Even when they're a united team, moms and dads can have very different ways of disciplining their children. Some parents revert to the dreaded "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed" line (yes, I'm looking at you, Mum), while others prefer the chastising power of a stern lecture. But stats on how moms and dads discipline show that gender may actually factor into how each parent chooses to discipline their child.
Many studies focus solely on mothers when they zoom in on parenting, but one report, published in Child Trends in 2002, analyzed information gathered from 13 national surveys of both moms and dads. While it's not the most up-to-date report, it might be one of the largest, and it provides some interesting findings. When looking into how women and men parent, the researchers found several differences in how mothers and fathers discipline their children.
Women reported setting limits more frequently for their kids when it came to the amount of television they could watched, what TV shows they could watch, and which friends they could spend time with — approximately 10 percent more moms said they set limits than fathers did. When it came to physical punishment, however, men were more likely to agree that it was sometimes necessary to spank children. In 2000, 79 percent of dads agreed with the statement, while only 71 percent of moms did.
An important note on spanking, though: Overall, parents are relying on healthier forms of discipline their children these days. According to a study published in November, the number of parents who report spanking their children has dropped considerably over the years, with only about one-fifth of middle-income moms saying they spanked their children in 2011. The amount of time-outs being used also increased in the same time span, with 81 percent of mothers opting to use the disciplining technique.
Parents' disciplining styles don't only differ when it comes to limit-setting and spanking, however. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, mothers generally discipline more than fathers do, but dads tend to be firmer with children. Research has also shown that dads are usually more willing to confront their kids and be disciplinarians, while mothers tend to reason with children and rely on their emotional connection with them to get kids to behave.
Moms and dads may discipline differently, and as long as it works for them, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Having different parenting styles can be beneficial, as long as both parents can agree with each other's methodology and communicate clearly.