A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents. In analyzing 50 years’ worth of data involving over 160,000 children, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan found that spanking, defined as open-handed hit on the behind of arms and legs of the child, also leads kids to more anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties growing up.
"We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors. Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree," says study lead author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. In the study, physical abuse and spanking had the almost the same long-term effects.
Study co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work adds, "The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do." The study should help convince parents to at least try other forms of discipline such as positive reinforcement or removing of privileges instead of spanking.
As many as 80 percent of parents around the world spank their children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Many see discipline as a case-to-case basis, and if tough love works for them, then it's none of other people's business. Other justify spanking because they talk to their kids afterwards, which as shown in this study could confuse the child even more about appropriate behavior. The same applies with apologizing to kids after the fact.
For parents who would like to try other forms of discipline other than corporal punishment, here's the three most effective ways to discipline a child:
Compromise. Agreeing on a middle ground is the most effective discipline technique for the little wayward things that tots do. No need for punishment or a bribe!
Reasoning. An extension of the first suggestion. This works best in mildly annoying behaviors such as negotiating or whining. You have to explain why it's not good to do this or that--simply saying it's bad is not going to cut it.
Giving out punishments and consequences. Not spanking, but punishments and consequences by way of timeouts and taking away privileges for kids who are being difficult. This form of discipline is usually the last resort.
If you can ignore a misbehavior, meaning the act is not a health or safety issue, then do so. Dwelling on your child's bad behavior could lead him to think it is the only way he can only get your attention.
When disciplining your child, it is always better if you are calm and thinking clearly, so count down from 10 (or 20 if you have to!) or leave the room for a few minutes to take a breather. If you have to dole out punishment, make sure it's directly related to the misbehavior so your child makes the connection. Also make sure that your child understands why he or she is being punished.
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Always be firm with your decision. Discipline is about consistency, so you have to follow through your rules. It's also best to involve your kids in making the rules if they are old enough. This way, they know the consequences of bad behavior, and they can't object to the puinishment--after all, they helped make the rules.