Does spanking make your child behave?

Does spanking make your child behave?

There is little evidence that spanking improves children’s behavior, a new analysis of more than 50 years worth of research on spanking concludes.

Instead, the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to study authors from the University of Texas at Austin.

The study, which looked at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children, found that spanking – defined as an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities –is consistently associated with negative outcomes .

“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children,” said Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, in a study news release.

Although spanking children has declined gradually in the United States over the last 40 years, as many as 80 percent of parents around the world still spank their children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report.

“Spanking is not an effective consequence for negative behavior in children,” says Dr. Danielle Baran, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Children who are spanked can learn that hitting is an effective way to solve problems. For some children, the message they get from this form of punishment is that when their parents are angry, they hit, rather than tying the spanking to their misbehavior.”

Dr. Baran says that parents should consider other strategies that have better long-term results. She offers the following tips:

  • Reward desired behaviors. Parents should always be on the lookout for strategies to increase desirable behaviors at home. Rewarding good behavior through specific praise and parental attention is the best way to reduce undesirable behavior in children. There are very few things that children enjoy more than undivided parent attention with a focus on what they are doing well.
  • Have a plan for bad behavior. When kids do break rules – because they all do – parents should have a clear plan in place for how to handle these situations. Consequences should be immediate, time-limited and logical or natural when possible. An example of a natural consequence for breaking a toy is that a child no longer has that toy. An example of a logical consequence to breaking a sibling’s toy is having to earn money through small chores to pay for another toy to replace it.
  • Embrace the “time out.” Not every undesirable behavior has a natural or logical consequence, and in these instances, a clear procedure of “time out” typically works for most kids. “Time out” can be done almost anywhere, is immediate, limited to just a few minutes and has shown to be effective in responding to children breaking a household rule.

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  1. Ah, you were doing so well. But then you go on to replace physical abuse with emotional abuse. Why can’t we stop worrying about controlling behavior and instead understand the communication behind it? Have you ever been put in “time out” by a significant other or boss/co-worker (otherwise known as being given the silent treatment)? Devastating, isn’t it? Now imagine you’re a helpless child and the people you are dependent on for your life do that to you. Now do you understand what is wrong with time out? And rewarding behavior is just as controlling as punishing it. How about if we work with children rather than doing to them? Read anything by Alfie Kohn for more explanation and in the meantime please stop promoting dehumanizing behaviorism.

  2. If this is all true and there is no positive correlations to physically disciplining one’s children… and no, it is NOT abuse, it IS discipline. Please explain to me why there is such a rise in violence among children? You can see online many instances of disrespect to elders within the school toward teachers. I have friends that have subscribed to both lines of discipline and the most effective has been the physical discipline. I will grant that there is a possibility for abuse within physical discipline and not all parents will be able to utilize it successfully but I don’t think it is fair to diminish one style of parenting. I was raised with this possibility of being spanked and before any type of physical discipline was implemented there was an explanation of what I had done wrong and why I was being disciplined for it. Children are relatively simple in their formative years so operant conditioning is an effective method for raising them to fit in our society.

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About the Author

Sonja Vojcic
Sonja Vojcic

Sonja Vojcic, health enews contributor, is a marketing manager at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill. She has several years of international public relations and marketing experience with a Master’s degree in Communications from DePaul University. In her free time, Sonja enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and keeping up with the latest health news and fashion trends.