It’s estimated that 70-90 percent of parents spank their children, according to Dr. George Holden of Southern Methodist University; in spite of the mounting volume of compelling research that shows physical punishment in all forms is not an effective solution for behavior problems. Spanking and other physical punishment has many unintended negative effects, including poor mental health.
Holden set out to study how parents talk to their children by audio taping 37 mothers’ parenting interactions with their home environment. What he frequently heard on tape were interaction that led up to physical punishment and the sounds of spanking and slapping. One mother spanked or slapped a young child saying, ironically, “That will teach you not to hit your mother!” Holden says that there is only one known benefit to spanking: short-term compliance to parent or caregiver request (Source), however, research continues to confirm the many negative consequences of using spanking and physical punishment as a form of discipline.
The Downside of Physical Punishment
Higher risk for mental health disorders
New research by Tracie O. Afifi, PhD. at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, suggests that physical punishment, without other forms of maltreatment such as emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or exposure to domestic violence, are linked with higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, co-dependency, and personality disorders. Based on this research Afifi and her colleges estimate 2-7% of mental health problems in subjects could be attributed to physical punishment. (Source)
Dr. Joan Durrant, a child clinical psychologist and professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba has analyzed over 20 years of research on physical punishment and found that children who were punished physically were “more aggressive toward parents, siblings, peers and, later, spouses, and are more likely to develop antisocial behaviour.” She also found that when parents in more than 500 families where trained to reduce physical punishment, the children’s behavior problems were reduced. (Source)
Holden says that there is only one known benefit to spanking: short-term compliance to parent or caregiver request (Source).
Physical punishment is linked to negative long-term effects including:
- Increased aggression with friends, siblings, and parents
- Anti-social behavior
- Poor peer relationships
- Damage to parent-child relationship (Source)
- Higher risk for intimate partner violence
- Higher risk for becoming child abusers
- Higher risk for mental health disorders (Source)
- Decreased executive functioning (planning, abstract thinking, delayed gratification) (Source)
- Lower IQ scores (Source)
7 Positive Discipline Strategies
With so much research showing that physical punishment doesn’t work, why do so many parents continue to do it? Parenting is a skilled activity. We tend to do what our parents did to us (which was likely physical punishment) unless we consciously choose to improve our own skills.
Try these 7 positive skills and strategies for better long-term outcomes for your child.
1) Focus on relationship
What inspires good behavior is a positive relationship and healthy emotional management tools.
What is the purpose of my child’s poor behavior?
What are my child’s underlying need and feelings?
How can I help my child address those needs and emotions?
2) Prevent when possible
Avoid situations that push you or your child to the limit. Don’t let your child get too tired, too hungry, too bored, or too stimulated.
3) Notice the positive
Comment regularly on your child’s positive behavior, characteristics, and efforts. Let your child overhear you talking positively about her to other adults.
4) Use logical consequences
Whenever possible, allow your child to experience natural or logical consequences or his or her behavior.
5) Take a time out
Remove your child from the situation that is triggering the poor behavior so they can calm down.
6) Loss of privilege
Remove a privilege, like TV time or game time, for misbehavior. Each child may be motivated by the loss different different activities.
7) Add a chore
As a consequence of misbehavior require your child to do something that contributes to family life, maintaining the household, or acting in a positive way toward the person he or she has hurt in some way.
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