AAP Says Punishment Is Never The Answer, But This Is

You may have heard about the American Academy of Pediatrics’s newest recommendations against spanking, but did you know they also urge parents to avoid yelling and timeouts? The AAP suggests that parents do not use punishments at all, but rather take a different approach to discipline.

According to the new guidelines, corporal punishment is not only ineffective, but it also harms children’s long-term development. The AAP mentioned that it didn’t matter how lightly parents struck their children, and it noted similar dangers concerning nonphysical punishments like humiliation, belittlement, and scare tactics.

The AAP bases their guidelines upon new studies in child discipline, which found that corporal punishment may cause short-term fearfulness that modifies behavior, but it does not improve behavior over the long term. In fact, kids who were spanked frequently were more likely to exhibit increased aggression. Striking or yelling at children elevates stress hormones, and when this happens enough, the brain literally grows and forms differently.

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Many parents wonder what they should do instead if all of the tactics they're familiar with are considered ineffective and even dangerous.

Parents are urged to develop positive discipline strategies to use in place of punishment. The root of the word "discipline" means to teach, and children learn desired behaviors through peaceful methods. Parents should praise desired behaviors in place of shaming undesired behavior. They ought to be mindful of their own behavior, modeling what they'd like to see in their children. It is also suggested to redirect behavior for younger children, to set up expectations ahead of time, and to consistently following through with a peaceful discipline method of the parents’ choosing. The AAP does acknowledge that limit setting is essential for children’s optimal development but emphasizes that it should be promoted using respectful methods.

On a positive note, parent surveys found that there is a movement towards peaceful parenting methods already in full swing. New parents tended to think spanking was never acceptable in much larger numbers than only a few years prior. Perhaps today’s parents have taken more initiative to educate themselves and go a step further than simply imitating the parenting they received as children.

Pediatricians are advised to counsel parents on positive behavior management techniques, and parents are encouraged to visit www.healthychildren.org/discipline to learn more.


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