The smacking debate is an ongoing one and everyone has their own view. Should you smack your child when you feel circumstances warrant it or is it something that you would never do?
A 2013 study claimed that “being a strict mother can be good for children as long as the discipline is tempered with a little love and affection”. The study of teenagers, published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice, found the painful effects of harsh discipline – such as verbal threats or smacking – are offset by the child’s feeling of being loved.
Needless to say this study sparked a lot of heated debate. So the question still remains – on which side of the fence do you sit?
At the risk of being controversial, this article is all about smacking and which side of the fence do parents fall? Do you think its a good thing as a last resort to instill discipline? Or are you of the view that smacking is just corporal punishment under another name and parents are better parents without it?
Recently we went to a friend’s BBQ where they were lots of other parents with children of ages similar to ours. Whilst they were running around in the sun jumping in and out of the paddling pool and basically causing mayhem, the parents sat around eating and chatting about their children’s latest escapades. The conversation turned to smacking with one parent saying that when he was young, it was totally normal for his dad to have smacked him if he was naughty and he knew better not to push the boundaries. Another Dad said that he always knew he was in for a smack when his mum said “just you wait until your dad gets home”. I also remember being smacked when I was young. Looking back on it, I think it was probably justified. I continuously refused to do as I was told often putting myself in danger.
When the same group of friends were asked if they smacked their children, there was a muffled silence. Was anyone going to admit to it? There were a few apologetic comments along the lines of “well it might have happened once but it was my wife not me” or “I’ve threatened to do it once but couldn’t do it because I felt so guilty”. For those that did admit to having smacked their child, there were plenty of excuses and apologies as if they were trying to defend and justify themselves.
But can smacking ever be justified? In Britain, mild smacking is permitted under a “reasonable chastisement” defence against common assault. The 2004 Children’s Act clarified the defence by making any hitting that causes bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches punishable with up to five years in jail. Britain is one of only five EU countries that have not introduced a ban on smacking with politicians calling for a clarification on the law to reassess parents’ rights. The former Labour Education
minister David Lammy reignited the debate over the issue recently when he claimed that many parents were confused over the laws governing smacking. Mr Lammy admitted he had smacked his children and suggested that curbs on traditional discipline might have contributed towards the social breakdown witnessed during last summer’s riots. But is smacking the only way to install discipline? We are all very much aware of the concept of the “naughty step” and following through on punishments such as not watching television or taking away a prized toy should surely have more impact than physically hitting? After all if you hit your child doesn’t that teach them that its ok to hit too?
A recent study concluded that adults who were hit or smacked as children face higher odds of mental health problems, including mood and anxiety disorders and problems with alcohol and drug abuse. The study is the first to examine the link between psychological problems and smacking while excluding more severe abuse in order to better gauge the effect of corporal punishment alone. Those who were hit as children were between two and seven per cent more likely to encounter mental issues later, according to the study from the University of Manitoba in Canada. However the NHS has responded to this study by saying that “although this is an interesting study, it provides no evidence of a causal link between physical punishment and development of a mental disorder later in life. This study also relies upon self-reported information, with adults asked to recall being punished as a child. Both of these facts limit our ability to conclude that smacking causes mental illness”.
Before you ask, where do I stand? I can admit that I have smacked my child once. We were driving down the motorway at 80 mph when she decided to take off her seatbelt and climb out of her car seat into the front. Despite being told numerous times that what she was doing was very dangerous, she ignored us both. At the next service station, we stopped and she got a light smack around the back of the legs. She has never taken her seatbelt off again and always tells everyone else who gets into the car that you have to wear your seatbelt because its dangerous if you don’t. I believe that in this case we were justified. A naughty step would not have worked at the time. But then again, am I now making the same excuses my friends did? Did I at that time fail as a parent? Could I have done anything else?
So which side of the fence do you fall on? Can smacking ever be justified? Or should parents find other ways of instilling discipline in their child?
- I won’t smack my kids, but parenting is a personal issue | Bim Adewunmi (guardian.co.uk)
- Time Out for Kids Doesn’t Always Work (momsformoms.wordpress.com)
- Charities call for smacking ban (bbc.co.uk)