For the last 20 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged parents from spanking their children, albeit indirectly. (A 1998 policy simply "encouraged" parents to use "methods other than spanking.") However, the AAP is now taking a tougher stance against the so-called disciplinary tool.
According to new guidelines released on the AAP News & Journals Gateway earlier this week, "aversive disciplinary strategies, including all forms of corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children, are minimally effective in the short-term and not effective in the long-term." What's more, new research actually "link[s] corporal punishment to an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes for children.”
As such, "parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child," Dr. Robert Sege, lead author of the policy and pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, said in a statement.
The new guidelines are unsurprising. The "benefits" of spanking have been in question for many years. However, that AAP hopes concrete data will cause parents to reconsider their approach and instead use "healthy forms of discipline," such as reasoning, positive reinforcement, setting limits and/or setting expectations.
“The good news," Sege said in the statement, "is fewer parents support the use of spanking than they did in the past. Yet corporal punishment remains legal in many states, despite evidence that it harms kids — not only physically and mentally, but in how they perform at school and how they interact with other children.”
That said, the AAP hopes pediatricians can provide parents with additional support and use their influence to help them identify age-appropriate disciplinary strategies and/or refer them to community resources. Because, as Sege said, "there's no benefit to spanking." At all. And we need to do better. "We can do better."