Doctors Say Don’t Spank Kids

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ROCHESTER, NY (WROC-TV) – The American Academy of Pediatrics is out with new guidelines for child discipline.

Dr. Colleen Fogarty, the Medical Director at Highland Family Medicine and the Associate Chair of Education and Clinical Practice, explained the new guidelines and the reasons behind them.

“This is the first policy update in about 20 years,” said Dr. Fogarty. “It incorporates all the new research and it’s a very strong recommendation for parents and caregivers not to use spanking or other physical punishment to discipline children.”

Dr. Fogarty said there are two primary reasons for the spanking stance.

“One is it’s ineffective, and two is it’s potentially very harmful to the child. It’s ineffective in that, if a parent or caregiver spanks a child, it’s demonstrating to the child that this is an acceptable way to solve problems.”

“The child can become more aggressive and there has been some evidence that there are problems in school, either with paying attention to teachers or learning. Also, importantly, there’s some research looking at brain or cognitive development in children, and this can be impaired in children who had physical abuse or physical punishment as a child. They may not learn as well as peers and go on to struggle. Another important reason is there is an association with more mental health problems later in life, so depression and anxiety are found to be more often in adults who were physically punished or had other physical trauma as children.”

Instead of spanking, Dr. Fogarty said the new guidelines call for a developmental approach to child discipline. “Obviously a baby or toddler who is moving in one direction, it’s easy to redirect them, to distract them,” she said.

“For older children, like pre-schoolers, help them set expectations of what you expect as a parent and to re-enforce that when they’re doing a good job, and then to use a structured time out when they’re not. Older children, school age, natural consequences is a very powerful motivator – so if they’ve gone out without gloves and come back with cold hands, that’s a natural consequence enough.”

To see the full policy statement from the AAP, click here.

For more on alternative approaches to spanking, click here.

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