Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated policy statement on “Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children.” All parents raising children in the 21st century will read this and learn what they already should know: Physically spanking and verbally humiliating and demeaning children are not only ineffective strategies of discipline, but they are dangerous and harmful, too:


Aversive disciplinary strategies, including all forms of corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children, are minimally effective in the short-term and not effective in the long-term. With new evidence, researchers link corporal punishment to an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes for children.


Christina Caron spoke with a pediatrician who gets right to the heart of the matter:

“One of the most important relationships we all have is the relationship between ourselves and our parents, and it makes sense to eliminate or limit fear and violence in that loving relationship,” said Dr. Robert D. Sege, a pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center and the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston, and one of the authors of the statement.


The AAP relies on the most recent clinical evidence to explain the harms of corporal punishment (spanking) and verbal abuse on the physical well-being, brain anatomy, and mental health in children:

  • corporal punishment of children younger than 18 months of age increases the likelihood of physical injury;
  • repeated use of corporal punishment may lead to aggressive behavior and altercations between the parent and child and may negatively affect the parent-child relationship;
  • corporal punishment is associated with increased aggression in preschool and school-aged children;
  • experiencing corporal punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future;
  • corporal punishment is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems;
  • the risk of harsh punishment is increased when the family is experiencing stressors, such as family economic challenges, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, or substance abuse; and
  • spanking alone is associated with adverse outcomes, and these outcomes are similar to those in children who experience physical abuse.


Caron asks: If yelling and screaming and spanking are no longer appropriate, then what?

So what is the best way to discipline children? That largely depends on the age and temperament of the child, experts say.

Effective discipline involves practicing empathy and “understanding how to treat your child in different stages in development to teach them how to cool down when things do get explosive,” said Dr. Vincent J. Palusci, a child abuse pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at N.Y.U. Langone.

[…] Rewarding positive behavior, using timeouts and establishing a clear relationship between behavior and consequences can all be effective strategies.


We will talk more about safe and effective discipline strategies on The PediaBlog tomorrow. Trisha Korioth has a preview:

The AAP urges parents to use healthy discipline methods for children and teens.

  • Praise good behavior.
  • Be a role model for good behavior.
  • Set limits and expectations.
  • Ignore bad behavior or redirect your child away from the bad behavior.


More PediaBlog on spanking here.


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