One in five Australian parents still threaten to smack, hit or spank their kids when they misbehave, a new report has revealed.

Up to 23 per cent of parents threatened to physically discipline their children if they’ve been badly behaved, the Child Health Poll report by the Royal Children’s Hospital found.

‘Physical discipline can hang long-lasting negative effects on a child, including reduced self-esteem and psychological harm,’ report director Dr Anthea Rhodes said.

The report found up to 17 per cent of parents actually smacked, hit, spanked, slapped or pinched their children when they misbehaved, shares Daily Mail.

The report also claimed that a ‘significant proportion’ of Australian children had been physically disciplined in the month before the studies conclusion.

Punitive or negative discipline does not help children learn what behaviour is expected from them as it centres on what not to do, Dr Rhodes said.

‘Children who experience aggressive discipline are also more likely to develop aggressive behaviour themselves,’ she added.

A number of the parents surveyed said they look on their disciplinary tactics critically, with 48 per cent saying they become ‘impatient too quickly’, while 38 per cent said they often ‘lost their temper’ which caused feelings of guilt.

The poll found more than half of Australian parents (51%) think it is never OK to use physical discipline with a child. However, almost one in five parents (23%) subscribe to myths that physical discipline teaches a child to respect their parents. Another one in five (23%) also believe it teaches children self-discipline, while a quarter believe children can become unmanageable without physical discipline.

The poll, based on a survey of 2044 parents Australia-wide caring for 3545 children aged one year to under 18 years old, found:

  • The vast majority (95%) of parents use positive tactics to promote good behaviour in their children, such as attention, praise and reward
  • One in four parents (27%) report feeling stressed by their child’s behaviour every day
  • A significant proportion of Australian children have been physically disciplined in the past month, according to parent report, with
  • 4% being physically disciplined `quite a lot or most of the time’, 13% `some of the time’ and a further 24% `rarely’
  • Many parents reflect critically on their own parenting strategies, with almost half of (48%) said they become impatient too quickly,
  • while one in three (36%) said they often lost their temper and later felt guilty
  • A third of parents (33%) said children should be on their best behaviour at all times, suggesting a lack of understanding about the range of normal childhood behaviours
  • A third (32%) said they often feel overwhelmed by managing their child’s behaviour
  • And almost half (45%) of parents are not confident that they would know where to go for help if they had difficulty managing their child’s behaviour

However the report also showed almost all parents do use positive techniques such as praising their child’s behaviour when they’re good.

Dr Rhodes said a positive response was the best way to encourage children to continue their good behaviour.

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  • That is just awful! I would never threaten to hit my son!


  • While it may not be ideal, but surely threatening to hit them is better then actually smacking them. And sometimes you use what works as a parent. I am against smacking kids, but I am also guilty of it


  • My boys were given the option of behaving or telling their Dad what they had done wrong. They were and still are very well behaved boys.


  • Smacking never hurt me as a child and look at where society is going now! Children are out of control at schools because their parents are setting down the best guidelines at home. I don’t often have to smack my children for their behaviour, but if they need one they get one. I give them plenty of warning before it happens but when it does it’s over quickly and they understand what they have done wrong and they get over it quickly. I have a great loving relationship with both of my children and smacking does not affect this.


  • This will be a generational change. I did it when my son was a baby, but I think in that time there has been so much education and awareness that generations moving forward will change their behaviour.


  • That’s a lot ! Sad, cause what do we teach our children when we hit them or threaten to do this ?


  • I continue to actively praise when my daughter does good but never physically smack. I agree with this article whole heartedly on the damage it can cause


  • This is sad. Hubby and I disagree about smacking, aka he believes in it, I do not. Maybe one day he will finally realise his way means one step forward, 2 or more steps back. Thankfully I’m the one taking care of her most of the time as the sahm so I only hope it’s enough.


  • I don’t smack my kids as often as my parents did me. I use smacks for situations where my child could harm themselves or others (reaching for the oven, throwing things at a siblings head), it happens rarely and the behaviour is not repeated again. I don’t agree with smacking for every little thing and know some parents who do not smack at all but have become parents who do not teach consequences or follow through on what they say.


  • I know of one Mum whose son kept pinching his siblings and other children even after several warnings and explanations and wouldn’t believe it hurt. In desperation she warned him that if he did it again she would pinch him gently to show him it did hurt. She had to carry out her warning. He never did it again. If we were naughty were were told why it was wrong and asked not to do it again. If were were defiant and continued to do it after more warnings and explanations sometimes one of our favourite toys would be taken away from us. We soon learnt that there was consequences for repeated unacceptable behaviour.


  • Never threatened this sort of discipline and do not smack! I would not like to be threatened or smacked as an adult so why would a child!


  • If you threaten something you won’t follow through with you just make things worse for yourself.


  • I used to threaten my 2 eldest. I have them the warning that if they did what ever it was again, I was going to smack. They soon learnt meant what I said and stopped. Now being 14 and 17 they are very polite kind, caring teenagers. I haven’t had to as much with my 5 year old, he sees how my older 2 behave
    I used to get smacked as a child as did my younger brothers, and we turned out fine.


  • That’s terrible. One in five is still quite a lot.

    • It is an awful statistic and it does not teach respect it only teaches fear.


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