Physical punishment, such as spanking or slapping, can do real harm and worsen your child's behavior. A review published in the journal Lancet, based on 69 studies from the US, Canada, the UK, China, Japan, Switzerland, Colombia, Greece and Turkey, revealed that corporal punishment does not ameliorate a child's behavior over time. It has the opposite effect.

According to Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor in human development and family sciences at The University of Texas in Austin and senior author of the study, spanking is harmful to kids' development and well-being. "Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior. Unfortunately for parents who hit, our research found clear and compelling evidence that physical punishment does not improve children's behavior and instead makes it worse," said Gershoff. In fact, kids acted out more after punishment.

To measure the impact of physical punishment, the review excluded severe types of punishment like hitting the child with an object, hitting or slapping them on the face or head, throwing an object at them, beating them, hitting them with a fist, punching them, kicking them, throwing them down, choking them, burning them, scalding them, threatening them with a knife or gun, or washing their mouth out with soap.

The huge problem is that, as of 2017, spanking is still allowed in many parts of the world. According to UNICEF, 63% of kids between the ages of 2 and 4 - around 250 million individuals - lived in countries where they were regularly subjected to physical punishment by their parents and caregivers. In all 50 US states, for example, it's still legal for parents to use corporal punishment on their kids, while 19 states still allow schools to use such old-fashioned and barbaric methods.

The good news is that - according to the "Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children" - globally 62 countries have prohibited physical punishment of kids in all settings, while 27 countries have commited to do so. But it is unfortunate that nowadays "only 13% of the world's children are fully protected in law from corporal punishment", and that 31 countries still allow whipping, flogging and canning as sentences for crimes commited by juveniles. Which is hard to believe in the 21st century.

Picture: How we protect children's rights (UNICEF Viet Nam)