Disciplining children: Confused about what works?

Published: Friday, Dec. 28 2012 1:25 p.m. MST

"First, establish a positive, supporting and loving relationship with your child. Without this foundation, your child has no reason, other than fear, to demonstrate good behavior. Second, use positive reinforcement to increase the behavior you want from your child. Third, if you feel discipline is necessary, the AAP recommends that you do not spank or use other physical punishments. That only teaches aggressive behavior, and becomes ineffective if used often. Instead, use appropriate time outs for young children. Discipline older children by temporarily removing favorite privileges, such as sports activities or playing with friends. If you have questions about disciplining your children, talk with your pediatrician."

"Principles and Practices of Effective Discipline," a report from Phoenix Children's Hospital, emphasizes the goal of guiding instead of punishing, giving children choices so they can practice making good ones when possible and making sure that consequences are logical and explained. The author, Elizabeth Gershoff, also suggests what she calls "teaching time-outs" in which a child is to think of a plan to improve behavior in order to get out. If the process drags beyond a few minutes, though, she noted, it's important to help the child craft a plan. Consistency is also key.

Gershoff said research has shown that physical punishment is not only not effective, but that it "makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future."

In "The Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effect on Children," she wrote that "...there is substantial research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems and physical injury. The clear connections between physical abuse and physical punishment that have been made in empirical research and in the child abuse statutes of several states suggest that reduction in parents' use of physical punishment should be included as integral parts of state and federal child abuse prevention efforts."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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