New York Times, April 6, 1998
Group Pushes Spanking Alternatives
By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- Pediatricians should encourage parents to use ``time outs'' and positive reinforcement instead of spanking when children act up, their professional organization said Monday.
Spanking teaches children aggression and is no more effective than other forms of punishment, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in this month's issue of its magazine, Pediatrics.
The 53,000-member academy acknowledged it doesn't expect to eliminate the popular punishment overnight. About 90 percent of U.S. parents spank and 59 percent of pediatricians in a 1992 survey said they support the practice.
``If you have a family where (spanking) is a very strong belief, it's probably not productive to try to get them not to ... (but) we would rather have pediatricians teach parents more effective techniques rather than teaching them how to be better spankers,'' said Dr. Mark L. Wolraich, who headed a committee that worked on the academy's recommendations.
The academy said effective discipline has three crucial components:
-- A supportive, loving relationship between parent and child.
-- Use of positive reinforcement when children behave well.
-- Use of punishment when children misbehave.
``Discipline is not just punishment,'' Wolraich said.
When parents must punish, nonphysical methods such as imposing ``time out'' or taking away privileges are better alternatives than spanking, Wolraich said.
``Spanking, while not necessarily harmful, is no better than other forms of punishment ... and there are some potentials for harm,'' he said.
In 1983, the academy took a vaguer position on spanking, suggesting alternatives without opposing it.
The academy's position against spanking follows similar recommendations from other groups that study child behavior.
Researchers wrote in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, for example, that spanking is linked with aggression and makes children behave even worse.
Parents typically turn to spanking when they're angry, ``giving the message that a way to resolve anger is physically,'' Wolraich said.
Also, most parents eventually have to find an alternative to spanking anyway, once their children get older and the practice loses its effectiveness even more.
If parents must spank, the academy recommends using it selectively. Frequent spankings become increasingly less effective and require the parent to spank harder and harder to get the message across, Wolraich said.
``We don't want to imply that just because a parent spanks their child they are necessarily bad,'' Wolraich said.