A study of 3 and 5 years olds published in October in the journal Pediatrics suggested spanking could lead to future aggression.
“Researchers found that maternal spanking at age 5 was significantly associated with greater aggression and rule-breaking as well as lower scores on vocabulary tests at age 9,” The New York Times
, by the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, focused on families in 20 cities.
We talked with Allison M. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P.
, Division Chief of the Freddie Mac Foundation Child and Adolescent Protection Center
at Children’s National, about the relationship between spanking and children’s behavior.
Does spanking work?
“Spanking is not an effective way to discipline,” Jackson said. “Discipline means ‘to teach. In order for children to learn, they need repetition. Just like they don’t learn the ABC’s the first time, they don’t learn the rules the first time either. What does spanking teach? It teaches that it’s ok to hit someone else.”
Is there a correlation between spanking and a child’s development – social skills, emotional health, etc.?
“Children who are spanked are prone to be more aggressive with resultant behavior problems at school. There is also evidence that children who are spanked understand fewer words,” she said.
Should parents spank their children?
“Spanking should be avoided,” Dr. Jackson said. “There are better ways to teach your children.”
What are some other ways to discipline a child who may have acted out improperly with others?
Dr. Jackson offered the following options, adapted from an article published in 2010 in Pediatrics.
- Set the rule by ﬁrmly saying “no hitting”
- Redirect by giving your child an example of how to be helpful with his hands
- Redirect by asking your child what should be done with their hands
- Ask your child how they feel
- Later in the day, praise your child for playing nicely
- Discuss why hurtful behavior is wrong
- Tell your child that you expect the right choice next time
- Role play at another time
Dr. Jackson also suggested the following tactics after others have been tried
Are there secrets to setting limits and encouraging good behavior kids?
- Place your child in time-out
- Take away a privilege
- Say “no” to your child
- Tell your child what to expect if they are hurtful again (i.e., give warning)
- Hold and give hugs to your child
- At another time, encourage rough and tumble play
- Ask your child about their feelings
- Leave the area
She said it’s important for parents to model good behavior for your children and to reward their good behavior.
“Follow through with the consequences for misbehavior. Be consistent. Avoid spanking, yelling, and speaking angrily at your child,” she said. “If you are having difficulty with your child’s behavior, talk with your pediatrician.”