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.
About the Author
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.