Why parents spank their children
Parents view discipline as a multimodal tool, with 68% saying they use discipline to nurture their children, and 68% saying they use it to stop bad behavior. Additionally, 71% say discipline is necessary to teach good behavior, and 65% say they discipline their children to protect them.
Regardless of their reasons for disciplining their children, 75% of parents say they feel it is their duty, and more than half of parents say finding the best ways to discipline is a struggle and that managing their child when they misbehave is one of the biggest parenting challenges.
Whereas many parents have turned to nonphysical methods for discipline, the survey found that 21% still spank; 26% “pop or swat” their children; and 17% hit their children with an object such as a belt or paddle. However even parents that use spanking don’t really believe it works, according to the survey, with 30% of parents admitting that they spank their children even though they “don’t feel okay about it.” Among parents who say they spank their children frequently—several times a week—77% say it’s not the most effective way to discipline.
So why do parents spank their kids? Many of the parents polled—90%—cite their own experiences as children or the advice of their parents as reasons for the way they parent their own children. Yet parents are looking to make changes.
Six of 10 parents polled say what they learned from their parents is useful, but 37% say they spank less than their parents did, and 29% and 28%, respectively, say they “pop or swat” and hit with an object less than their parents did. Forty-one percent say they explain expectations and consequences more than their parents did, and 40% to 60% rely on time-outs, distraction, acting as a good role model, verbal warnings, setting limits, and negative reinforcement for discipline.
Nearly 60% of parents polled say they wish they knew more about effective ways to discipline their child, and 53% say they are willing to learn about discipline strategies. The volume of resources on discipline is overwhelming, however, and 58% of parents say there is so much advice available that they don’t know where to start or whom to trust.
More than half the parents polled say they would value a website or blog created jointly by child development experts, but 63% of parents say they are skeptical of generalized parenting advice from sources that don’t know their child or specific situation.
Pediatricians are an obvious source, and a top-ranked source—also cited as helpful—by parents in the poll, falling second only to using the way parents themselves were raised as reference.
“Parents are overwhelmed by information and, at the same time, aren’t sure who to trust when it comes to parenting information. Pediatricians are extremely well-positioned to provide parents with the support and guidance they are looking for, as they are a trusted resource and actually have the chance to get to know children as individuals,” says Lerner.
“By creating opportunities for families to talk through child-rearing challenges, like effective discipline strategies, pediatricians can support positive parenting practices and promote children’s healthy development,” Lerner says. “How pediatricians go about these discussions is very important; parents want to be partners in this process and to have their ideas heard and their feelings validated.”