Spanking. This topic should be included with politics, religion and sex. It causes just as much disagreement and arouses plenty of strong emotions. Yesterday, I came across a news brief titled “Study: Spanking may increase risk of mental illness,” which discussed an article that was published last week in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Simply reading the title peaked my interest, and as I continued reading it really got me thinking about the many conversations I have had on this topic both as a parent and as a child therapist.
Essentially, the article says that a child who is spanked, slapped, grabbed, or shoved as a form of punishment is at an increased risk of becoming an adult with a broad range of mental illnesses. As a result of this study researchers suggest that spanking or any other type of physical punishment should not be used as a form of discipline on children of any age; this opinion is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I have my own opinions on discipline (which I will share at the end), but I decided that the Individual and Family Counseling staff here at Triangle Family Services would be a great place to “hear from the experts” and their thoughts on spanking. We have 9 licensed clinical social workers, an adult psychiatrist, a child psychiatrist, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner with a total of 212 years of experience… definitely worth picking some brains!
- Susan Record, a child therapist who has 20 plus years of experience herself, says that “spanking tends to create more aggression in children.” She recommends that parents employ alternative discipline strategies because spanking is detrimental to a child’s ensuing development. Her final words of advice to parents were: “Ask yourself: what are you teaching your child by spanking them?”
Keep an eye out for Ms. Record’s name on Facebook. We’ll be posting some of her tips on alternative discipline strategies throughout next week!
- Dr. Fred Horton, a volunteer at TFS, is a retired adult and child psychiatrist who has 37 years of experience. “If a toddler is about to get into the wall socket –a swat on the rear better than an intellectual conversation. The important component isn’t the swat, but the gaze between mother and child that shames the child and is upsetting to the child; then later you repair the relationship through loving interactions. Discipline should improve a child’s tolerance for frustration, which fosters impulse control and moves them from self-centered to understanding what is realistic in the world. Long discussions with children in the moment are worthless; consequences must be immediate, then you can talk to them about it later. Consequences should have a “bite” whether it is putting them in their room, taking away a toy, or taking away car keys.
As a child therapist, my specialty area is trauma. I have worked for 20 years with children who were sexually and physically abused. I always encourage parents to use forms of discipline other than spanking because the line to physical abuse can easily be crossed. As a therapist and a parent I think that if you keep consequences IMMEDIATE, CONSISTENT, and MEANINGFUL they are quite effective. As a small child that meant putting Dora the Explorer on top of the refrigerator when misbehavior occurred. With a 12 year old, taking away “screen time” (tv and internet) is about as meaningful as it gets! We also do “restitution” in my house. When you do something to hurt someone, you have to say you’re sorry AND do something to make it right. Restitution usually fits the offense; for example, if you break someone’s camera (even if it was an accident) you earn money and buy them a new one.
If you would like some individual attention, call us and schedule an appt. with one of our experienced and talented child therapists! Also, check in with our Facebook throughout the next week where we will be posting some discipline tips for parents.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on discipline…Is spanking effective? Do you spank your child? Would you be willing to learn new ways to discipline your child? Let me know what you think!
Original Article from Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/06/27/peds.2011-2947.full.pdf+html