It is an age old debate; does a simple smack teach a child to behave?

Recent research conducted overseas says that rather than teaching a child to behave, it actually stops them developing their own forms of self discipline which are vital for coping with tasks later in life, like school and self control in social settings.

Lead researcher Prof Kang Lee said “the ability to control behaviours, to switch from one task to another, and to plan actions” were all stronger in children raised under “positive parental control”.

“All these skills are essential for a child to succeed in school, as well as outside school, for example in sports, and of course in the future in many job situations”, he said.

The study of 3 to 6 year olds which was recently published in Social Development, looked at how punishment and various forms of correction were administered to children at school and the outcomes those forms of punishments had.

“If parents mete out corporal punishment regularly for various transgressions, big and small … then I think it is likely that the kids from such homes will have a long-term deficit in the ability to control behaviours,” said Prof Lee, from the University of Toronto.

“There’s still this very strong popular myth that says smacking works, despite the hard evidence showing it doesn’t,” said Australian psychologist Dr Bob Montgomery.

“The basic outcome of smacking kids for misbehaviour is they misbehave more, so all you’re really doing is straining the relationship and giving the kids some pain for no good outcome.”

Dr Montgomery, vice-president of Allied Health Professions Australia, said “civilised” forms of punishment, such as “time out from anything rewarding or interesting”, were more effective.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: AP