In Child Discipline, Spanking Is No Hit
How long has it been since Mom or Dad swatted your bottom for getting into trouble? Probably decades, back when setting kids straight often involved spanking. These days, child-rearing experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), urge better and safer ways of discipline.
"Spanking in general teaches children what not to do and doesn't teach them what to do instead," says Judith Myers-Walls, Ph.D., associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University.
Corporal punishment can do harm. Very young children are easily injured, especially by parents with poor self-control or who don’t understand limits. Following physical discipline, older kids can become more aggressive toward peers. Studies show that once children who have been spanked reach adulthood, they are more likely to become depressed, have suicidal thoughts, fare poorly in school and abuse drugs.
Find out why
Dr. Myers-Walls suggests you try to learn why your child is acting up. For example, spanking your child for biting other kids may just stop the biting for now. Instead, get to the root of the problem by thinking about why your child is biting other kids. Could your child feel frustrated? Could biting be because other children are biting him or her? Teach your child to vent frustration using words. Instead of biting, your child can learn to say, "I don't like it when you do that." At the same time, explain why biting isn't acceptable.
Children are often naughty because they want your attention, says Barbara Howard, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. This is an ideal occasion for a time-out, which shows children you'll ignore them if they act up. Have them sit alone for 15 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on age, to send that message.
Time out is a passive non-corporal “punishment” that immediately separates the child from the undesirable activity. It also separates the child from the companionship of other children or family and shows the child that both friends and family object to the misbehavior. The benefit is that time out cannot physically injure the child and helps instill a desire in the child to behave well. Time out is widely accepted as a safe mode of discipline for young children.
On the flip side of discipline, it's vital to praise children and give them attention when they do something good.
"The combination of a good relationship, plenty of attention, plenty of playfulness and warmth are important to make it work," Dr. Howard says.
The true meaning of the word "discipline" is to teach.
Positive rewards work better than negative consequences.
Spanking doesn't model the kind of behavior you want.
Take the child from a negative situation to stop the bad behavior.
Pay attention to a child's positive behavior.