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When it doesn't cause physical injury, spanking can lead to aggressive behavior, weakening of the parent-child bond, and ultimately undermine other more positive forms of discipline, according to the AAP.
But choose your alternate discipline wisely, according to Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, pediatric hospitalist with St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"Yelling is another parenting crutch — a crutch that's toxic to families." In fact, new research suggests harsh verbal disciplines can be as damaging as spanking.
"Intuitively we know that yelling isn't what our families need," says Dr. Berchelmann. "Usually it's because we're desperate, tired, frustrated, angry and not sure what else to do."
So without spanking or yelling, how can parents raise strong, disciplined kids?
Set clear expectations — Before you leave the house, or begin an activity, communicate clearly what kind of behavior you expect from your child, and what behavior won't be tolerated. And remind them often.
Spend positive time together — The most valuable thing your child wants from you is time. Often, acting out is a child's way of getting your attention. Don't make them compete with your mobile device. Find an activity that interests them, and spend time together doing it.
Intervene early — If your child is guilty of a routine behavior problem — like leaving dishes in the sink, for example—– talk to them before they've committed the offense. Asking "What are you going to do with your dishes when you're finished eating" is more positive and proactive than reacting to the dirty sink.
Redirect — Sometimes a change of scenery, or an opportunity to burn energy, can help a mischievous child. "Pulling the dog's tail again? Maybe it's time to play outside!"
Express love — Show affection and appreciation for your child. They need to be reminded repeatedly of their value to the people who matter most to them.
Praise effort, not outcome — Give praise 10 times as often as you give criticism. And choose your praise wisely. It's not always about the outcome; it's about the work they put into it.
Apologize — We all make mistakes. If, in a moment of weakness, you catch yourself yelling at your child, own it and apologize. Kids need to know that even grown-ups make mistakes, and grown-ups have to apologize, too. Showing your children that you respect them enough to apologize when you've messed up gives them a powerful message about their own value. Besides, for some people, there's no better motivator not to yell, than the horror of having to apologize!
For more information and helpful tips about discipline, visit StLouisChildrens.org or call the St. Louis Children's Hospital Answer Line at 314-454-KIDS (5437) or 800-678-KIDS (5437).
For over 130 years, Children's Hospital and its Washington University School of Medicine physician partners have remained a resource for pediatric health and wellness for the St. Louis region and beyond.
They provide care in every pediatric specialty — from fetal care through adolescence. In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Louis Children's Hospital in all 10 specialties, the only children's hospital in Missouri to earn this distinction. Their Level One Pediatric Trauma Center is nationally verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the highest national recognition possible.
Call the Answer Line at 314-454-KIDS (5437) for questions about your child's health, to register for a class or find a physician.
Learn more at StLouisChildrens.org, member BJC Healthcare.
Find more ways to keep your child healthy and safe, courtesy of St. Louis Children's Hospital.
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