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As Californians debate whether theirs should be the first state to ban corporal punishment of children, Old Dominion University parenting expert Katharine Kersey not only applauds the state for having the conversation, but also offers parents a real-life guide for positive discipline techniques that work.

"Spanking teaches children to hit and hurt. It focuses on what NOT to do instead of what TO do," said Kersey, who is chair of the Department of Early Childhood, Speech Language Pathology, and Special Education at Old Dominion and creator of the creator of "101's: A Guide to Positive Discipline."

"Discipline means to teach and train - and we need to be constantly thinking about what we are teaching by the way we are responding to children when they misbehave. The goal of discipline is self-discipline. We need to help children learn how to live, make good decisions, solve problems, and navigate their world. We do this by modeling and reinforcing mature behavior - not by hitting and hurting when children make mistakes."

Bay Area Assemblywoman Sally Lieber introduced a bill to make California the first state where hitting a child younger than 3 a crime. Many believe she would have the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose native Austria banned corporal punishment in 1989 and who has said in interviews that he and his wife have never spanked their own children.

Filmed over a period of three years in the ODU Child Study and Child Development Centers that Kersey directs, the "101's" are a list of techniques she and her students have compiled over the last 35 years to help teachers and parents nurture and love their children, teach respect, shape behavior, foster independence and build resiliency.

"Using the '101's' empowers parents and helps kids," Kersey said. "The principles give guidelines and encourage parents to be consistent, listen to the child, form a connection with the child and help the child realize that behavior has consequences. Adults will find favorite techniques that will work most effectively with each particular child."

"Children are born with empathy," she said. "We see babies in the nursery who will give their own pacifier to calm another crying baby. Children can lose that empathy by 2 or 3 if it is not modeled and reinforced."

Kersey, who is also the author of "Sensitive Parenting," "Helping Your Child Handle Stress," "Don't Take It Out on Your Kids," and co-author of "The First Year Teacher," is a long time proponent of not spanking. "Punishment, including spanking, yelling and embarrassing the child is counterproductive and unnecessary," according to Kersey.

The original thirty "101's" were introduced as alternatives to spanking to provide specific positive discipline choices that teachers and parents could use to guide a child's behavior. Kersey believes that parents, teachers, and caregivers can draw on the "101's" to provide a healthy, nurturing environment focusing on positive discipline that teaches and trains.

"One of the most important "101's" is the Demonstrate Respect Principle," said Kersey. "You need to ask yourself, would I want someone saying that to me?"

In one of the first segments of the CD-ROM set, the teacher observes a student's uncomfortable reaction to the cameras in the classroom. She demonstrates the respect principle by taking him aside to talk to him and reassure him. In the younger classroom, a teacher stops reading a book to a toddler when she realizes the child is too tired to continue. "Respect is the bottom line," Kersey adds. "When you treat a child with respect, then he comes to respect himself and also to treat you and others with respect."

Kersey's favorite principle is "Connect Before You Correct."

"Whenever we hurt another person on purpose, we break the connection. To avoid that, the wise teacher or parent will make every effort to stay connected - by respectfully listening, sharing positive thoughts, and looking for ways to solve problems so that the child will feel affirmed and his value, potential and worth will remain intact."

The "101's" can be used with all ages, including adolescents and adults. Kersey acknowledges that she uses many of the principles with her staff and students. She notes that sports coaches, as well as business leaders, have used techniques found in the "101's" with their teams and employees.

This article was posted on: January 23, 2007

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