Parents Still Use a Smack When Necessary – Research

Family First NZ says that research on discipline released by the Families Commission confirms that nearly half of our parents are flouting the anti-smacking law, are using smacking infrequently and as a last resort, and highlights how out of touch the law change is with the realities and challenges of parenting.

“The supposed claim from this research Discipline in Context – that parents don’t find smacking effective – can also be applied to all other methods of discipline used by parents,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“All parents want to have compliant children who immediately respond to less confrontational methods of discipline such as distraction, praise and time out. But parents have to live in the real world. Sometimes these methods are ineffective.”

“The far more substantial and thorough Ministry of Health’s 2006/2007 NZ Health Survey (“A Portrait of Health”) found that telling a child off was the most common form of discipline (62% of parents) yet was considered most effective by only 19% of parents who used it. 40% of parents admitted yelling but only 3.7% considered it most effective, and ‘time out’ was used 50% of the time yet only a 1/3’rd of parents who used it considered it most effective.”

“The Commission’s research simply reaffirms that parents are doing their very best in sometimes difficult circumstances and we should be doing everything we can to support them rather than viewing them with suspicion and criticizing them because they don’t fit within the politically charged and confused definition of ‘positive parenting’.”

“The research of just over 100 parents also has major limitations with its small sample size, an over-emphasis of South Islanders, mothers, parents with higher income and higher qualifications, low Pasifika representation, self-selection of participants, and focusing only on children under 5 years old.”

“Some parents would be very reluctant to be surveyed, or to admit that they used a smack because of the law change, and this is reflected in the research results.”

“Interestingly, the authors were based at Otago University, where researchers recently found that children who were smacked in a reasonable way had similar or slightly better outcomes in terms of aggression, substance abuse, adult convictions and school achievement than those who were not smacked at all.”

“Parenting isn’t for cowards but the expectations, children’s rights movement, and laws being placed on parents is sure making it scary,” says Mr McCoskrie. “The real parenting experts are the mums and dads who are raising great kids – sometimes even with a smack for defiant behaviour – with very little support and recognition.”

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