Physical punishment increases the likelihood that children will demonstrate aggressive behavior.

Reasons Why Parents Should Not Use Physical Punishment

by Becky Swain

There’s no way around it for parents – providing discipline for children represents a crucial component of your role as a parent. When a child’s inappropriate behavior annoys, frustrates and agitates, some parents may employ a physical punishment such as spanking to produce quick results. Consider alternative forms of discipline to avoid the negative side effects of physical punishment, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.

1. Increased Risk for Aggressive Behavior

Ideally, discipline provides the dual functions of stopping a challenging behavior, and teaching your child an appropriate replacement behavior. Using physical punishment stops the unwanted behavior, but fails to teach a more suitable behavior, and fails to teach responsibility for the challenging behavior. As published in the May 2010 issue of "Pediatrics," the study “Mothers’ Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children’s Aggressive Behavior" found that children who were spanked more often at age 3 were more likely to demonstrate aggressive behavior by age 5. Additionally, the researchers noted that these children exhibited problems with defiance, anger management, delay of gratification and aggressive behavior with people and animals.

2. Increased Risk for Mental Illness

The study “Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative U.S. Sample,” found that children who were subjected to physical punishment such as slapping or hitting, pushing, grabbing and shoving experienced an increased risk for mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and personality disorders, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics in its August, 2012 issue of "Pediatrics." The risk did not coexist with child maltreatment such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect or exposure to domestic violence. Based on the study’s results, the researchers suggested that minimizing physical punishment may reduce the incidence of mental disorders in the general population.

3. Limited Effectiveness

Although physical punishment typically produces rapid results for parents, these results appear short-lived at best. Physical punishment does not teach a positive replacement behavior, and without an appropriate alternative behavior to place within the behavioral repertoire, children tend to repeat the problematic behavior. Disciplinary strategies work when applied consistently. Most parents do not wish to use physical punishment as a disciplinary strategy, and consequently, this strategy fails to produce lasting behavioral change, reports HealthyChildren.org.

4. Ineffectual Problem Solving

Parents model an ineffectual problem solving strategy when they use physical punishment. As your child’s most influential role model, your actions and words carry meaningful influence, even if those actions and words are negative. Using physical punishment to control your child’s inappropriate behavior communicates that inflicting physical pain on others serves as an acceptable problem solving technique. When parents demonstrate anger associated with physical punishment, children learn that aggression serves as an acceptable response to feelings of anger.

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