Even though kids may drive us crazy when they misbehave, most
parents still try to reason with them or put them in timeout
instead of spanking them. And those of us in the Midwest are even
less likely to spank than parents in the South or West.
Nine out of 10 parents choose to discuss and reason with their
misbehaving children, while 1 out of 5 use spanking to discipline,
according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on
Children's Health. And this bodes well for the future of our kids,
says lead author Matt Davis.
"Given recent research that indicates spanking can be harmful
for kids' emotional development, I see it as a positive step that
parents are more likely to use verbal discipline than physical
discipline," says Davis, associate professor of pediatrics in the
CHEAR unit at the University of Michigan Medical School. "However,
I think we still have a lot of work to do to help parents
understand how best to discipline their children with these verbal
Parents can help each other by sharing do's and don'ts with each
other, Davis recommends. "Make discipline an acceptable topic
between parents, rather than a taboo," he says. "It can help if
parents feel comfortable sharing with each other the strategies
that they've found to work."
It's also helpful to communicate with your child's teachers and
day-care providers about what's good and bad behavior and how
discipline is used, so that it's consistent at home and school.
Parents should communicate with each other about discipline
strategies, whether they're in the same household or not. "One of
the situations I see in my office ... is that the child will
misbehave and the parents will react in opposite directions. I talk
to parents about being consistent."
If you're a parent of a teen, try having discussions about
consequences of behavior ahead of time so you can get a sense of
what will be the most effective discipline if your child has
stepped out of line. "In other words, what privilege do they
treasure most highly," Davis says. "It can help teens grow up to
understand that we have to be aware of what will happen if we walk
down certain roads that we already understand from our parents are
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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