Don't spank: Pediatricians warn parents of long-term harms

Leslie Hanson
November 7, 2018

This statement is an update of guidance from 1998 that also called for non-physical responses to undesired behavior. "If you have questions about disciplining your children, talk with your pediatrician", it advises.Pediatricians will nearly always recommend discipline that does not include hitting children, or forcing them to eat spices, washing their mouths out with soap or other abusive punishments. Those include giving positive reinforcement, setting expectations and limits.

"In the 20 years since that policy was first published, there's been a great deal of additional research", he told CNN, "and we're now much stronger in saying that parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child".

"The good news is, fewer parents support the use of spanking than they did in the past", said Dr. Robert Sege, policy statement co-author and a past member of AAP Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.

In stressing that spanking does not work, the AAP said a 2014 study showed that the effects of corporal punishment were transient: within 10 minutes, most children (73 percent) had resumed the same behaviour for which they had been punished.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on disciplining children.

The new policy - which wades into the controversial subject of corporal punishment - uses a variety of older studies to show the downsides of spanking a child and offers other solutions for parents who are looking to discipline one of their kids without spanking.

A 2017 poll from ABC News found that 65 percent of Americans approve of spanking a child, although 67 percent agree that it shouldn't be school teachers doing the spanking.

"What we talk to parents about is paying attention to your child's good behavior and paying less attention when they're misbehaving", Sege said.


"If it were an effective strategy, you would either see no correlation between spanking and child behavior, or you would see a correlation that's the opposite of what you do see", she said.

That held even when parents were otherwise warm and loving. "Simply put, parents who manage their children's behavior well may no longer feel the need to use more violent approaches".

The report said the risk of harsh punishment is increased when the family is experiencing stressors, such as family economic challenges, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, or substance abuse.

"One small report suggested that parents who themselves have a history of trauma are more likely to use corporal punishment than other parents". Other ways of teaching children right from wrong are safer and more effective, according to the AAP.

So what is the best way to discipline children?

The academy recommends that pediatricians use office visits to help parents with age-appropriate strategies for handling their child's discipline. Only 6 percent of the 787 USA pediatricians surveyed in 2016 approved of spanking, and only 2.5 percent actually expected it to do any good.

Corporal punishment is harmful and ineffective, America's peak pediatrics group said in its updated guidelines.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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