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Child Health 411

with Ari Brown, MD

This blog has been retired.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spanking Gets You Nowhere

Spare the rod and spoil the child… while there are many great teachings in the Bible, I have to disagree with this one (or at least the literal interpretation of it).

Any child development expert will tell you that whacking your child on the bottom or slapping his hand when he is naughty is an inappropriate form of discipline.

The reason? You are your child’s role model. If you resort to physical force or violent behavior when you are angry, that is exactly the way your child will act when he is upset. As I’ve said on this blog before, the word “discipline” means to teach. And, there are several effective non-physical, non-violent ways to teach your child self-control.

A study published in Pediatrics this week validated my concern about the effects of spanking. The study looked at about 2,500 kids who were spanked at three years of age. At age five, the spanked group showed a whopping 50% more aggressive behavior than the non-corporal punishment group.

You might wonder if this is the chicken or the egg. Are aggressive kids are the ones who get spanked more? The study authors say they accounted for that question. But, they did report that parents tended to spank children who were considered to be more defiant and easily frustrated.

My response to this: Raising children is the toughest (and most satisfying) job you will ever have. Take the time to learn why your child is acting this way instead of resorting to a poor parenting choice.

When a child is “defiant,” it really means he is seeking independence and control. When a child is “easily frustrated,” it means he needs help solving a problem. Getting a spanking for trying to find your place in the world teaches just one thing – FEAR. It teaches a child that his parent will hurt him to keep him in line. It doesn’t teach the child why the line is there (the natural consequence for behavior that goes unchecked), or an alternative solution to a situation (problem-solving skills).

So, the next time you think about spanking your child… please consider what you want your child to learn from your behavior.

How do you discipline your kids? Comment on this post on the Parenting Exchange.

Posted by: Ari Brown, MD at 8:35 am