Experts: Not sparing rod can turn kids into bullies


Associated Press

NEW YORK — Widespread parental misconceptions about discipline and behavior may result in a growing number of overly aggressive, easily frustrated children, according to experts who surveyed more than 1,000 parents with youngsters 6 and under.

The nationwide survey, released Wednesday, found that 61 percent of the parents condone spanking as a regular form of punishment for young children despite research indicating corporal punishment can be harmful.

Fifty-seven percent of the parents said even a 6-month-old child can be spoiled, a belief the survey coordinators said is incorrect.

"If you don’t pick up a baby when he is crying, you can build up his levels of stress and distress," said Dr. Kyle Pruett, professor of psychiatry at Yale University’s Child Study Center. "Responding to your child’s needs is not spoiling."

Pruett is president of Zero To Three, a nonprofit child-development organization that sponsored the survey along with Civitas, another nonprofit group, and Brio Corp., a toymaker.

Pruett said the surveyed parents showed an encouraging grasp of some key principles — that emotional closeness is of vital importance and that experiences even in the first few months of life can have a significant effect.

However, he was concerned about findings that suggested many parents had unrealistic expectations of behavior — for example, expecting that a child of 15 months should be able to share toys.

"We’re potentially raising overly aggressive children who react to situations with intimidation and bullying, instead of cooperation and understanding; children who won’t be able to tolerate frustration, wait their turn or respect the needs of others," Pruett said.

Ron Lally, co-director of the San Francisco-based Center for Child and Family Studies, said he was surprised that so many parents condoned the spanking of young children.

"Why would anyone spank an infant or toddler?" Lally asked. "There is nothing he or she can learn from it other than to distrust bigger and more powerful people."

The child-development survey was conducted in June and July by DYG Inc., headed by pollster Daniel Yankelovich. In all, 3,000 adults were surveyed, including 1,066 parents with children 6 or under. The margin of error, for the responses from parents, was 3.1 percentage points.

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