There’s plenty of evidence that spanking, paddling or hitting children doesn’t improve their behavior in the long run and actually makes it worse. But the science never trumps emotion, according to Alan Kazdin, head of the Yale Parenting Center and author of The Everyday Parenting Toolkit.
After NFL star Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse after disciplining his 4-year-old son by hitting him with a switch, there’s been a lot of conversation about how race and culture affect parents’ approach to discipline. OK, what about the science? Behavioral psychologists say that people respond very predictably to others’ words and actions, and parents can use that predictability to improve children’s behavior without shouting or hitting.
We talked with Kazdin by phone about why parents use corporal punishment and what options they have for teaching good behavior. Here are highlights of that conversation.
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