Spanking Your Child – Why You Shouldn’t

By: Brandy Gheesling, MD, IBCLC, FAAP

In the recent weeks, the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued an updated statement to parents regarding disciplining their children.  The AAP has strengthened their stance on not spanking your child.  Spanking has been found to have detrimental effects on your child.  Studies have shown that it can lead to aggression, anger, and depression.  It causes your child to release toxic stress hormones and have less gray matter in their brain, which is the part of the brain responsible for self-control.  Spanking has even been shown to lower your child’s IQ.  It also teaches your child that is alright to hurt someone you love.  In the end, spanking simply doesn’t work.  Each time you spank, you have to use increasing force to get a response until you eventually get a correction in the behavior.

So what is the best way to discipline your child?  First, positive reinforcement is so important.   When your child is exhibiting good behavior, make sure to tell them.  For instance, “Thank you for sharing your toys with your brother today.  I am so proud of you.  That makes me so happy when you share.”  Often times, we are quick to let them know when they are misbehaving but fail to recognize when they are behaving.  

Make sure your child knows the difference between right and wrong.  Set clear expectations.  Be consistent in disciplining.  Make sure Mom and Dad have the same rules.  Be a good role model for your children and model behaviors you would like for them to have.  The AAP advises against yelling and using harsh words because it too can have detrimental effects on your child.  If you see your child misbehaving, first offer a warning.  For example, “If you jump on the couch again, you will have to go to time out.”  But only give one warning.  If they disobey you after giving a warning then make sure to follow through and put them in time out immediately.  We generally recommend one minute of time out for the age of your child.  So, a 3-year-old would need to sit in time out for 3 minutes.  For older children, you can take things away such as their phone or tv.  For the younger children, you can also try redirection.  If you see them about to do something they shouldn’t, redirect their attention to something else.   

Being a parent can be hard sometimes.  It requires a lot of patience.  But no matter how much your child pushes your buttons, it is most important to always make sure to still show love and affection towards your child. 

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