Dear Carolyn,

My ex, the mother of my child, and I are in child custody mediation. Our son is age four, andhe is rambunctious, to say the least. I would like for our parenting agreement to include a provision requiring that neither parent can use corporal punishment, i.e.,spanking. Is that an appropriate point for a parenting agreement? We have child custody mediation next week.


Carolyn answers:

Finally,we may have the definitive answer regarding spanking. A new research study looks at the negative effects, both short-term and long-term of spanking children. The study can be foundin the December 2018 issue of the magazine Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics now takes the position that spanking as a form of discipline is “not only completely counter-productive, it may be potentially damaging.” The study “found that spanking fails to improve negative behavior in young children. Instead, it leads to increased aggression in the long run. Corporal punishment may also affect normal brain development by elevating stress hormones.”

Spanking in North Carolina is legal, provided that the spanking does not leave any mark on the child.

In the study, toddlers spanked at age three experienced increased levels of aggression by age five with higher levels of externalizing behaviors and lower receptive vocabulary scores when evaluated four years later.

The study by the American Academy of Pediatrics also warned against verbal punishment with humiliation, threats, andshaming since these can also spur aggression and negative behaviors.

Parents should focus on healthy, age-appropriate forms of discipline. Ask your pediatrician for acceptable forms of discipline for the age of your child. Discipline may change as the child grows older.I would suggest that if you have the pediatrician’s recommendation for a discipline plan, for the parenting agreement.

Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to Ask Carolyn…at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions.  Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.   Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn…”