’s the bucket and sponge.”
4. Our children had activities which contributed to their self-discipline and motivation. Both Will and Christina were ski racers and then figure skaters. Being athletes and having busy schedules contributed to a healthy, disciplined lifestyle.
5. Our family was always very close. We loved spending time together as a family, whether we were reading, watching movies, working, or traveling. Will and Christina were best friends, which contributed to the closeness of our family as well. They even worked together as DJs in Will’s DJ business when Christina was a teenager.
Will was homeschooled from first grade through high school and Christina was always homeschooled until college. Will attended my Montessori school from ages 2½ -3½ and attended a private kindergarten. Will wanted to experience kindergarten (especially riding the school bus) but then asked to be homeschooled through high school after finding kindergarten unchallenging and disappointing.
6. We had high expectations, and our children felt accountable to us. Terry and I always believed in honesty. We had built our marriage on that, and we expected honesty from our children. We also expected our children to be good people and had many discussions about values and morality. I think our emphasis on honesty and values made Will and Christina feel accountable to us. And they didn’t let us down.
7. We believed in following God, and our children felt accountable to God as well. We were never the fire-and-brimstone type of religious, but following God’s plan for our lives was always the top priority for Terry and me. Will and Christina picked up our belief in following God’s path. Since God’s path is always in a positive direction, that could only help our children want to be good people.
It’s difficult to say which factor was the most important in our children’s discipline. Everything probably worked together in the unique blend that was our lives. But whatever was the most important factor, one thing is clear. Spanking wasn’t necessary—ever.
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