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American Academy of Pediatrics strengthens stance on spanking

Posted at 4:53 PM, Nov 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-05 17:19:09-05

When children defiantly act out and stubbornly don’t listen, do you use spanking as a last resort? If so, you might want to know the impact it could have on your child. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement, and it’s taken a much stronger stance on what some parents see as old-fashioned discipline. 

How does spanking affect a child?

The AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics found new evidence that links spanking to “an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial and emotional outcomes for children." Looking at a 2016 analysis of multiple studies, the AAP found physical punishment does not show any benefits in the long-term. And if you’re thinking it’ll work in the short-term, one study that used voice recordings also found spanking was ineffective. Get this, 73 percent of the children resumed the exact same bad behavior ten minutes later. 

Can spanking make children aggressive?  

It can. One study found kids who were spanked twice a month when they were 3, were more aggressive when they were 5 years old. And when they were 9, they were more physical when displaying their emotions and also had lower vocabulary scores. Another study found yelling and being harsh verbally before the age of 13 was associated with depressive symptoms in adolescence. And another study found young adults who were repeatedly exposed to harsh punishment had less gray matter in their brain. Which means less information processing power. 

How can parents handle bad behavior?

As a parent, I know how hard it can be to stay calm. But you can use other effective means, that are age appropriate. For example, most 6-month-olds are too young for rules so just pick them up and bring them to another room. Or you can try distracting them with something they like doing. And using time-outs for toddlers and preschoolers are quite effective.

For older children, focus on rewarding good behavior. This can be hard as bad behavior tends to get our attention fast. But you can come up with a reward chart where they can work towards earning something special. And for older kids, they do well when you set expectations and limits. These are much more effective than physical or verbal punishment.