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Study Shows Parents Spank Kids for Being Kids

It’s pretty rare that parents openly admit to spanking their kids these days, but in a new study out of Southern Methodist University designed to look at parent-child interactions at home, many of the almost 40 parents who participated recorded themselves slapping or spanking their kids, reports ABC News.

Plus: 5 Tantrum Stoppers That Work

The study, which initially meant to investigate yelling, not corporal punishment, has inadvertently become the first real-time study of parents spanking their kids; in the past, most studies of spanking and other corporal punishment have relied on parents’ own reports of their behaviors. The parents, recruited from a Dallas daycare facility, included 36 moms and one dad who were told only that the researchers would be looking at parent-child interactions, not yelling specifically, so that parents would represent their family life in an honest way. They recorded themselves for several hours at the end of the day, for six days. The parents were from a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds; most were white, and about one-third were African-American.

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The researchers broke down the data, noting each incident of spanking or slapping, what led up to it, what kind of punishment was used in response and how much of it, the child’s immediate response to the punishment, and their response later that day.

Plus: 9 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Child

Sadly, much of the punishment was meted out in response to pretty minor infractions—basically kids being kids, like one boy who was smacked for turning the page too soon in a book his mother was reading to him, and a 3-year-old boy who was spanked 11 times for fighting with his sister, sparking a fit of crying and coughing. Even more depressing, past studies have linked corporal punishment to increased childhood aggression and physical abuse in parents toward their kids.

Do you believe that spanking is appropriate punishment—sometimes, occasionally, never? If not, what tricks do you use for disciplining your kids?