Toddler Discipline: What's Wrong With a Little Spanking Now and Then?

Suzanne Murray

crying girl
Flickr photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
Do you hit your child? More moms do than don't, according to a new Tulane University study on spanking, published in the journal Pediatrics. But that's not a good thing.

The seven-year study followed more than 2,500 moms, more than half of whom spanked their kids (26.5 percent used spankings as a means of discipline more than twice a month). The researchers found, that kids who are spanked when they are three years old are more likely to have tantrums, get into fights, hurt animals, and refuse to share.

Even children who were spanked fewer than two times a month had a 40 per cent chance of becoming aggressive by the time they hit kindergarten.

Even when the researchers controlled for other factors that affect child aggression -- neglect, maternal depression and stress, and the child's own aggressive tendencies as a toddler -- researchers found that aggressive moms create aggressive kids.

Sure, spanking may stop misbehavior in the short term, but as Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University's Child Study Center tells ABC News: Physical discipline, whether wielded by a parent or another authority figure, "fails to teach correct behavior in the long run."

"If you want to teach your child to say, 'Thank you,' then say it, in front of your child, whenever appropriate," says Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Conversely, if you want to teach your child to hit, then hit your child as a regular form of discipline."

Do you spank your child?

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