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Parents Flunking Discipline

1 in 3 Parents Say the Way They Discipline Their Children Doesn't Work
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 10, 2007 -- Parents may be in need of a time-out -- if not a do-over -- when it comes to discipline.

A new survey shows more than a third of parents use the same discipline methods with their children their own parents used on them -- despite the fact that nearly a third say their disciplining strategies aren't working.

Researchers found 38% of parents say they use the same discipline their parents used, such as removing privileges, yelling, sending the child to the bedroom, and spanking.

However, 31% said they thought their discipline methods were either "never" or only "sometimes" effective.

Having experienced yelling or spanking as a child made the parents more likely to use the same approach with their own children, regardless of whether they thought it actually worked.

In fact, parents who reported yelling at their children were the most apt to say their discipline was ineffective.

"There was actually an inverse relationship between self-reports of yelling at children and perceived effectiveness of discipline," says researcher Shari Barkin, MD, chief of pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tenn., in a news release.

Discipline Do-Over

In the study, researchers surveyed more than 2,000 parents nationwide of children aged 2 to 11 who were waiting for a well-child visit with their pediatrician.

The results showed parents used a variety of discipline techniques with their children. For example:

  • 45% reported using time-outs
  • 42% said they used removal of privileges
  • 13% reported yelling at their children
  • 9% said they used spanking "often or always"

"But we strongly suspect that both yelling and spanking might be underreported, because we know when parents perceive their methods are not working, as a third reported, then emotions can quickly escalate," Barkin says.

Researchers found the age of the child influenced the type of discipline used.

By the time children reached the 6- to 11-year-old age range, parents were 25% less likely to report using time-outs and spanking as they were with younger children.

Once the children reached school age, parents were more likely to use taking away privileges and yelling, despite the perception that this discipline method may not be effective.

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