Why parents spank their children
About 20% of parents polled in a new survey admit to using physical punishment such as spanking and swatting to discipline their children—even though most say they don’t feel right doing it and they don’t believe it works.
Despite clear guidance from pediatric groups against spanking or hitting a child for any reason, it remains a common form of punishment for some parents, along with other forms of physical discipline. However, parents want to do better, according to the report from the nonprofit parent education group Zero To Three based in Washington, DC, and they want pediatricians to help.
“Our survey found that parents overwhelmingly believe that good parenting can be learned. This is great news for pediatricians: Parents want to be the best mother or father they can be for their young child. At the same time, parents are also profoundly influenced by their own experiences as a child—both positive and negative,” says Rebecca Parlakian, senior director of programs at Zero To Three. “Creating opportunities for parents to share their own experiences of parenting and of being parented can be difficult, but it is also a courageous step toward building strong families. Making these discussions a part of the well-child visit provides a critical support to parents as well as nurtures young children’s healthy development.”
Zero To Three’s study was conducted in 2 phases consisting of 10 in-depth discussion groups in Dallas and Chicago for Phase 1, and a nationally representative 50-question survey sent to more than 2000 parents for Phase 2. Researchers found that no matter what their background, parents mostly share the same attitudes, aspirations, and challenges across socioeconomic status, race, education level, and parenting role.
Eighty percent of the parents polled believe they are good parents, and 9 out of 10 say they want to keep working to do even better. Parents also feel torn in their roles, with 91% describing parenthood as their greatest joy and 73% also describing it as their greatest challenge.
One of the biggest challenges cited across the study participants was discipline, and figuring out the best ways to manage behavior, effectively discipline, and keep patience. In fact, across income groups, this goal was nearly identical, with 58% of parents in the low-income group and 57% of parents in the high-income group saying that they wished they could be more patient with their child. The goal was similar across races and ethnicities as well, although more moms than dads cite patience as a goal.
Parents do want to learn, however, with 62% of fathers and 46% of mothers saying they would like guidance on how to be better parents.