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Stoughton 'no hit zone' looks to stop corporal punishment

STOUGHTON, Wis. - The city of Stoughton is training their staff to help end corporal punishment. The area is the first city in Dane County to become a "no hit zone." The policy passed City Council in 2016, however city staff just started training on the policy last week.

The concept enables staff to offer help to parents in stressful situations, before they feel the need to use physical discipline.

"We are not standing in judgement of anyone or anything like that. What we are saying is there are alternatives, there are different alternatives. Maybe, we can break this cycle of some degree and end the violence," said police Chief Greg Leck.

Hitting and spanking can lead to violent behavior later in life, according to Leck. "Interruptions" as Leck describes them, could be as simple as distracting a child who is having a tantrum. Leck admits everyone may not agree, but he hopes the policy will start a discussion.

"It's the conversation. Conversation about hitting, the conversation about bullying, to us that's a huge, huge plus even if you disagree with it you're still talking about it," he said.

The city has placed signs on city buildings and facilities including parks that read "no hit zone" as a reminder. Dr. Barbra Knox at the UW Health American Family Children's hospital says the research shows corporal punishment is not the answer.

"Instead of teaching respect what it is actually doing is leading to increased disobedience and aggression in these children and sets them up for the possibility of drug and alcohol abuse later in life, as well as mental health disorders," Knox said.

According to Knox, repeated physical discipline can cause structural brain and hormonal changes in children that could have a lasting impact. Instead, she suggest using non-physical discipline including distractions, timeout, sticker charts, and establish house rules to enforce discipline. Knox said these approaches show better results than physical punishment.

"Even though you may not see external signs of problems, it may not be until your child is pre-teen or teenager before you see the consequences," she said.

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