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Do your kids lie to you or hide things from you?
Do they blame others for their mistakes?
Do they look away or fall silent or seem to shrink when you come into the room?
Do your kids cry even before you yell at them?
Do you yell at them? Or hit them? Or make sarcastic remarks?

Too many children are afraid of their parents. Mom and Dad mean well. They’re just trying to get the day accomplished and it seems to them that the kids are getting in the way. So they lose their tempers. But the children are the real losers. If your children are afraid of you – if you see the kind of behavior listed above – then you’ve got to turn things around, and fast.

This turning around is something for you to do. It’s not true that you’d be a better parent if you only had better children. It’s not true that the way to have better children is to destroy them so you can build them into people who are nicer. What is true is that our children were created by us. The problems we see are problems we created.

Which means the problems we have with our kids are problems we can solve.

If you have a short temper, if you get stressed and overreact, if you want everything to be perfect and things are never perfect, then your children are your victims. This is a hard thing to realize. We love our kids and we’d never do anything to hurt them. We only want the best for them. But the demands we make, the blame we assign, and the punishments we mete out take their toll. If your children are afraid of you, you’ve got to begin to back off.

Children who believe the important adults in their lives are dangerous have only two outlets. They can become small and timid, afraid to shine, afraid to try. Or they can become even more dangerous than you are, to their siblings, to other kids they know and, eventually, to you.

If what you’re yearning for is the perfect family, then making your children afraid of you and afraid of your anger and your unhappiness is the wrong way to go. Make a change.

  1. Give up your electronic devices. The constant pinging is like having an insistent puppy always demanding your attention. Give your children your attention. Put away your phone and your tablet while your children are home. See if you don’t feel calmer.
  2. When something goes wrong, make your first reaction a smile. See setbacks as opportunities to work together with your child to solve things. Help your child get back on track in a way that is supportive and loving. When you quit assigning blame and quit being angry all the time, your children will become more responsible and happier.
  3. When anger bubbles up, take a deep breath and strive for self-control. Don’t take things out on your kids. There is nothing, nothing, that matters so much over the long term as your relationship with your children. Whatever just happened is a momentary distraction. Don’t let it become more.
  4. Speak in a quiet voice. There’s no need to yell. You don’t need to shout to be heard. If your children are used to you fighting to be heard, if your kids are used to being out of control until the moment you scream at them, it will take time for both of you to get back to a more normal interaction pattern. But it has to start with you. You’re the grown up.

When we realize the damage we’ve inflicted, to the point that our children are actually afraid of us, we’re embarrassed. We’re sad and ashamed. We want to hide. But none of that solves anything.

The way to repair the hurt we’ve inflicted is to become the parent we wanted to be all along.

© 2015, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Look for free downloads on Dr. Anderson’s website at

If you spank your child you might be convinced that you’re doing it “right.” You might think that spanking is good for a child and not only stops bad behavior but leads to improved behavior over time. A new study confirms that you would be wrong on both counts.

Thirty-three parents who said they spank agreed to be recorded over four to six evenings. Most of the parents were the children’s mothers, and were married, well-educated, white, and worked outside the home. Their children were, on average, a bit younger than four. The recordings captured 41 instances of corporal punishment (spanking, slapping, shoving, shaking, pinching, and so on) that happened mostly while the parent prepared dinner or was bathing the child before bed.

The scientists, led by psychologist George Holden from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, found that these parents spanked in three ways that are especially troubling: they spanked in anger, they spanked quickly instead of as a last resort, and they spanked for minor misbehaviors, not in response to serious problems or dangerous behavior. In addition, parents hit their children repeatedly, instead of giving a single swat.

As you know by now, I do not believe spanking is effective but I understand that many parents do spank. So, if you hit, I invite you to observe your own spanking behavior.

If you spank, slap, or hit your children, take a long, hard look at that. How effective is corporal punishment, really, in making your life more serene and happy? How better behaved for how long are your children as a result of being hit? How much better do you feel about yourself as a result of being a parent who hits?

Corporal punishment has been associated in other studies with everything from low school success, obesity, bullying behavior and delinquency. If spanking isn’t effective at home anyway, is it worth the risk of derailing your child’s future? I think not.

Please, think before you hit.



© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Join Dr. Anderson in an online conference for teachers and parents. Find out more at Quality Conference for Early Childhood Leaders.

Have you ever spanked your child? You know: hit, slapped, shoved, shaken, or spanked a child on the bottom? Lots of parents have, even if they won’t admit it. And those who do admit it think that spanking is no big deal. They claim it’s effective. Is it?

Well, certainly spanking has the effect of stopping whatever is going on pretty quickly. It directs a child’s attention away from whatever she’s been doing back to you. So it’s effective in that way. But does spanking effectively develop a child’s ability to know right from wrong and to get along better as a person? All the research says “No.”

Spanking ranges on a continuum, of, course, from the very occasional swat all the way up to daily beatings. Obviously, daily beatings are bad. But that occasional swat isn’t good either. A long-term, large scale study reported in the medical journal Pediatrics found that children who were spanked the most at age three had the most behavior problems at age five. The lead researcher reported, “The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50% if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began.” More than twice in a month: three times. That’s occasional. And that has a strong negative effect. And the study accounted for the children’s natural differences in temperament. “It’s not just that children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked,” the lead researcher said.

Spanking doesn’t teach good behavior. It doesn’t teach kids what they should do. Spanking teaches bad behavior. It teaches that when you don’t like what you see or aren’t getting what you want, the adult thing to do is to hit. That’s what Mom and Dad do.

How often do you spank your child? For many parents, it’s just about every day. A couple times a week. Why?

Parents spank because spanking is quick. It requires no thinking, no conversation, no teaching. One doesn’t actually have to do any of the hard work of being a parent when one spanks.

What parents don’t realize is that spanking is bad for their children and it’s bad for them. Spanking raises your blood pressure, heightens adrenaline levels, and increases your stress. Notice how you feel after you administer a spanking: notice your heart rate, your own level of upset. Violence takes its toll. (And if hitting your child makes you feel good, then you have serious psychological issues.)

Many parents defend spanking by saying, “He was asking for it.” Not even big children want you to hit them. But older children may like to provoke you to the point of violence. When older kids do that, it has the effect of reducing your power. They know that when you hit, you are acting like a child yourself. You have destroyed your own authority. When you spank your child, he can ignore you because you don’t deserve his respect.

If you are a spanker, it won’t be easy to stop. You will need to try to get through each day, one at a time, without hitting your child. It helps to have an alternative strategy in mind. There are many good books and sites on positive discipline. Seek these out.

But stop the spanking. Even a little bit is way too much.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Who spanks a little baby, someone just a year old, who can barely walk and can scarcely talk? What parent would hit a child who can’t even tell the difference between right and wrong?

Nearly one in three parents do, that’s who.

A study by researchers at University of Michigan of 2,788 families of children aged about 15 months found that 30% of parents had spanked their baby at least once in the past month. The problem with spanking of very young children is that it sets off a cascade of other effects with long-term consequences.

First of all, early spanking sets up a habit of spanking that parents find difficult to break. Spanking a baby who is, obviously, unable to understand what he did wrong, is clearly not intended as discipline aim at teaching better behavior. Instead, spanking of babies demonstrates a parent’s frustration and inability to control her anger. Once hitting is established as a way of dealing with anger, parents are likely to hit without ever considering other, less violent means. It becomes the first resort, not the last resort.

Second, spanking is bad for babies, who are particularly vulnerable to psychological harm. The developmental task of infants is to develop a strong bond with a parent – a secure attachment – that serves as the foundation for social interactions throughout life. Children who fail to develop a secure attachment as infants struggle to get along with others. Because spanking seems completely random and meaningless to a baby, who cannot understand the connection between what she just did and a parent’s anger, spanking undermines the baby’s trust in her parent and her attachment.

And, finally, spanking is just plain dangerous for babies, who are quite breakable.  According to researchers, parents in the study who spanked their infants were likely to be investigated sometime over the next four years by child protective services.  CPS visits when there is evidence of harm, including bruising, broken bones and brain damage. Tiny bodies are no match for adult anger.

No research has found that spanking improves children’s behavior. In fact, harsh parenting is associated with children’s poor school achievement, bad behavior, and problems with mental health. Certainly, spanking babies makes no sense.

What does make sense?

  1. Redirect your child. Instead of spanking, simply remove the baby (gently!) to another location or give her something else to play with. Block her access to something forbidden or put it out of her reach.
  2. Pick him up and go for a walk outside for a few minutes – or if you’re outside, go back inside for a little bit. The change of scene often stops a crying jag or an episode of bad behavior. Just stay calm and gentle as you do this.
  3. Stop what you’re doing and give your child your full attention. Get down on the floor with him and play together for a few minutes.
  4. Notice when you are already crabby. Don’t take your anger at someone else out on your child. Take a deep breath and remember what’s important – your baby’s happiness.
  5. Hugs not hits. A bit of cuddling and fun will turn around a fussy, troublesome baby. Be sweet and bring out the sweetness in your child.

Being a parent isn’t easy and it takes a lot of self-control.  You will become a more loving, responsible parent if you can resist the spanking habit when your child is just a baby.



© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Join Dr. Anderson in an online conference for teachers and parents. Find out more at Quality Conference for Early Childhood Leaders.