Confused? Guilty? Overwhelmed? All of the above? 

Well you’re not alone. According to new research, one in four Aussie parents often feel overwhelmed and stressed every single day by their children’s behaviour and struggle to find the best ways to handle it. 

No matter what stage of the parenting journey you are at, managing your little one’s behaviour can be a battlefield. When we’re juggling jobs, other kids, managing a household and all the other stuff we do day-in, day-out, it can be tough to keep your cool when they test your patience. Which we know is what they’re meant to do as they grow and learn. But that doesn’t make it any easier. 

According to a new study conducted by The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll that looked at 2044 parents and 3545 children aged from one to 18, almost half of parents say they become impatient too quickly and one in three admitted they often lose their temper and later feel guilty.

The study also found that while almost all parents use positive techniques such as praise and attention to reward good behaviour, and almost all attempt to talk with their children about what type of behaviour they expect and their feelings when they misbehave, that 61% still resorted to shouting or yelling and 35% made their child feel bad in order to leach them a lesson.

Further to this, 23% of parents surveyed threatened physical violence, while 17% admitted to resorting to physical discipline including smacking, hitting, spanking, slapping, pinching or pulling.

The debate of whether or not a smack is ok for children has been around for a long time, with the old adage “my parents smacked me and I turned out fine” often being used as an argument. However, since our parents may or may not have done that in the 70s, 80s or even 90s, there has been extensive research on the topic, with numerous studies looking at the lasting effects of physical discipline on children.

“Punitive or negative discipline does not help children learn what is expected from them as it centres on what not to do rather than modelling or reinforcing desired behaviour,” says Dr Anthea Rhodes, Director of the RCH National Child Health Poll.  

“Physical discipline can have long-lasting negative effects on a child, including reduced self-esteem and psychological harm. Children who experience aggressive discipline are also more likely to develop aggressive behaviour themselves.”

As a result of these findings, the RCH has launched its Catch Them Being Good Challenge, asking parents to: 

1.       Take note of your child’s everyday efforts and achievements

2.       Tell them what they have done well 

3.       Double the amount of praise you give them – the more the better!

4.       Try this every day for at least a week 

5.       Share your story on The Royal Children’s Hospital Facebook page so other parents can learn from your experience using the hashtag #catchthembeinggood 

“Children’s brains are wired for attention,” adds Dr Rhodes. “The best type of attention to give a child is a positive response to desired behaviour as it encourages them to behave that way again. Praise, praise and more praise. If you see your child behaving well – praise them and tell them why.”  

“Children behave in different ways depending on their age, temperament, developmental stage and the situation. It is normal for them to push boundaries and to have difficulty regulating their emotions sometimes. Understanding the reasons for a child’s behaviour will help parents respond sensitively and more effectively to challenging behaviours.’’

“Managing behaviours can be stressful. If parents feel overwhelmed and are often losing their cool with their kids, they should reach out for help. Speak to friends and family or your GP for advice and support.”

For more information and advice on disciplining your children or to learn more about the ‘Catch Them Being Good Challenge’ you can visit rchpoll.org