Times certainly have changed from when I was a kid, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of parenting. Back when I was a kid, children didn’t go on play dates, never used their seatbelts, and helmets were something only football players wore. (for record, I think modern parenting is a bit more sensible). In terms of discipline, parents could rule with an iron fist, and if the situation called for it, were not above spanking or hitting their child. Today, this sort of behavior could land a parent in jail, and in many instances, rightfully so.

Interestingly enough, experts are beginning to understand that discipline, which would include spanking, yelling, and even time-outs, may do little to modify a child’s behavior. In fact, in the instance of spanking, it might very well opposite effect, ultimately increasing a child’s aggression.

Researchers around the world collaborated on a new study that looked at the practice and perception of discipline in several different countries. What they found was that rather than enforcing rules and regulations at a moment in time (and employing discipline to accomplish this), parents are better off investing in the long term picture by developing healthy and meaningful relationships with their kids.

In other words, it behooves parents to spend more quality time with their kids, letting them know they love them and are there for them to listen and offer support. The development of this sort of relationship has a more powerful and positive effect on a child’s behavior than any form of discipline.

The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, was unique in that it gathered information from both mothers and their children. Researchers were hoping to better understand the relationship between discipline and aggressive or anxious behavior, as well as the effectiveness of disciplinary action in relation to how it is perceived by their neighbors.

The disciplinary techniques that appeared in the study included teaching good vs. bad, getting the child to apologize, time-outs, withdrawing privileges, spanking, expressing disappointment, yelling, holding back love, threats, and rewards.

The researchers also asked about the prevalence of these techniques outside of their homes but within the community. The reason for this because when children believe that a disciplinary action is common within their community, it is more likely to accepted by the child as normal, and as a result, be potentially more effective.

The results of the study indicate when a child believes that a disciplinary action is common with their community, perhaps lending some validity to its use, they were more likely to view the technique as acceptable. However, even though there was some variability in the relationship between discipline and behavior problems, certain things were consistent. This included the fact that a child’s level of anxiety appeared to increase with the use of time-outs, corporal punishment, and parental expression of disappointment that led to the child feeling shame. On the other hand, when a child was spanked or yelled at, it seemed to encourage child aggression.

The data may not necessarily give parents a clearer picture of how they can encourage proper behavior, but it does seem to support one important idea, and that is value of spending time with your kids. Along these lines, providing children with a good behavioral foundation based on strong values might do a lot more good than constantly punishing them after the fact.

Unfortunately, in the age of modern parenting, family-time seems to have taken a backseat to the other worldly pursuits, and it is our children (and their behavior) who suffer the most. As parents, we should keep this in mind and take the time to teach our kids right from wrong while being supportive but firm.