The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced new guidelines warning against the harmful effects of corporal punishment, which is defined as the physical punishment of a child by an adult in an authority role. This includes spanking.
Experts have long known that children who are spanked exhibit more aggressive behaviors. But Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness, believes the practice harms more than their behavior. “High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.” Put simply, spanking your child on a regular basis can actually make them sick.
“When a parent lashes out at a child and spanks them, it’s an example of the parent losing control. It does not teach good behavior,” explains Dr. Victor Fornari, a child psychiatrist at Northwell Health. “Parents get provoked, they lose control, they scream and hit, and they feel like it’s the child’s fault, but it’s not. Instead, they’ve they lost control themselves,” he says.
“Children learn from their parents,” Dr. Fornari explains. “If you use force, children use force. If you use reasoning and calm, children use reasoning and calm.”
So what are some effective ways to shape your child’s behavior and deal with moments that you’d rather avoid? Here are Dr. Fornari’s suggestions for the best ways to discipline a child: