How Spanking Hurts—and What to Do Instead
In the short term, spanking causes aggression, physical trauma, and even trouble with thinking and learning. Later in life, it results in mental health problems and antisocial behavior.
That’s according to a new research review that combined 75 previous studies of this controversial punishment. Not only does spanking fail to improve children’s behavior, it also increases the risk for 13 different negative outcomes, from low self-esteem to troubled relationships.
Fortunately, child health behavior experts have identified ways to discipline that do work. Overall, set clear rules, warn your child of what happens when they’re broken, and follow through. Try these specific tips to teach your child to listen and behave.
The behavior: A toddler or preschooler hits, bites, or won’t share
The punishment: Time-out
This tactic serves multiple purposes. First of all, it punishes kids by removing them from the fun to go sit in a quiet corner. Time-out also puts the brakes on an escalating situation. You’ll give your little one time to calm down before things heat up.
The behavior: A school-aged kid breaks rules about devices
The punishment: Withholding privileges
Taking away something your kid enjoys works best when it’s related to the misbehavior. Say you catch him or her watching videos you don’t approve of or teasing other children online. It makes sense to take away phones, tablets, and computers for a period of time as a result.
The behavior: A child throws a tantrum
The punishment: Ignore it—within reason
Toddlers throw tantrums to seek attention or get what they want. Don’t reward them—instead, wait calmly for the moment to pass. The exception, of course, is in the face of danger. If your child runs into the street during a tantrum or is otherwise at risk, grab him or her and hold tightly.
The behavior: Repeated disobedience
The punishment: Positive reinforcement
Reacting to ongoing aggression or disrespect with violence only makes matters worse. Instead, question calmly to find underlying causes of anger and frustration. Also, compliment your child for obedient and respectful behavior. This moves the focus from the problem to the solution. If you can’t regain control, talk with your child’s doctor or a mental health professional.