Monthly Archives: February 2017

Can You Discipline Your Child Without Using Punishment?

blog-kazdin-punishment-discipline

This is the third in a series of weekly blog posts addressing discipline and parenting practices. In this series we will  explore the reasons that parents choose among discipline approaches, the science behind those techniques, and alternative approaches to discipline.

 

By Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP (Yale University)

 

When we talk about discipline, we usually refer to the efforts by parents and teachers to reduce or eliminate annoying or inappropriate child behaviors. Punishment is designed to suppress or reduce behavior and may appear like the perfect match for these goals.  The term “discipline” includes the notions of instruction but also of punishment.

From the standpoint of psychological science, there is another way to consider the topic of discipline that sidesteps a sole focus on punishment. This approach begins with what we are trying to accomplish – eliminating inappropriate child behaviors and teaching habits and values.  This perspective keeps the same goals, but very much opens up the possible means of achieving these goals without the use of punishment.

 

Punishment in Brief

As a general rule, punishment is not a very effective way of changing behavior, at least in the usual way it is administered. By punishment, I refer to negative consequences after certain behavior (e.g., gentle reprimand, lecture, shouting, or hitting) or removing some positive consequence (e.g., placing the child in time out or away from desirable events, taking away a privilege).

As an aside, gentle, rational, and measured reasoning with a child (e.g., “We do not do that [behavior] in this house,” “What if your sister ruined your toys?” or “You, just violated a Kantian imperative”) are wonderful to teach reasoning and to model parent reasonableness under fire but not very effective as behavior-change techniques.

There are three major concerns relevant to the use of punishment.

 

1. Punishment even at its best, does not develop the positive behavior the parents wish.

That is, it does not teach the child what to do, but may momentarily suppress the undesired behavior.  You can reprimand the child all day for not (choose one: doing homework, practicing a musical instrument, cleaning up her room) but that will not teach her to do homework, to practice, or to clean up.  Developing behavior does not come from merely suppressing unwanted behaviors.

 

2. Punishment often has negative side effects

These effects include trying to escape from or avoid the situation or person associated with punishment, emotional effects (e.g., crying, being upset), and engaging in aggressive behavior. None of the side effects relates to the effectiveness of punishment (e.g., the more upset the child is not any indication of the effectiveness of punishment in suppressing behavior).  Actually, side effects “come on” or occur even with very ineffective punishment.

 

3. The punishment trap can lock in punishment in parent and teacher behavior.

That trap refers to the fact that punishment often stops the behavior immediately — perhaps through startle or interruption. These immediate effects (stopping of the aversive child behavior) help lock in the parent’s behavior (through negative reinforcement). By “locking in” I mean it increases the likelihood that the parent will punish in the future. In fact, the rate of the child’s misbehavior is not changed or improved, but those delayed effects do not override the impact of immediate cessation of behavior.

To be clear, punishing your child’s behavior can have multiple goals. For example, parents often want to teach a lesson, provide a just penalty to match the child’s crime, to be a responsible or “good parent”, or to follow cultural or religious practices.  These goals can be distinguished from changing child behavior.

The goals do not necessarily clash, i.e., eliminating some behavior, but the means really do.  For example, when your child carelessly destroys the family dollhouse that was built by his or her great-great-great (keep adding “greats”) grandfather from Pangaea, the supercontinent, you may want to convey the gravity of the act and punish accordingly.  At this point, a psychologist armed with “evidence-based” punishment might well say, “the science supports use of just a couple minutes of time out or brief loss of a privilege (e.g., computer, videos, bicycle) for a day.” The psychologist is speaking to behavior change but not the many goals that you, as a parent, hope to achieve.

 

So, How to Eliminate Behavior without Punishment

There is no evidence that punishment is really needed to achieve parent goals or to discipline children. That is a stark statement and saying that it has a strong research base is no consolation.

Here is what we know. There are ways of eliminating behavior that involve directly developing and reinforcing behaviors that are opposite to or incompatible with the behavior one wants to eliminate.  The non-technical term is reinforcing positive opposites.  This is based on many technical procedures (several differential reinforcement schedules) that have been well studied in human and nonhuman animal research (see references).  Essentially, the key point is developing the behavior one wishes rather than focusing on what to eliminate.

Consider the table below in which the goals are to change behaviors (left column). A parent or teacher might endlessly make threats, reprimand, lecture, and take privileges away for any one of those.  Yet, these interventions are extremely unlikely to work at all.  A more effective strategy is to develop the behaviors one wants, i.e., developing the positive opposite (right column).

I say “reinforcing” the opposite behavior, but this is not merely administering praise or throwing rewards at the behavior. Changing behavior focuses on antecedents (what comes before the behavior), the behavior (crafting approximations of what you wish), and consequences (usually praise delivered in a special way).  This requires some knowledge about how to craft and develop the behavior, but concrete guidelines are readily available (see the references).

The examples in the table are behaviors in everyday life but at the clinic where I work, we use positive opposites with children referred for aggressive and violent behaviors.

 

What you want to get rid of . . . Positive opposite… 
Siblings fighting over a TV show (or use of a computer game) Sitting and watching TV together nicely (or taking turns with game), without shouting or hitting
Child throwing his clothes all over the floor in his bedroom Placing them in his dresser or closet
Child not doing her homework Sitting quietly at her desk and doing school work for 30 minutes
Child getting out of bed again and again for a drink of water to stretch out bed time Going to bed, getting up no more than once for a drink or bathroom, and remaining in her room
Child arguing and shouting at me whenever I say no to something Expressing anger calmly

  

Where Does Punishment Fit in All of This?

The first point to make is that punishment is invariably the secondary part of any behavior-change effort when trying to “discipline.” That means we begin by identifying the behavior we wish to take the place of the one we want to eliminate.  We now focus on developing that behavior through the use of antecedents and consequences and shaping.  Once that primary focus is in place, mild punishment can be an effective adjunct.

 

Here are key tips for using punishment effectively:

 

1. Emphasize praise and attention for the positive opposite behaviors.  

If you are using brief time out from reinforcement as the punishment, do not expect it to work at all unless you are praising the appropriate behavior you wish during periods when your child is not in time out.

 

2. If punishment is to be used, make it mild and brief.  

Time out of a few minutes (e.g., 5 minutes or thereabouts) or loss of privilege (e.g., for an evening or day or two) is as effective as what you might want to do (e.g., 1 hour of time out; taking away the privilege of going out on dates until your child is 30 years old).

 

3. Explain to your child why he or she should or should not do something.

It is fine and indeed beneficial to do so. This models thinking, reasoning, and the appropriate style of handling a potentially volatile situation.  Yet, it is not likely to impact the frequency of the inappropriate behavior.  The familiar parental refrain, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times” makes perfect sense.  That phrase is in keeping with what we know, namely, telling people to do something (e.g., stop smoking, eat more vegetables, ease up on the fast foods, add broccoli to your diet) does not mean they will do it.  Providing information can help but, done in isolation, it is not a very reliable way to change behavior in most people most of the time.

 

4. Avoid physical punishment. 

It is not more effective and, in fact, moderate to severe application increases the risk for all sorts of undesirable outcomes (e.g., aggressive and antisocial behavior, poor school performance, problems of physical health, damage to the immune system). The uses of physical punishment are influenced by scores of other factors, of course. And often the findings are not relevant to families or compete with what they have experienced (e.g., punishment trap is relevant here).

 

5. Model the behavior you wish to see in your child.  

Modeling is an untapped influence in the home, i.e., showing exactly the behaviors you wish your child to learn. Children copy parents of course, but modeling is not used strategically by parents to teach the behaviors they wish in a systematic way.

 

6. Avoid cliché interventions.

Our media has popularized techniques like “tough love,” “three strikes (misbehaviors) and you are out,” or reasoning that is not really well based in childrearing research (e.g., slippery slope—if I let this go, my child will keep getting worse). These are not interventions that are effective as a general rule, and they actually can make achieving the desired behaviors much more difficult..

 

In summary, what do we know about changing the behavior of children (and others) in the context of discipline?

 

The decision regarding how to discipline children is influenced by many factors and is a privilege and responsibility that comes with parenting. From the standpoint of psychological science, however, the question is, “What are the most effective ways of changing behavior based on research?” Developing positive, prosocial behavior not only develops habits you wish to see, but can eliminate behaviors that interfere with your child’s adjustment and functioning.

If the usual methods are working for your child, i.e., he or she is doing well at home and at school, everyone is satisfied, and there are no risks of untoward side effects for the child, then perhaps you do  not need to resort to methods I have highlighted. On the other hand, these methods can help ease parenting discipline challenges by achieving changes in your child’s behavior more effectively, more quickly, and more enduringly.

Research tells us that good habits, whether it is eating broccoli or flossing or developing positive opposites in relation to discipline, are not compatible with what many people wish to do or believe are advisable practices. For many parents, discipline means punishment and lessons need to be taught. That is understandable.  However, the suggestions I offer are effective in changing behavior and perhaps can be adapted to your personal and cultural views of child-rearing.

 

References:

Kazdin, A.E. (2013). Behavior modification in applied settings (7th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Kazdin, A.E., & Rotella, C. (2013). The everyday parenting toolkit: The Kazdin Method for easy, step-by-step lasting change for you and your child. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

Biography:

Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP, is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and Director of the Yale Parenting Center. He was the 2008 President of the American Psychological Association and is the author of 49 books for professional-audiences on topics of parenting and child rearing, child psychotherapy, cognitive and behavioral treatments, interpersonal violence, and research methods.  His work has been translated in several languages throughout the world.

 

Image source: Flickr user Dolan Holbrook via Creative Commons


Filed under: Children and Youth Tagged: child behavior, discipline, parenting, parenting tips, physical discipline, physical punishment, positive parenting, punishment

Can You Discipline Your Child Without Using Punishment?

blog-kazdin-punishment-discipline

This is the third in a series of weekly blog posts addressing discipline and parenting practices. In this series we will  explore the reasons that parents choose among discipline approaches, the science behind those techniques, and alternative approaches to discipline.

 

By Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP (Yale University)

 

When we talk about discipline, we usually refer to the efforts by parents and teachers to reduce or eliminate annoying or inappropriate child behaviors. Punishment is designed to suppress or reduce behavior and may appear like the perfect match for these goals.  The term “discipline” includes the notions of instruction but also of punishment.

From the standpoint of psychological science, there is another way to consider the topic of discipline that sidesteps a sole focus on punishment. This approach begins with what we are trying to accomplish – eliminating inappropriate child behaviors and teaching habits and values.  This perspective keeps the same goals, but very much opens up the possible means of achieving these goals without the use of punishment.

 

Punishment in Brief

As a general rule, punishment is not a very effective way of changing behavior, at least in the usual way it is administered. By punishment, I refer to negative consequences after certain behavior (e.g., gentle reprimand, lecture, shouting, or hitting) or removing some positive consequence (e.g., placing the child in time out or away from desirable events, taking away a privilege).

As an aside, gentle, rational, and measured reasoning with a child (e.g., “We do not do that [behavior] in this house,” “What if your sister ruined your toys?” or “You, just violated a Kantian imperative”) are wonderful to teach reasoning and to model parent reasonableness under fire but not very effective as behavior-change techniques.

There are three major concerns relevant to the use of punishment.

 

1. Punishment even at its best, does not develop the positive behavior the parents wish.

That is, it does not teach the child what to do, but may momentarily suppress the undesired behavior.  You can reprimand the child all day for not (choose one: doing homework, practicing a musical instrument, cleaning up her room) but that will not teach her to do homework, to practice, or to clean up.  Developing behavior does not come from merely suppressing unwanted behaviors.

 

2. Punishment often has negative side effects

These effects include trying to escape from or avoid the situation or person associated with punishment, emotional effects (e.g., crying, being upset), and engaging in aggressive behavior. None of the side effects relates to the effectiveness of punishment (e.g., the more upset the child is not any indication of the effectiveness of punishment in suppressing behavior).  Actually, side effects “come on” or occur even with very ineffective punishment.

 

3. The punishment trap can lock in punishment in parent and teacher behavior.

That trap refers to the fact that punishment often stops the behavior immediately — perhaps through startle or interruption. These immediate effects (stopping of the aversive child behavior) help lock in the parent’s behavior (through negative reinforcement). By “locking in” I mean it increases the likelihood that the parent will punish in the future. In fact, the rate of the child’s misbehavior is not changed or improved, but those delayed effects do not override the impact of immediate cessation of behavior.

To be clear, punishing your child’s behavior can have multiple goals. For example, parents often want to teach a lesson, provide a just penalty to match the child’s crime, to be a responsible or “good parent”, or to follow cultural or religious practices.  These goals can be distinguished from changing child behavior.

The goals do not necessarily clash, i.e., eliminating some behavior, but the means really do.  For example, when your child carelessly destroys the family dollhouse that was built by his or her great-great-great (keep adding “greats”) grandfather from Pangaea, the supercontinent, you may want to convey the gravity of the act and punish accordingly.  At this point, a psychologist armed with “evidence-based” punishment might well say, “the science supports use of just a couple minutes of time out or brief loss of a privilege (e.g., computer, videos, bicycle) for a day.” The psychologist is speaking to behavior change but not the many goals that you, as a parent, hope to achieve.

 

So, How to Eliminate Behavior without Punishment

There is no evidence that punishment is really needed to achieve parent goals or to discipline children. That is a stark statement and saying that it has a strong research base is no consolation.

Here is what we know. There are ways of eliminating behavior that involve directly developing and reinforcing behaviors that are opposite to or incompatible with the behavior one wants to eliminate.  The non-technical term is reinforcing positive opposites.  This is based on many technical procedures (several differential reinforcement schedules) that have been well studied in human and nonhuman animal research (see references).  Essentially, the key point is developing the behavior one wishes rather than focusing on what to eliminate.

Consider the table below in which the goals are to change behaviors (left column). A parent or teacher might endlessly make threats, reprimand, lecture, and take privileges away for any one of those.  Yet, these interventions are extremely unlikely to work at all.  A more effective strategy is to develop the behaviors one wants, i.e., developing the positive opposite (right column).

I say “reinforcing” the opposite behavior, but this is not merely administering praise or throwing rewards at the behavior. Changing behavior focuses on antecedents (what comes before the behavior), the behavior (crafting approximations of what you wish), and consequences (usually praise delivered in a special way).  This requires some knowledge about how to craft and develop the behavior, but concrete guidelines are readily available (see the references).

The examples in the table are behaviors in everyday life but at the clinic where I work, we use positive opposites with children referred for aggressive and violent behaviors.

 

What you want to get rid of . . . Positive opposite… 
Siblings fighting over a TV show (or use of a computer game) Sitting and watching TV together nicely (or taking turns with game), without shouting or hitting
Child throwing his clothes all over the floor in his bedroom Placing them in his dresser or closet
Child not doing her homework Sitting quietly at her desk and doing school work for 30 minutes
Child getting out of bed again and again for a drink of water to stretch out bed time Going to bed, getting up no more than once for a drink or bathroom, and remaining in her room
Child arguing and shouting at me whenever I say no to something Expressing anger calmly

  

Where Does Punishment Fit in All of This?

The first point to make is that punishment is invariably the secondary part of any behavior-change effort when trying to “discipline.” That means we begin by identifying the behavior we wish to take the place of the one we want to eliminate.  We now focus on developing that behavior through the use of antecedents and consequences and shaping.  Once that primary focus is in place, mild punishment can be an effective adjunct.

 

Here are key tips for using punishment effectively:

 

1. Emphasize praise and attention for the positive opposite behaviors.  

If you are using brief time out from reinforcement as the punishment, do not expect it to work at all unless you are praising the appropriate behavior you wish during periods when your child is not in time out.

 

2. If punishment is to be used, make it mild and brief.  

Time out of a few minutes (e.g., 5 minutes or thereabouts) or loss of privilege (e.g., for an evening or day or two) is as effective as what you might want to do (e.g., 1 hour of time out; taking away the privilege of going out on dates until your child is 30 years old).

 

3. Explain to your child why he or she should or should not do something.

It is fine and indeed beneficial to do so. This models thinking, reasoning, and the appropriate style of handling a potentially volatile situation.  Yet, it is not likely to impact the frequency of the inappropriate behavior.  The familiar parental refrain, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times” makes perfect sense.  That phrase is in keeping with what we know, namely, telling people to do something (e.g., stop smoking, eat more vegetables, ease up on the fast foods, add broccoli to your diet) does not mean they will do it.  Providing information can help but, done in isolation, it is not a very reliable way to change behavior in most people most of the time.

 

4. Avoid physical punishment. 

It is not more effective and, in fact, moderate to severe application increases the risk for all sorts of undesirable outcomes (e.g., aggressive and antisocial behavior, poor school performance, problems of physical health, damage to the immune system). The uses of physical punishment are influenced by scores of other factors, of course. And often the findings are not relevant to families or compete with what they have experienced (e.g., punishment trap is relevant here).

 

5. Model the behavior you wish to see in your child.  

Modeling is an untapped influence in the home, i.e., showing exactly the behaviors you wish your child to learn. Children copy parents of course, but modeling is not used strategically by parents to teach the behaviors they wish in a systematic way.

 

6. Avoid cliché interventions.

Our media has popularized techniques like “tough love,” “three strikes (misbehaviors) and you are out,” or reasoning that is not really well based in childrearing research (e.g., slippery slope—if I let this go, my child will keep getting worse). These are not interventions that are effective as a general rule, and they actually can make achieving the desired behaviors much more difficult..

 

In summary, what do we know about changing the behavior of children (and others) in the context of discipline?

 

The decision regarding how to discipline children is influenced by many factors and is a privilege and responsibility that comes with parenting. From the standpoint of psychological science, however, the question is, “What are the most effective ways of changing behavior based on research?” Developing positive, prosocial behavior not only develops habits you wish to see, but can eliminate behaviors that interfere with your child’s adjustment and functioning.

If the usual methods are working for your child, i.e., he or she is doing well at home and at school, everyone is satisfied, and there are no risks of untoward side effects for the child, then perhaps you do  not need to resort to methods I have highlighted. On the other hand, these methods can help ease parenting discipline challenges by achieving changes in your child’s behavior more effectively, more quickly, and more enduringly.

Research tells us that good habits, whether it is eating broccoli or flossing or developing positive opposites in relation to discipline, are not compatible with what many people wish to do or believe are advisable practices. For many parents, discipline means punishment and lessons need to be taught. That is understandable.  However, the suggestions I offer are effective in changing behavior and perhaps can be adapted to your personal and cultural views of child-rearing.

 

References:

Kazdin, A.E. (2013). Behavior modification in applied settings (7th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Kazdin, A.E., & Rotella, C. (2013). The everyday parenting toolkit: The Kazdin Method for easy, step-by-step lasting change for you and your child. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

Biography:

Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP, is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and Director of the Yale Parenting Center. He was the 2008 President of the American Psychological Association and is the author of 49 books for professional-audiences on topics of parenting and child rearing, child psychotherapy, cognitive and behavioral treatments, interpersonal violence, and research methods.  His work has been translated in several languages throughout the world.

 

Image source: Flickr user Dolan Holbrook via Creative Commons


Filed under: Children and Youth Tagged: child behavior, discipline, parenting, parenting tips, physical discipline, physical punishment, positive parenting, punishment

4 Reasons to Add Dancing to Your Valentine’s Day Plans

Romantic Mature Urban Couple

 

By Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD

 

Whether your Valentine’s Day plans include a romantic partner, dear friends, or a solo activity, why not trip the light fantastic? In other words: make like Fred and Ginger and go dancing!

 

Dancing, research increasingly shows, is good for both your physical and your psychological health.

 

1. In terms of physical health, dancing is good exercise.

One scholarly review found that dancing improved a range of physical strengths and abilities, including cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility, and balance. Balance, in particular, is important for maintaining health and independence in older adults, since improved balance reduces a risk of falls. Research has found that while falls are common among older adults, they can be devastating and the risk of mortality increases drastically after a serious fall.

 

2. Dancing may even improve physical strength and balance among older adults with Parkinson’s disease-related balance issues.

One research study found improved balance, walking distance, and backward stride among participants in a 13-week dance class. Both tango and foxtrot participants improved compared to a control group who took no dance classes, and tango participants improved the most. The researchers proposed that the rhythm of dancing activated brain areas necessary to improve balance and functioning.

 

3. Dancing is also great for your mind and psychological health.

One longitudinal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that dancing was associated with a lower risk of dementia. A 12-week dance intervention found that dance participation reduced the experience of bodily pain. Other research with older adults in care homes and facilities has found that a variety of dance interventions (line dancing, social dancing, and aerobic dancing) all improve wellbeing and enjoyment by the individuals in the home. And a study with older adults with depression found that dance lessons improved self-efficacy and reduced hopelessness.

 

4. Dance melds health and fun in one.

When you put on your dancing shoes and hit the floor, you get physical exercise, maintain your memory, improve your mental health, and have fun in the process. Plus, there is the magic of dressing up, remembering the dances of your youth, and enjoying the beat of the music. Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon or evening?

 

Ready to go dancing?

 

In your local area, check the calendars and schedules of these organizations, which often host regular dances.

At most dance venues, a free introductory lesson is usually included at the start of the evening. Dances are often hosted on a regular basis at: Community Centers, Senior Citizen Centers, VFW halls, and American Legion halls. Many college extension programs and community continuing education program host dance classes as part of their courses. Dance studios often have introductory packages to get you started at a low cost, and once you meet dancers in your area, you’ll learn of other opportunities in the area.

 

Ballroom dance:

USA Dance has chapters throughout the US. Most chapters host regular social dances at a minimal fee, and include an introductory dance lesson before the start of each social dance. You can make friends with local dancers and have a fun evening on the town. Find your local chapter here.Click here

 

Line dancing:

Line dancing instructor Bill Bader offers a list of line dancing venues by country and state. Click here to look in your area. The United Country Western Dance Council promotes both line dancing and country partner dancing around the US and the world, through dance festivals and competitions. Local events in your area will include lessons and opportunities to dance. Click here to learn more about UCWDC.

 

Aerobic dance:

Zumba (a Latin-based dance exercise program) and Jazzercise both offer the benefits of dance in group exercise format. Many gyms, fitness centers, community centers, and YMCAs offer Zumba and Jazzercise classes, and classes are often included in your membership. You can also look for Zumba dance classes by clicking here (on the main page, click on “Find a Class). For Jazzercise, click here to find a class in your area.

 

Biography:

Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD, is the Division 47 (Sport and Exercise Psychology) liaison to APA’s Committee on Aging. As an exercise scientist, Dr. Bonura focuses on promoting health and wellness through fun activities and self-care. Dr. Bonura has been an amateur ballroom dancer for more than two decades, and plans to keep her balance and maintain her memory by twinkling her toes. Learn more about her work at www.drkimberleebonura.com or contact her directly at [email protected].

Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: Health and Wellness Tagged: dancing, emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, older adults, physical activity

A Tale of Two Tantrums

Young boy having a temper tantrum

This is the second in a series of weekly blog posts addressing discipline and parenting practices. In this series, we will explore reasons that parents choose among discipline approaches, the science behind those techniques, and alternative approaches to discipline.

 

By Joan E. Durrant, PhD (Associate Professor of Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba)

 

Picture this: You are in a store.  Two young children are nearby with their parents.  Each of them suddenly erupts into a tantrum.  Your intense irritation leads you to utter, “What those kids need is some good, old-fashioned discipline!”  In that moment, you want those parents to make those children stop crying and do whatever it is that their parents have told them to do – now!

 

When our emotional brain reacts to an aversive event, it ignites an intense desire to regain control, driving us toward coercion and punishment. This is a reaction to the immediate moment.  Think of it as looking through a camera lens that is ‘zoomed in’ on a small part of the scene, showing you only the irritating behavior.

 

Now ‘zoom out’ to see more of the scene, and what preceded it. You see that one child has had a nasty flu for several days.  You see the other child’s father speaking to her in American Sign Language.  She’s been trying to explain her feelings to him through signs, but he hasn’t understood her.  Your perspective shifts and you realize that these two tantrums are happening for very different reasons: the first because of exhaustion, the second because of frustration.  You quickly realize that punishment wouldn’t help in either situation because it wouldn’t address the actual issues.

 

Interestingly, the Latin root of ‘discipline’ is discere, which means ‘to learn’ or discipere, which means ‘to grasp intellectually.’  Discipline is about learning, understanding, processing, resolving – actions taken by the child, not done to the child.  It is an active state of constructing knowledge.  But how do you foster this when you and the child are both stressed out?

 

1. Think long-term

The way we respond to stress is what the child is learning to do. The child is likely to attend to, process, remember and re-enact our response at a later time. How do you want your child to respond to conflict with peers? Keep this foremost in your mind.

 

 

2. Reduce the stress

Over recent years, we’ve learned about the importance of ‘self-regulation’ – our ability to calm ourselves when we’re upset. When we can calm ourselves, we can zoom out and see more of what’s going on, helping us to respond constructively and fostering the development of self-regulation in the child.

 

3. Think about how the child sees the situation

 

When we’re frustrated, we tend to attribute blame to the child – “He’s defying me;” “She’s misbehaving on purpose.” This feeds our anger and our drive to punish.  But the child also has a perspective on the situation.  The child could be tired, hungry, unable to express herself, frustrated by our behavior, or not yet able to self-regulate.  When we consider the child’s perspective, we’re more likely to respond constructively.  And when we model perspective-taking, we nurture that ability in the child.

 

4. Ensure the child’s physical and emotional safety

Adults’ first responsibility to children is to keep them safe. When children are scared or anxious, they aren’t able to take in information, process it and remember it the way we hope they will. The might remember how scared they felt in that moment, but this is not the same as constructing knowledge or understanding. We learn best when we are calm and open to new information.

 

5. Involve the child in resolving the situation

 

Taking things away, isolation and other punishments don’t help the child to acquire skills. When we talk with the child about our perspective and theirs, and ask them for their ideas about how it can go better next time, we are helping them practice conflict resolution, as well as nurturing their insight.  ‘Discipline’ is a participatory process that helps children gradually learn how to solve problems without aggression or coercion.

 

Check out these resources, to learn more about:

 

Biography:

 

Dr. Joan Durrant is a Child-Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Social Sciences in the Faculty of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba.  Dr. Durrant’s research focuses on the psychological, cultural, legal and human rights dimensions of corporal punishment of children in Canada and worldwide. She was the principal researcher and co-author of the Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth.

 


Filed under: Children and Youth Tagged: child development, conflict resolution, discipline, emotional development, emotional health, parenting, parenting tips, punishment, self-regulation, stress, stress management

5 Ways to Become Better Involved In Medical Decisions as You Age

senior asian woman talking to family doctor

By Rebecca Delaney, MS (Doctoral Student in Development Psychology, West Virginia University)

 

Throughout our lives we face a range of medical decisions that can affect ourselves and others. Should I undergo a medical or surgical procedure? Should I encourage a loved one to get a medical screening or diagnostic test? What medication would be best to take when managing a chronic illness?

How people approach such medical decisions differs. Often, the responsibility for the medical decision is placed on the physician given their medical expertise. However, some patients prefer to be more involved in the decision process (Brom et al., 2014).

Facilitating physician and patient engagement in a shared, or collaborative, decision-making process is gaining more attention within healthcare. Using shared decision-making strategies gives physicians more opportunity to provide patients with the necessary medical information to make informed choices.

Patients can also discuss their own opinions and preferences to ensure that their medical choices align with their values. Through this approach, patients can better understand the potential harms and benefits of medical options and feel informed about their decisions (O’Connor et al., 2003).

 

Here are 5 ways to become better involved in the medical decision-making process:

 

1. Ask questions!

  • If you have difficulty understanding the medical information provided to you, be sure to ask your medical provider additional questions to gain clarity.
  • Ask specific questions about the benefits and harms regarding your healthcare options (e.g., types of treatment, medication).

 

2. Seek advice from others

  • Seeking advice and help from others can be beneficial for your long-term health (Delaney, Strough, & Turiano, 2016).
  • Speaking to others who have the same chronic illness or have gone through a surgical procedure you are considering, for example, can help you evaluate the pros and cons to medical choices you need to make.

 

3. Be vocal about your preferences and experiences

  • Make sure your medical preferences and values are known to the physician.
  • Provide your physician with as much information as possible about your pain, feelings, and context of everyday life. This can lead to different medical choices based on your answers.

 

4. Ask for decision aids

  • An increasing number of decision aids are being developed to help patients learn more about their health condition. Decision aids are used to facilitate conversations with their physician to decide which health care choice best fits the patients’ values and preferences.
  • These have been shown to improve quality of health care, increase patient knowledge of benefits and harms of health care choices, and increase patient satisfaction (Shafir & Rosenthal, 2012).

 

5. Create a medical support network

  • You can make your medical preferences clear to those close to you and have them be there to support you in your health care choices.
  • This can be informal, such as bringing someone with you to be a second ear in case you missed what the physician said. Or more formal, such as having your caregiver or an assigned health care proxy involved with your medical decisions.

 

 

For more on this topic, check out this resource from the National Institute on Aging:

 

Biography:

Rebecca Delaney is in the life-span developmental psychology doctoral program at West Virginia University, with plans to graduate in May of 2017. Rebecca plans to continue with research and work with older adults in the community postgraduation. Her research seeks to identify factors that can serve to inform intervention development to aid aging men and women with making advantageous health decisions and enhancing physician-patient relationships when considering important healthcare decisions.

 

References:

Brom, L., Hopmans, W., Pasman, H. R. W., Timmermans, D. R., Widdershoven, G. A., & Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D. (2014). Congruence between patients’ preferred and perceived participation in medical decision-making: a review of the literature. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 14(25), 1-16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-14-25

Delaney, R., Turiano, N., & Strough, J. (2016). Living longer with help from others: Seeking advice lowers mortality risk. Journal of Health Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1359105316664133

O’Connor, A. M., Stacey, D., Entwistle, V., Llewellyn-Thomas, H., Rovner, D., Holmes-Rovner, M., Tait, V., … Jones J. (2003). Decision aids for people facing health treatment or screening decisions. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1, 1-106. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001431

Shafir, A., & Rosenthal, J. (2012). Shared decision making: advancing patient-centered care         through state and federal implementation. Washington, DC: National Academy for State            Health Policy.

 

Image source: iStockPhoto


Filed under: Aging, Health and Wellness Tagged: aging, health care, healthcare, healthcare decision making, healthy aging, medical decision making, older adults

Why Do Parents Physically Punish their Children? 5 Useful Analogies from Sedimentary Rocks

Childhood Days

This is the first in a series of weekly blog posts addressing discipline and parenting practices. In this series, we will explore reasons that parents choose among discipline approaches, the science behind those techniques, and alternative approaches to discipline.

 

By George W. Holden, PhD (Professor of Psychology, Southern Methodist University)

I’m not a geologist, so I need a little latitude when I draw an analogy between why parents physically punish their children and characteristics of sedimentary rocks. But having researched the determinants (or predictors) of physical punishment for many years, I can point out five useful analogies.

 

1. Methods of physical punishment, like sedimentary rocks, vary

Sedimentary rocks come in many forms (e.g., limestone, sandstone, oil shale). Physical (also called corporal) punishment methods are also heterogeneous: parents slap, spank, whip (hit with an object), whop, or use some other physically painful method (e.g., “hot saucing”). The common denominator is that the punishment is intended to cause pain in order to teach a lesson.

There is considerably diversity in the application of physical punishment:

  • A small percent (17% according to Combes-Orme & Cain, 2008) of parents hit their infants and a similar percent also hit their 17-year olds (Straus & Stewart, 1999).
  • Most (85%) children in the U.S. will experience it at least once (Bender et al., 2007). Some parents rarely use it (once a year or less) but others rely on it.
  • In fact, in a home audio-recording, we discovered that one mother hit her child every 2 hours! (Holden, Williamson, & Holland, 2014).
  • The frequency of hitting varies with parent education, socioeconomic status, race, religious beliefs, and age as well as the sex of parent (e.g., Berlin et al., 2009; Ellison, Musick & Holden, 2011; Gershoff, Lansford, Sexton, Davis-Kean, & Sameroff, 2012; Lee, Altschul & Gershoff, 2015).

 

2. Influences on physical punishment are layered

We learned in earth science classes that sedimentary rock is deposited in strata (layers), with the new deposits on top of old ones. That idea of layers of determinants is useful for recognizing the multiple influences on physically disciplining children.

At the surface (or proximate) level, a parent spanks because a child engaged in a behavior that the parent did not like. The child may have done something (e.g., hit someone) or not done something (e.g., not complied immediately with a request).

Research evidence (Holden, Coleman, & Schmidt, 1995; Holden et al., 2014) indicates that parents hit children most often for mundane actions (e.g., taking someone’s toy, picking their nose), and only rarely for serious moral transgressions (e.g., lying, stealing).

Child characteristics associated with more frequent hitting include:

  • sex (boys),
  • age (peaks at 3 or 4 years), and
  • temperament (difficult).

From a parental cognitive perspective, many parents use physical punishment because they think it works. Parents observe the child’s reaction in the short term—the child is upset and stops the behavior—so, they conclude it is an effective teaching tool. Parents also believe that the punishment promotes effective child socialization because it teaches the child what not to do.

However, the research evidence (Gershoff & Grogan-Kaylor, 2016) actually indicates just the opposite: physical punishment models aggression and children who are punished in this way are more likely to show a variety of developmental problems in the future. Although many parents believe in physical punishment as a means to an end, when they use it, they are typically stressed, frustrated, or angry with their child.

 

3. Interaction between influences on physical punishment

But at deeper levels, other factors are at play. Many parents originally base their views—either for or against physical punishment—on their own childhood experiences.

That view can be altered by a variety of influences, including:

  • views of normative disciplinary techniques,
  • stress,
  • socio-economic, ethnic or racial group,
  • religious beliefs,
  • parent education, or
  • advice from trusted sources, such as pediatricians.

Just as multiple processes help to form sedimentary rocks, these factors interact with each other. The influence of the different factors can be measured with surveys about parents’ attitudes toward physical punishment.

 

4. There are a wide range of parental attitudes about physical punishment

A fourth analogy is that sedimentary rock can be soft or hard, depending on its composition. Attitudes about physical discipline range from tenuous to tenaciously clung to. Susceptibility to change thus depends on a parent’s degree of conviction: cracking a hard rock is difficult.

 

5. Views of physical discipline can change

I end with a final analogy. Sedimentary rocks erode (think Grand Canyon). So, too, is support for physically disciplining children. Survey data in the United States indicate a slow but steady decline. Child Trends found a 22% decrease in women’s favorable attitudes toward hitting children over the past 30 years. That erosion is likely precipitated by various factors including hearing about research into hitting and child behavior problems (Holden, Brown, Baldwin, & Croft Caderao, 2014), recognizing children’s right not to be hit by anyone, or learning alternative techniques—such as positive discipline.

 

Biography :

George W. Holden, PhD, is a professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Southern Methodist University. He is a noted expert on parenting, discipline and family violence. He can discuss social development as it relates to parent-child relationships; the nature and consequences of parental harsh punishment; causes and consequences of family violence; child-rearing and parenting; and child maltreatment.

 

References:

Bender, H. L., Allen, J. P., McElhaney, K. B., Antonishak, J., Moore, C. M., Kelly, H. O., & Davis, S. M. (2007). Use of harsh physical discipline and developmental outcomes in adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 227-242. doi:10.1017/S0954579407070125

Berlin, L. J., Ispa, J. M., Fine, M. A., Malone, P. S., Brooks-Gunn, J., Brady-Smith, C., . . . Bai, Y. (2009). Correlates and consequences of spanking and verbal punishment for low-income White, African American, and Mexican American toddlers. Child Development, 80(5), 1403-1420. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01341.x

Combs-Orme, T., & Cain, D. S. (2008). Predictors of mothers’ use of spanking with their infants. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 649-657. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.08.006

Ellison, C. G., Musick, M. A., & Holden, G. W. (2011). Does Conservative Protestantism moderate the association between corporal punishment and child outcomes? Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 946-961. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00854.x

Gershoff, E. T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2016). Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 453-469. doi:10.1037/fam0000191

Gershoff, E. T., Lansford, J. E., Sexton, H. R., Davis-Kean, P., & Sameroff, A. J. (2012). Longitudinal links between spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors in a national sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American families. Child Development, 83, 838-843. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01732.x

Holden, G. W., Brown, A. S., Baldwin, A. S., & Croft Caderao, K. (2014). Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 902-908. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.10.013

Holden, G. W., Coleman, S., & Schmidt, K. L. (1995). Why 3-year-old children get spanked: Parent and child determinants in a sample of college-educated mothers. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 41, 431-452.

Holden, G. W., Williamson, P. A., & Holland, G. W. (2014). Eavesdropping on the family: A pilot investigation of corporal punishment in the home. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 401-406. doi:10.1037/a0036370

Lee, S. J., Altschul, I., & Gershoff, E. T. (2015). Wait until your father gets home? Mother’s and fathers’ spanking and development of child aggression. Children and Youth Services Review. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.11.006

Straus, M. A., & Stewart, J. H. (1999). Corporal punishment by American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration in relation to child and family characteristics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2, 55-70. doi:10.1023/A:1021891529770

Image source: iStockPhoto.com

 


Filed under: Children and Youth Tagged: child behavior, corporal punishment, discipline, parenting, physical discipline, physical punishment, spanking