The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 19, 2010

Spare the rod, spoil the child? | Parents must find right way to discipline kids

The Tribune-Democrat

— Should you spank your child?

That’s not for us to answer, but we do encourage parents in our region to read the results of a national study on spanking as a means of disciplining children.

The comprehensive study was released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is published in the May issue of the academy’s journal, Pediatrics.

We learned of the study in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Pohla Smith.

AAP’s latest research concurred with earlier studies that spanking can make young children aggressive years later. In one segment of the research, the study found that spanking a child of 3 more than twice a month was associated with an increased risk for higher levels of aggression at age 5.

“You can’t argue with (parents who believe in spanking)” Lawrence Newman, a psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, told Smith. “The parents say, ‘But it works!’ ”

Their proof, he says, is that it stops kids from misbehaving.

Perhaps, but ... here’s what we also know:

Newspaper stories about child abuse tear at our heartstrings just as much as they do to most of our readers. And often, we read that the abuse was the result of a parent’s discipline gone too far, and that includes spanking that developed into something much more.

We’ve never had a child psychologist or pediatrician on our editorial boards, so we’ve naturally shied away from a stand on the issue of spanking at home or paddling (corporal punishment) in schools, which has been banned in Pennsylvania’s public classrooms since 2005 – although “reasonable force” in still permitted under certain circumstances, according to the state Department of Education.

For a young child, experts today are more likely to suggest that parents use nonviolent punishments such as time-outs.

Those means obviously don’t work as well for teenagers, but neither does physically abusing an individual.

It’s parents’ responsibility to discipline their children appropriately when the need arises, and not pass the job onto others.