Training program teaches alternatives to spanking

Early interventions and discipline training programs for parents may help decrease the use of spanking as a discipline method, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

Spanking, previous research has shown, has adverse outcomes such as childhood aggression, child abuse, violence and mental health problems. Several leading professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend discipline strategies other than spanking.

Investigators at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt demonstrated several years ago that a brief intervention can shift parents’ attitudes about spanking. This new study explored how the program works to convince parents to stop spanking their children. Ultimately, parents cited education on alternative discipline strategies as the most common reason for changing their attitudes toward spanking.

During a well-child visit, the parent or caregiver was invited to participate in a five-to-10-minute multimedia program called “Play Nicely.” The program teaches strategies to respond to childhood aggression. Of the 197 parents/caregivers who participated, 128 (65 percent) planned to change how they discipline, including looking to other discipline options beyond spanking. Additionally, 19 parents (10 percent) said they planned to spank less. A majority of these parents reported that the program works because it offers alternatives to spanking.

Julia Hudnut-Beumler, a fourth-year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, was a co-investigator with Seth Scholer, M.D., MPH, professor of Pediatrics and the creator of the Play Nicely program. Play Nicely was designed for parents and teachers to develop a behavior management plan for children with aggression or anger management problems.

– by Christina Echegaray

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