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Being The Enforcer has its appeal. Just lay down the law and let intimidation do the rest.

It's effective in the short run, but not so great for the long haul, say experts on children.Kids may learn to behave while the parental police are present, but they don't develop the self-control needed when the enforcers aren't there, said Art McBride, who teaches a parenting class at Shasta College.

Spanking, slapping and other punishment can also set a bad example, he said.

"If you think might makes right, what happens when your kid gets bigger or stronger?" McBride said. "Is that how they are going to resolve problems, by being bigger and stronger?"

Jan Dunn, a therapist at the Family Service Agency of Shasta County, said spanking, grounding and other forms of punishment spark resentment. Instead of seeing their actions as the problem, children blame their parents.

Punishment is an external way to control behavior, rather than internal, Ms. Dunn argues. When children misbehave they "should hurt from the inside out," she said. "You want them to feel responsible for what they did."