More Moms Are Choosing Not to Spank Their Kids -- or So They Say

Angry mother scolding a disobedient child

It's pretty safe to assume that parents don't like being "the bad guy" in our kids' eyes, but we will do what's necessary to make sure our little ones follow the rules. And while most moms and dads have their go-to methods, it looks like physical punishment is no longer a top choice. A new study revealing more moms are choosing not to spank their kids could signify a change in times. Or ... does it?


Researchers at Georgetown University have noticed a significant shift in child discipline methods over the past 23 years. Examining four national surveys of mothers with kindergarten-aged children conducted between 1988 and 2011, experts concluded that moms, regardless of socioeconomic status, say they've started to prefer non-physical punishments (like time-outs) over spanking.

More from CafeMom: 12 Scientific Facts About Spanking Your Kids

The study, published in Pediatrics, notes 46 percent of moms surveyed in 1988 said they rely on spanking to reprimand their children, compared to just 21 percent of mothers surveyed in 2011. The use of time-outs, however, has seen a drastic increase over the years, with 81 percent of moms surveyed in 2011 choosing this form of punishment compared to 41 percent of mothers back in 1988.

Although the general use of spanking among moms surveyed has seemingly declined, experts do mention that one-third of moms in lower income brackets still report they spank their kids. Since those same families also tended to have low education levels, researchers concluded that that more work needs to educate parents on alternative forms of punishment.

More from CafeMom: If You Were Spanked as a Child, You're Not 'Fine' & Your Kid Won't Be Either

While many who disagree with spanking and other forms of physical punishment are likely doing a happy dance in honor of the study's new revelation, some experts aren't quick to believe it tells the full story.

Christopher Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University uninvolved with the study, tells Life Science, "It is possible that some parents are shy or embarrassed to admit that they spank their kids, and therefore they choose not to reveal this information in the surveys that are used for this type of research .... What people say they do and what they actually do are two different things."

No one can deny that spanking is a controversial method of punishment in our society, with a good number of parenting experts urging moms and dads to not do it. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of using physical punishments, as experts believe spanking becomes ineffective and teaches children aggressive behavior. The Journal of Family Psychology published a study this year that indicates spanked children are more likely to experience mental health issues and cognitive struggles.

More from CafeMom: Spanking vs. Child Abuse: Can You Tell If a Mother Goes Too Far?

It's great to know today's moms are looking to try non-physical forms of punishment first. Whether you grew up in an "old-school" home that involved spanking and don't want to repeat the behavior -- or you just don't believe in corporal punishment -- at least we know there are other options to consider.

Hopefully this trend can serve as a revelation to parents that spanking is not the way. And who knows, maybe moms and dads who are physically punishing their kids -- but are afraid to speak up about it -- will eventually be swayed from doing so.

Read More >