Creative Child

The AAP Takes a Stance Against Spanking

by Rebecca Eanes


The AAP says that an effective discipline system must contain 3 vital elements: 1) a learning environment characterized by positive, supportive parent-child relationships; 2) a strategy for systemic teaching and strengthening of desired behaviors (proactive); 3) a strategy for decreasing or eliminating undesired or ineffective behaviors (reactive). For infants, parental discipline looks like providing a generally structured daily routine and responding to the infant’s needs, and later to create safe spaces for them to explore and play. For toddlers, it’s providing safety and communicating verbally (a firm no) and removing the child from danger. The AAP warns that parents should not expect reasoning, verbal commands, or reprimands to manage the behavior of infants and toddlers. This is based on the development of a child’s brain and the immaturity of the prefrontal cortex in the early years.

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Here are the AAP recommendations for promoting positive child behavior for older children:

  • Maintain a positive emotional tone in the home through play and parental warmth and affection.
  • Provide consistency in the form of regular times and patterns of daily activities and interactions to reduce resistance and convey respect for the child.
  • Respond consistently to similar behavioral situations to promote more harmonious parent-child relationships.
  • Be flexible, particularly with older children and adolescents, through listening and negotiation to reduce fewer episodes of child noncompliance with parental expectations and involve the child in the decision-making process which has been associated with long-term enhancement in moral judgment.


I should note that the AAP recommendation is to “Provide attention to the child to increase positive behavior and conversely ignoring, removing, or withholding parent attention to decrease the frequency or intensity of undesirable behaviors.” This goes against my personal beliefs as I do not believe in withholding love and attention from a child and feel that it is manipulative and emotionally damaging. Instead, in Positive Parenting, is it recommended to seek to understand the underlying need and emotion behind the child’s behavior and facilitate healing so that the child’s behavior improves naturally and to use problem-solving to teach behavior management and accountability. By working with your child to solve the problem at hand, the child learns valuable life skills and better understands the impact of their behavior. You can find more information on these Positive Parenting strategies on the Creative Child website.

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The takeaway here is that spanking, yelling, and shaming are all harmful and should be avoided. It is up to us to end these negative cycles and learn new, effective, and better ways to raise our children.





Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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