When children get out of hand, parents should refrain from raising theirs and instead try positive reinforcement and "time-outs," a national group of pediatricians suggests.
Spanking teaches children aggression and is no more effective than other forms of punishment, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in this month's issue of its magazine, Pediatrics.When parents must punish, nonphysical methods such as imposing a "time-out" or taking away privileges are better alternatives than spanking, Dr. Mark L. Wolraich, who headed a committee that worked on the academy's recommendations, said Monday.
The 53,000-member academy acknowledged it doesn't expect to eliminate the popular punishment overnight. About 90 percent of U.S. parents spank and 59 percent of pediatricians said they support the practice, according to a 1992 survey.
The academy is now conducting a new survey of pediatricians, but has set no date for releasing the results.
"We would rather have pediatricians teach parents more effective techniques rather than teaching them how to be better spankers," Wolraich said.
The academy said effective discipline has three crucial components: a supportive, loving relationship between parent and child; use of positive reinforcement when children behave well; and use of punishment when children misbehave.
"Discipline is not just punishment," Wolraich said.
The position against spanking follows similar recommendations from other groups that study child behavior, though in 1983, the academy took a vaguer position on spanking, suggesting alternatives without opposing it.
Researchers wrote in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine that spanking is linked with aggression and makes children behave even worse.
Parents typically turn to spanking when they're angry, "giving the message that a way to resolve anger is physically," Wolraich said.
Also, most parents eventually have to find an alternative to spanking anyway, once their children get older and the practice loses its effectiveness.
If parents must spank, the academy recommends using it selectively. Frequent spankings become increasingly less effective and require the parent to spank harder and harder to get the message across, Wolraich said.
"We don't want to imply that just because a parent spanks their child they are necessarily bad," Wolraich said.