Parents who smack their children are afraid to admit it because it has become socially unacceptable, even if it is still legal, according to an Australian report out Monday.
Experts insist corporal punishment is counterproductive to discipline, however an investigation for The Advertiser revealed many parents smack their children, but are loath to tell anyone.
And an online poll for the newspaper showed 89 percent of parents have at some time smacked their child, compared to seven percent who have never done so and four percent who said they had only done so when danger was present.
Author and mother Anne-Marie Taplin said that smacking does not give an appropriate message to children, adding, "It's really saying, 'do as I say, not as I do.'"
However, she said it is understandable that parents sometimes lose control.
"We're all human and do make mistakes," she said. "I think most parents would feel very guilty about raising their hands against their child."
For previous generations, it was socially acceptable to smack children but corporal punishment is now banned in 23 countries.
In Australia it is still lawful "to use corporal punishment to discipline children as long as the punishment is 'reasonable' in the circumstances," according to the federal government's legal definition.
Parenting coach Janet Poulsen said parents often expect too much from their children.
"We smack children when we feel powerless and when we feel angry," she said. "It comes out of ignorance, lack of skills, lack of clarity [and] inappropriate expectations."
British expert Jo Frost, from reality television show "Supernanny," said parents needed to lead by example to teach children what is acceptable in society.