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For centuries, spanking and other forms of corporal punishment were the main disciplinary tools of parents in America.
"There are a number of mistakes that are made when using timeout, and probably one of the biggest ones is parents don't specify a behavior that timeout will be used for consistently and reliably," Cipani said. First, researchers say, it must be part of an otherwise warm and loving parent-child relationship.Studying the long-term effects of discipline can be difficult, because kids aren't punished at random; those that are spanked may be more difficult to discipline than those that aren't, creating a chicken-and-egg problem.Nevertheless, researchers tackling the problem in different groups of kids from different angles have consistently found that spanking is likely to create more problems than it solves.Praise for good behavior, awareness of a child's needs and teaching about social skills like sharing and turn-taking are crucial, Roberts said.Most children respond "wonderfully," he said, to the kind of parenting that the influential developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind characterized as "authoritative." Authoritative parents set firm boundaries for kids, but pair their expectations with warmth and responsiveness.