Parents today are spanking less, says study

Parents today are spanking less, says study

Less parents are practicing corporal discipline and opting for more effective, non-physical methods.

According to a new study published in Pediatrics, more and more parents are moving away from corporal punishment.

“There’s been a substantial decrease in the share of parents who are reporting having spanked their child in the last week,” lead researcher Rebecca Ryan told NPR. “And there’s a been substantial decrease in the share of parents who say they would spank or hit their child in response to misbehavior.”

Analyzing data from 1988 to 2011, researchers found that instead of physical punishment, more parents are using timeouts, regardless of their income and education levels. The percentage of mothers who reported not hitting or spanking their child to discipline them dropped by 26-40% over the time period.

“These are really big increases,” Ryan says. “The majority of parents now are reporting that they are using alternatives to physical discipline like timeouts where it was the minority in 1988.”

“There is little evidence that spanking or other forms of physical discipline are effective in the long term”

spanking less

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

However, almost a third of the lowest-income mothers said they still use physical punishment, and 1 in 4 reported spanking or hitting their child at least once in the past week.

Ryan told Reuters that support for corporal punishment has been falling since the 1990s. This is partly because of the research that has found that spanking is linked to negative outcomes in children like:

  • delinquency
  • antisocial behavior
  • psychological problems
  • alcohol and drug abuse

“There is also little evidence that spanking or other forms of physical discipline are effective in the long term at reducing unwanted child behaviors or encouraging children to internalize—to really believe in—parents’ rules,” Ryan said.

On the next page: is non-physical discipline really better?

Is non-physical discipline better?

According to experts, yes. Dr. Heidi Feldman, a researcher in developmental and behavioral pediatrics who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study, told Reuters that non-physical discipline actually teaches children “what they should and should not do all of the time instead of just forcing them to stop what they are doing in one particular moment.”

Refraining from spanking and physical punishment has also been linked to lower incidences of physical abuse.

“Physical discipline teaches that violence is acceptable,” Feldman said. 

“Non-physical discipline is compassionate: children are inexperienced in the world. Many times their misbehavior arises from poor control of their behavior or emotions. They need our understanding and education. Discipline is education.”

spanking less

Non-physical discipline tips

Many parents resort to physical punishment because it was the way they were disciplined as children, and they don’t know any other way to make their children behave. But nonphysical strategies are far more effective, according to experts. Here are some suggestions from Psychology Today to get you on the right track.

1. Focus on their positive behavior

Oftentimes, kids act out because they want your attention. Sometimes it’s best to simply ignore actions you don’t want them to repeat, like tantrums and whining. Instead, practice positive reinforcement by praising and rewarding them for good behavior.

2. Be consistent

If you have a consequence for certain bad behavior, be sure to always enforce it. Don’t let your child get away with it every now and then.

3. Get feedback

When coming up with rewards or consequences, have a discussion with your child to see what would be better incentives. Knowing what’s important to them will make your discipline more effective.

READ: How to discipline your baby: 8 Things to keep in mind

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