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Spanking Leads to Aggression Later in Kids

Spanking at age 3 can make a child aggressive by age 5, recent research shows. Learn why you should think before you spank.
 Spanking Leads to Aggression Later in Kids
By: Erin Dower

Spanking Leads to Aggression Later in Kids

Could spanking turn your child into a bully? Recent research shows it might and gives parents another reason to think again before turning to spanking for discipline. Occasional spanking of a 3-year-old child – even just a few times a month – may lead to aggressive behavior, or bullying, at age 5, according to a study published in the May 2010 issue of Pediatrics.

Spanking Promotes Aggressive Behavior

Almost 27 percent of the 2,500 moms who took part in the study said they had spanked their child more than two times in the past month. Their children – even if they were just lightly spanked – were about 50 percent more likely at age 5 to show aggressive behavior, such as fighting with or being mean to others, having outbursts, and destroying things.

Effective Alternatives to Spanking

The American Academy of Pediatrics "strongly opposes striking a child for any reason."

Instead of turning to corporal punishment, try some alternatives to spanking:

  • Use nonphysical discipline, such as a time out with a firm explanation of what she did wrong.
  • Talk about the behavior and not the child. This puts things in terms of what is appropriate or inappropriate rather than how the child is a good or bad kid.
  • Try to anticipate bad behavior before it happens, and step in early by talking with or distracting the child. Distraction can work well with younger children.
  • Commend her for good behavior to encourage her to be well behaved in the future.
  • Although it can be hard, try not to lose your temper. This shows your kids that you can handle yourself when you feel upset, and they can, too.

Spanking is a short-term solution for misbehavior. It can blur a child's understanding of right and wrong, and break her trust and sense of security with her parents and others. Read more about why many experts consider spanking a bad idea.

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