Parents may have heard about alleged child negligent or injury in the news because Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson was indicted recently on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child
For perspective on this situation, we spoke with Allison Jackson, MD
, Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Protection Center at Children’s National.
Jackson advises parents to respond in a corrective, nurturing way when disciplining their children that supports a child’s self-esteem. Appropriate discipline should begin early on, she says.
Dr. Jackson said, as a pediatrician, “We don’t recommend physical discipline. Research continues to demonstrate the negative impact of physical discipline on the health and well-being of children.”
Spanking teaches a child it’s okay to hit
“The starting point for families is that the word discipline means to teach,” she said. “We admonish our children in an effort to teach them what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, what is safe and not safe to do. When spanking, what are you teaching?”
“By hitting your child your kids learn that it’s okay to hit. Children imitate our behavior. That’s exactly how they‘re acting out their experiences, so if you set the precedent that hitting is okay, don’t be surprised that they hit others,” Dr. Jackson said.
The child-injury charge against Peterson has sparked discussions about discipline, parenting, boundaries, and tough love. And studies show hitting children can cause long-term damage “that increase the likelihood of depression, anxiety and antisocial behavior,” according to a Washington Post report on how spanking affects brain chemistry.
Consistency Is Key
“Children need consistency and repetition,” says Dr. Jackson. “The rules have to be the same regardless of whose household they are in. And you have to provide a consistent response. You have to respond appropriately to the misbehavior. If it’s wrong at grandma’s house, it’s wrong in our house. Kids don’t learn their ABCs in one try, and they won’t learn your rules in one try, they learn by repetition.”
Parents, Time-Outs Aren’t Just for Kids
Timeout is very effective and not just for children, according to Dr. Jackson.
“Kids can make us angry, they make us frustrated,” acknowledges Dr. Jackson, a parent herself. “But we have to understand their development and as they’re becoming mentally and physically more independent, they start to test their limits. It’s not that they’re being bad, but they‘re experimenting and we have to put the boundaries in place in a nurturing way.” Parents should take a time out themselves - take a deep breath, walk away for example.
The Child and Adolescent Protection Center treats more than 1,300 children annually from Washington, DC, and surrounding jurisdictions, and serves more than 1,800 children annually through its participation in the District of Columbia's Multidisciplinary Team on Child Abuse.
When differentiating between parenting and abuse, Dr. Jackson said she and her team look for physical and psychological damage.