An Oklahoma State University study interviewed 102 mothers of children 18- to 30-months old and asked them to detail five incidents of hitting, whining, or defiance in their children and how they disciplined their children at that time. Researchers found that based on their answers, toddlers need parents to reason with them — and they need punishments, as well.
ABC News reports that one mother of three, Mara Kimowitz, says she prefers the nurturing approach for her 4-year-old son.
"I really try to calm him down, get him to use his words or get control of his emotions, and then from there decide what my next step is with him," she said.
Experts on the subject say each parent should go with his or her gut instincts. They add that parents should pick their battles and personalize responses according to the level of the misbehavior that has taken place.
"The first thing to remember from this study is there is no âone size fits all' way to discipline your kid. Every kid is different. It's about knowing your kid," Ericka Souter, parenting expert and an editor at the website Mom.me, said on Good Morning America. "The second great thing is that we're hearing that timeouts can be a good thing and we should utilize them when it's appropriate."
Even though the latest parenting books are suggesting positive parenting with non-dramatic discipline, the new study says parental discipline should not be thrown out the window, writes Rick Nauert, PhD of PsychCentral. Researcher Robert Larzelere, Ph.D., of Oklahoma State University explains that parental discipline and positive parenting strategies can be polarizing in parental circles, but science has now found that parenting interventions for young children who are being defiant, like timeouts and other assertive tactics, can work when done properly.
The Oklahoma State University research, presented by Larzelere at the American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention, showed that offering compromises was the most effective move for immediate change no matter the type of behavior. Reasoning with the child came in second and was effective if the mothers were reacting to milder behaviors like negotiating and whining.
Time-outs, or taking something away, worked well for acting defiant or hitting, but punishments were least effective for negotiating and whining. Reasoning was ineffective for defiance or hitting. When the participating moms were interviewed after two months, those who used compromising too often with children who were hitting or acting defiant said their children were behaving worse.
But for those who used reasoning, it was found to be most effective over time for defiance or hitting, but it was the least effective response for immediate change. If timeouts were used less than 16% of the time, behavior improved, but only for these defiant children. Another presenter at the same symposium, Ennio Cipani, Ph.D., of National University, said timeouts often do not work or are viewed in a negative way because they are not being used in the correct way.
Cipani says timeouts should not be spur-of-the-moment decisions. Parents should tell children before anything happens which behaviors will result in taking timeout, and most importantly, always follow through with what has been explained to the child.
David Reitman, Ph.D. of Nova Southeastern University and Mark Roberts, Ph.D. of Idaho State University spoke on the Hanf method of parenting, based on the studies of Constance Hanf, Ph.D., which calls for an initial time of positive discipline (rewards for good behavior) followed by more authoritative measures like timeout.
"Allowing the child a second chance to comply with parent instructions by offering a warning for noncompliance has proven beneficial. The number of timeouts during initial therapy declines, while the necessity and effectiveness of timeout remains," Roberts said.
Colin Fernandez, reporting for the Daily Mail, says a new study claims children who are mildly difficult to discipline may have what is known as the CEO gene, DAT1, suggesting that they are more likely to lead a major business in the future. Bad behavior in the classroom, however, can also lead to a withdrawn personality, which is not a good thing for future Wall Street mega-stars. Kansas State University psychologists studied health data for 13,000 adults and found that DAT1 carries the chemical dopamine to the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that assists in controlling the brain's reward and pleasure responses. Children's DAT1 leads to "mild" bad behavior like skipping school, but not serious misbehavior like violent crime. DAT1 does provide positive leadership characteristics in adults, and psychologists say those with DAT1 learn at an early age to push boundaries.