Hitting Hurts: Parents, Kids and Effective Discipline

Child Protection

Hitting Hurts: Parents, Kids and Effective Discipline

Many parents and caregivers believe that spanking or hitting a child is an effective way to teach discipline and encourage respect. In fact, most of us as parents probably were spanked when we were children ourselves. Years of current research, however, tells a very different story – namely, that hitting hurts – in more ways than you might think.
 
The Hurt from Hitting Can Last a Lifetime
 
Physical discipline can lead to many unwanted outcomes for our children, including increased aggression, disobedience and antisocial behavior that can lead to even more serious problems later in life. Because of these findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have recommended that parents avoid spanking and use other forms of non-physical discipline for children.
 
Facts About Hitting
 
  1. Hitting or spanking teaches children to use violence to solve problems.
  2. Using violence as punishment leads to children doing poorly in school and lacking the ability to concentrate.
  3. Physical punishment does not improve behavior for the long-term. It actually leads to more disobedience and aggression in children.
  4. Children that experience physical punishment are more likely to become involved in delinquency and criminal behavior.
  5. Children that experience or see violence view the world as dangerous and scary.
  6. Experiencing violence as children leads to physical and mental health problems as adults.
  7. Children that have been physically punished may have difficulty forming healthy attachments and may not be able to trust other people.
  8. Parents who use physical punishment with their children are at nine times greater risk of physically abusing their children.
 
Effective Discipline
 
There are many ways to address and manage children’s behaviors without the use of physical punishment. Different methods work for children of different ages and developmental levels, such as:
  • Guide and teach instead of punishHitting Hurts: Keeping Your Cool Pays Off for Life
  • Reward positive behaviors
  • Be realistic - expect the child to act like a child
  • Be prepared - anticipate and plan for situations and the child’s behavior
  • Give the child clear expectations
  • Build structure and routine in the child’s day
  • Be consistent and follow through with discipline
Discipline Techniques
 
DISTRACTION:
(works best with infants and toddlers)
Draw the child’s attention away from what they are doing toward something different while making a simple comment about the unwanted behavior, such as, “No touching that.”
 
TIMEOUT:
(works best for children age 3 and older)
Timeout should last for one minute per year of the child’s age after the child calms down. Adults should stay calm and not yell. Praise the child for calming down and briefly discuss the unwanted behavior.
 
STICKER CHARTS:
(works best for preschool and young school-age children)
Create a chart or calendar with the help of your child to reinforce good habits. The child will receive a sticker for each habit or behavior you are trying to reinforce. Make the goals reasonable for the child to achieve.
 
HOUSE RULES:
(works best for school-age and teenage children)
Remember that rules don’t work if the child isn’t involved in setting them up or if adults do not follow through on the consequences for breaking the rules. Make sure consequences are reasonable. Always listen to the child’s reason if he or she believes a rule is unfair. When a rule is broken, parents should calmly remind the child of the rule and the consequence.
 
What Is A “No Hit Zone?"
 
No Hit Zone; UW Health and American Family Children's HospitalA No Hit Zone means that no hitting of any kind is allowed - by adults or children, including the hitting or spanking of children by parents for disciplinary reasons. This initiative serves to promote wellness within UW Health facilities, including American Family Children’s Hospital.
 
UW Health is a No Hit Zone. Our goal is to promote a safe, healthy and non-violent environment for everyone. Our hope is that this initiative will grow to include communities and families. We understand that patients and families visiting UW Health facilities, such as American Family Children’s Hospital, may be dealing with a lot of stress. Behaviors of young children can intensify these feelings and put parents at risk of engaging in physical punishment.
 
We hope our efforts will reduce the overall use of physical punishment and the proven negative outcomes this has on children. We ask that everyone who visits or works at our facilities respect the “No Hit Zone” policy
 
Sources and Acknowledgements
 
Special thanks to Kosair Children’s Hospital/University of Louisville Pediatrics and the Dane County (Wisconsin) District Attorney’s Office for lending their expertise and materials to our Hitting Hurts campaign.
 
Sources/citations:
 
Altschul, I, Lee, S, Gershoff, E, (2016). Hugs, not hits: warmth and spanking as predictors of child social competence. Journal of Marriage and Family DOI:10.1111/jomf.12306
 
Gershoff, E.T. (2008). Report on physical punishment in the United States: What research tells us about its effects on children. Columbus, OH: Center for Effective Discipline.
 
Zolotor A., Theodore A., Chang J, Berkoff M., Runyan D. Speak Softly-and Forget the Stick: Corporal Punishment and Child Physical Abuse, 2008. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008; 35 (4) 364-369.