To spank or not to spank? It’s a controversial question being raised by parents all across the country—and one that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just addressed in a new statement released this morning. Claiming that the act of spanking or hitting a child is an “aversive disciplinary strategy,” the group, which is comprised of almost 64,000 doctors, has now taken a stronger stance on corporal punishment.
It’s the AAP’s first official statement on spanking since 1998—and this new policy is even stricter. “In the 20 years since that policy was first published, there’s been a great deal of additional research, and we’re now much stronger in saying that parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child,” explains Dr. Robert Sege, one of the authors and a pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Updated @AmerAcadPeds policy: Use effective discipline strategies for children that do not involve spanking, other forms of corporal punishment or verbal shaming. https://t.co/fzp4d4z6Dn #AAP18 pic.twitter.com/Xz1W0mLtNT
— AAP News (@AAPNews) November 5, 2018
While 19 states still allow spanking in public schools, doctors argue that it’s hurting kids more than it’s helping them (and we don’t just mean physically). Dr. Sege agrees, noting that it affects “how they perform at school and how they interact with other children.” That’s a claim backed by science, too, as numerous studies have shown that spanking leads to mental health issues in teens, along with more aggressive behavior later on in life.
So what does the AAP recommend parents or caretakers do instead? “It’s best to begin with the premise of rewarding positive behavior,” co-author Dr. Benjami Siegel advises. “Parents can set up rules and expectations in advance. The key is to be consistent in following through with them.” One specific strategy offered is the time-out method, where parents ignore a child for at least two minutes.
Regardless of what alternative you choose, “there’s no benefit to spanking,” Dr. Sege confirms. “We know that children grow and develop better with positive role modeling and by setting healthy limits. We can do better.”