The Oakland Press, May 5, 1998

Pediatrician group sets guidelines on child-rearing
By James Windell
[From column "Coping with Kids"]

In a recent edition of Pediatrics, a journal put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, guidelines were given for doctors in advising the parents of their patients.

It turns out that 90 percent of all pediatricians are dispensing advice to parents about discipline. But they were doing so on a very personal level. That is, the American Academy of Pediatrics had not made suggestions before about what parents should be advised about raising children.

As a result of this basic neglect of policy, some surveys showed that up to 70 percent of pediatricians were recommending spanking and corporal punishment.

So, if the national organization of pediatricians decides it's time to give some advise to doctors, it probably means that there is a need for it. Just because we hold doctors, and especially pediatricians, in high regard, does not mean that they are child-rearing experts. And I've found that many pediatricians are candid in acknowledging this.

I have had a concern for some time that we lacked a child-rearing paradigm in this country. There has not been a model of raising children that has had general support and recognition. Parents, as we all know, don't get training in child-rearing, except what they get from watching their own parents raise them. Often what that teaches parents is what not to do.

Therefore, what the American Academy of Pediatrics has done is significant. it says that this is the way to advise parents to raise children. And what exactly are they suggesting as the way to raise children?

It's a four-part model, or paradigm, which is solid and well-grounded in research and child-rearing studies. The four parts are:

  1. Raising children works best in an atmosphere of love, affection, and warmth.

    I have said this in many ways over and over throughout the last decade. While its a given that children should be loved, the home and family atmosphere must be positive, warm, and affectionate. That means between mother and father as well as between parent and child. Also, you cannot use any punishment successfully unless children feel affection and warmth.

  2. Desirable and appropriate behaviors should be encouraged through praise, attention and rewards.

  3. Undesirable and inappropriate behaviors should be discouraged through negative consequences and ignoring. The negative consequences which are acceptable are reprimands, time-out, and removing rewards and privileges.

  4. Spanking and corporal punishment should never be used. As is pointed out by citing research, the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that spanking leads to greater behavior problems and more aggressive behavior.
While on one hand, we can say that it is about time that a high-status and well-respected organization like the American Academy of Pediatrics has come forward with a parenting model that will work with all children in all families, we can also say that this is a highly significant event that will -- we can hope -- be echoed by other organizations.

Maybe we can develop that manual for raising children that most new parents want after all.

(James Windell is a Bloomfield Hills psychologist. Write to him at The Oakland Press, P.O. Box 436009, Pontiac, MI 48343 His e-mail address is

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