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What We've Learned

Invest in Kids has done research on what it’s like to be a parent in Canada these days. In our recent survey of parents from across the country, we asked them to tell us what they thought and felt as the parent of a child under the age of 6. Each month we’ll be highlighting a set of results from our survey. This month the focus is on one of the most hotly debated childrearing topics: physical punishment. Here’s what we asked and what we’ve learned…

Use of Physical Punishment:

As a parent, you know how stressful it can be when your child misbehaves, especially when you're tired, in a hurry, or in a situation where you really wish your child would cooperate. What do you do in these circumstances? Do you spank your child, or use other means to teach him how to behave? In our survey, we wanted to know where Canadian parents stand on the issue of physical punishment in their parenting practices. So we asked participants to answer the following question:

“How often do you use physical punishment when your child breaks the rules or does things that he or she is not supposed to?”

We found that 51% of parents reported using physical punishment occasionally or more often, and 49% said they never use it at all. Of the 51% who used this approach, most do so “rarely“ (39%), fewer do so “sometimes“ (11%), and less than 1% use physical punishment “often“ or “always“.

We compared the group of parents who use physical punishment rarely or more often to those who never use it, and here's what we found: the parents who use physical punishment reported fewer positive/warm interactions with their kids, used less effective ways of managing their child's misbehaviour, and were more angry and punitive in non-physical ways. In other words, the mere fact that some parents use physical punishment at all sets them apart in negative ways from those who do not use physical punishment at all; children who receive physical punishment also have fewer of the types of interactions that encourage healthy development and good behaviour.

For this reason, we encourage parents to use other means of discipline to guide their children’s behaviour and teach them right from wrong. For more information on positive parenting practices, visit the section of this website on “Answers for Parents – Discipline/Guiding Behaviour”.

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