Discipline dilemma: How much is too much?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — No matter how perfect kids are, they all need to be disciplined at some point. But most parents struggle to do it effectively.

Elementary teacher and mom to three girls, Alison Staton, says her time in the classroom has shaped how she is raising her own girls.

“I want them to have that respect for adults because I see so many kids just everywhere that don’t respect adults and have that sense of entitlement,” says Staton. “I want my own kids to know you don’t deserve anything — you have to work for everything you get.”

Sixty-five percent of Americans would suggest spanking is the key to discipline but according to the American Psychological Association, spanking only works in the moment to stop misbehavior because children are afraid of being hit.

Research shows spanking causes long term damage to a developing child’s brain and even the stress of anticipating the spanking can actually change the wiring of the brain and interfere with learning, thinking and later relationships. A recent study showed how spanking negatively affects a child’s moral development.

There is even research to suggest that over time, spanking actually makes parenting more difficult because it reduces the ability of parents to influence children, especially in adolescence. The APA suggests children are more likely to do what parents want when there is a strong bond of affection and trust with the parent and that spanking chips away at that bond.

Indianapolis child psychologist Dr. Fiona Kress says spanking is discouraged because, for one, it undermines the overall goal of discipline.

“The goal being that you would like the child to behave in a certain way — an appropriate, respectful manner,” says Kress. “So if that’s the goal of discipline, then you’re trying to teach the child what an appropriate behavior would be in that situation.”

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