“If I don’t spank, what am I supposed to do?” asked Teri, mother to ten-month-old Mary.
Teri, as a parent of a now walking and curious toddler, had reached into her parenting bag and found that spanking was her only tool for redirecting behavior.
“What do you want to teach?” I said.
“Well, I guess I want to teach Mary to be safe and to not get into stuff she shouldn’t. I can see that spanking doesn’t teach those things. Spanking is more about me forcing my will than showing Mary the right way to do things.”
For those you have reached into the parenting toolbox and aren’t happy about what you have to work with, here is a tool I call “love-pats.”
PATS is an acronym for prevention, acknowledgment, and termination strategy.
“Teri, when was the last time you spanked Mary?”
“She threw her blocks at the television set.”
“How could you have prevented that?”
“”Perhaps making sure the blocks, the television and Mary weren’t in the same room.”
“Yes, trying to avoid or prevent situations that create undesirable behavior is a help”, I said.
“Prevent. That’s the P in love-pats.”
“The A in PATS is acknowledge.
We need to acknowledge our children when they are doing something correctly. When you see Mary using her blocks to build, tell her. Say things like…I see how you are building a tower. I see how you are making a line with your blocks. Yes, we use blocks to build. As parents, we need to focus our attention on the behaviors we are trying to teach and reinforce.”
“The T in PATS is about termination of an activity or setting limits with clear expectations.
We need to let our children know the limits and the consequences. For example: If you throw blocks, I’ll have to put the blocks away. When we have put a termination strategy into play, if a block gets thrown, all we have to do is follow through with action and put the blocks away. We don’t have to say a word. We don’t have to get emotional. And our actions speak louder than words.”
Using love-pats helps us control our emotions and actions by using prevention/acknowledgement/termination strategies.
Love-pats help us teach our children as we model that our words and actions are meaningful and have integrity. Love pats let us use our hand to be tools and symbols of strength and trust instead of anger and fear.
“Love-pats instead of spanking. I think I can remember that, “ Teri said.