Melbourne, July 30 : The "traditional" method of smacking and yelling to discipline children has now been condemned by psychologists who claim that such outrageous behaviour leads to a rise in mental health problems amongst kids.
A study from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute has found that harsh discipline and parental stress is increasing the risk of mental health troubles in young children, what with children as young as 3 years of age suffering from depression and anxiety.
The study indicated that at least one in seven children are affected by a mental illness. In fact, there is an overall increase of 60 percent in the number of youngsters displaying anxiety and social issues.
According to Dr Jordana Bayer, study author and child psychologist, stressed parents lashing out at their kids is the major factor fuelling such abusive behaviour.
"We are not talking about a parent who smacks just once. Remember when parents smack or hit their child, they might learn to do that as well. When parents are stressed, it's more challenging to be relaxed and respond to their children in ways they would like to respond to them," The Daily Telegraph quoted her, as saying.
These risks of parenting practices have come to light after the researchers analysed more than 700 toddlers, aged between seven months and three years.
They found that kids who undergo physical punishment are more likely to kick, hit and bite others and become socially withdrawn. In fact, continuous smacking of abusive children encourages them to go on a path of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, unemployment and suicide.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra, suggested that stressed parents were placing too much pressure on their children.
"We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months," she said.
Mental health is nation's biggest health issues today, what with psychologists encountering toddlers biting their nails, while older children are wetting the bed and pulling out their eyelashes as a result of anxiety.
Although experts have pushed for a ban on smoking, many parents still resort to the "traditional" method to discipline children.
Joe Tucci, Childhood Foundation CEO said hitting youngsters had become outdated.
But, Mary Hadeed, mother-of-four has said that raising kids is quite a stressful job, and said that smacking was a last resort. She said she was a big believer in "time out" not just for her children but for herself as well.
"There are a lot of things that you can put in place before it gets to smacking - for me it's a last resort. I very rarely smack. For me it's about treating each of them as an individual and figuring out what's most important to them and then using that as a way of disciplining them without it having any long-term effects," she said.