There are a couple definitions of the word “discipline” that pertain to this discussion. Number 1 on the list, according to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, is “punishment.” Number 2 on the same list is, “instruction.” The first definition is exactly the frame of mind that most people have when it comes to disciplining children. But, what if we took the second definition to be the most accurate and most effective in promoting positive behaviors in children at home, in the classroom, and amongst others? Recent research suggests that positive discipline has very promising results. Dr. Judy McVittie has put together a compilation of research supporting this notion. She explains that children are more likely to have more positive and well received behaviors when their parents have a more authoritative parenting style. This means that the parent displays a combination of understanding and empathy, but still remain firm and demanding when needed. This type of parenting is often incentive based as opposed to fear based (punishment oriented). Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD., from the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University agrees with Dr. McVittie and suggests that corporal punishment may actually have many more negative than positive effects. In a 62 year long study Gershoff concluded that although immediate compliance is experienced after corporal punishment, negative long term effects such as antisocial behavior, and aggression can result causing problems for children through adulthood. In addition, punishment may encourage kids to obey while the parents are present, but what happens when they are not? Children may be less likely to regulate their behaviors based on their own intrinsic ideas of right and wrong, and good and bad, as well as dangerous and safe. So then, is the “rod” considered a tool that is used to physically punish our children into submission? Or rather, is it to be used just as the shepherd does to nudge and guide and instruct, by teaching right and wrong? You be the judge.
For more information on the studies and information shared please visit these websites http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2002/06/spanking.aspx
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