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Love After Punishment Isn't The Answer

Showing your child affection after disciplining them could be doing more harm than good. In a recent study at Duke University, researchers found that physical punishment immediately followed by hugs and kisses was causing stress and anxiety in children.

Parents try to soothe their children's feelings, because they feel guilty for disciplining them in the first place. However, the mix of the two extremes in behavior can be confusing.

"Being very warm with a child whom you hit in this manner [corporal punishment] rarely makes things better. It can make a child more, not less, anxious," lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Lansford wrote on the Child and Family Blog.

The study included more than 1,000 mothers and children from eight different countries: Thailand, China, Kenya, the Philippines, Colombia, Italy, Jordan and the United States. Children's reactions varied based on home locations. Those from countries with a more authoritative parenting style, like Kenya and Colombia, weren't as impacted.

"Generally, childhood anxiety actually gets worse when parents are very loving alongside using corporal punishment," Lansford said.

This reaction was observed in children between the ages of 8 and 10. Researchers aren't positive about what causes such an anxious and stressful reaction, but they suspect that the combination of cruel and kind behavior is disorienting to young children.

This study comes at a time when corporal punishment is becoming socially unacceptable in more and more countries. It is outlawed in 43 countries, and many parents say that they later regret using it on their children.

"Perhaps the most compelling lesson from research is that no one has found evidence that corporal punishment is good for children … there are other ways to produce desired effects in children's behaviors. We should focus our efforts on helping parents to understand and use these alternatives," Lansford said.

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