In the past and present, physical discipline has been used to teach a child to stop a bad behavior. However, many researchers have found just the opposite effect. It has negative outcomes for children’s mental health, relations with family, and social interactions. It increases the likelihood that the child will have more delinquent behavior and replicate it with others. The use of physical discipline is not more effective than time-outs and does not increase a child’s obedience (Gershoff, 2013).
The goal of this form of discipline is usually to cease an action or bad behavior that your child has been displaying, especially aggressive behavior towards a sibling, pet, or parent. Over 20 studies actually found that “spanking was associated with more, not less, aggression in children” (Gershoff, 2013, p. 2). “In one study of more than 3,000 preschoolers, increases in spanking from ages 1 to 3 predicted increases in children’s aggression from ages 3 to 5” (Gershoff, 2013, p. 2).
Unfortunately, the act a physical discipline does not teach the child why what they did was wrong nor show them other options to replace that behavior/action with. Instead, it teaches them to behave only when the looming threat of spanking is present and when it is not, there is no need to listen.
In addition, it can have negative effects on emotional connection and interaction with others, particularly, their caregivers. They don’t understand why the person they love would hit them, it is confusing and scary. It can affect their social interactions and development of relationships outside of the family. “Children who are spanked are more likely to attribute hostile intentions to others, attributions that in turn increase the likelihood that they will behave aggressively in social interactions” (Gershoff, 2013, p. 3).
To lessen these poor outcomes, utilize:
- Giving choices
- Strike Out System – 3 X’s & you lose a privilege
- Having a time-in corner
- Provide options to satisfy the sensory need
- Safe space to talk about their feelings and why the action happened
- Learn how to talk about emotions and behaviors openly
- Bring up emotions after the situation AND all the time, especially for good feelings
- Use The Zones of Regulation