Parents Flunking Discipline

Submitted by Marsha Newsom on Sun, 02/21/2010 - 13:18

In a study conducted at Vanderbilt University, parents gave themselves a failing score on discipline. 1

Although most parents use the same discipline methods that their parents used, almost a third say they don't think they are doing well at disciplining their children. The study was conducted in 2007 by Shari Barkin, M.D., Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital. Dr. Barkin interviewed parents from 32 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. More than a third of parents (38 percent) reported using the same methods of discipline they experienced when they were children. But those who reported using the same methods as their parents often considered their approach “ineffective.”

The Different Disciplines

Forty-five percent reported using time-outs, 41.5 percent reported using removal of privileges, 13 percent reported yelling at their children and 8.5 percent reported the use of spanking “often or always.” About 31 percent of parents surveyed responded they either “never” or “sometimes” perceived their methods to be effective.

“There was actually an inverse relationship between self-reports of yelling at children and perceived effectiveness of discipline,” Barkin said. “But we strongly suspect that both yelling and spanking might be under reported, because we know when parents perceive their methods are not working, as a third reported, then emotions can quickly escalate.”

Methods Change With Age

Although the methods changed as children grew older, parents did not have any stronger feelings of success. For children in the 6- to 11-year-old age range, parents were about 25 percent less likely to report using time-outs and spanking. School-aged children were more apt to lose privileges than other methods of discipline. Parents perception of the effectiveness of their discipline did not change in groups with older children.


photo by Jeff Osborn


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