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The smacking debate – to smack or not?

Smacking – It’s an ongoing debate.

There have been studies over the years for and against smacking, but do we really need research to tell us whether to smack our children or not?

A study by Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College,Michigan, suggests that children who are smacked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those spared physical discipline.

On the flip side, another study by researchers from American and Canadian universities, found that smacking, instead of using non-physical punishments such as time-outs, reduces their emotional intelligence and ‘executive functioning ability’ which allows us to think on the spot and modify our behaviour when necessary.

So – who is right? Do these studies actually mean anything? Is smacking a good thing or should it be banned?

Smacking and the law

In Britain, ‘mild smacking’ is permitted under a “legal 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. However, the prospect of parents being banned from smacking children in part of the UK has moved a step closer.

Members of the Welsh assembly have approved a call to withdraw the defence of “legal reasonable chastisement” that is currently available to parents, believing it could introduce legislation to outlaw smacking, but has ruled out doing so before 2016.

In Scotland, in 2003 the law was changed to ban hitting on the head, shaking or punishing with an implement and Scotland could now be first in UK to ban smacking.

The Scottish Greens MSP who introduced the bill says “physical violence has no place in 21st century Scotland”


There’s no need to smack

I’ve worked with children for over 25 years and not once have I ever smacked a child, including my own.

It’s not a simple case of not being the parent of the children I have worked with, it’s a matter of respect for another human being – I would never hurt another.

You can glam smacking up whichever way you like, but smacking is a loss of control on the parents part.

Children can easily be helped with their behaviour with time out techniques. (This doesn’t have to mean ‘naughty steps’ it can mean simply removing them from a situation and sitting with them while they calm down. (Read some of my other tips for time out on this site!)

I was in a supermarket once with my little ones, where I witnessed a mother smack her child for smacking his sibling!

‘You do not smack your brother!’ she said, laying a big smack on his bottom.

I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. By smacking him herself, instead of teaching her child it was wrong to hurt another – she simply enforced it’s perfectly ok to smack!

In his mind Mummy smacks him, so why can’t he smack too?

For me, teaching right from wrong doesn’t need to be aggressive. You don’t have to smack a child to teach them.

Hurting children does not make them think why they behaved in a certain way, it just shocks them into thinking if they do it again they will get hurt. It also makes them fear their parents and this is not an ideal relationship to have.

‘Time out’ gives children time to reflect and think about their actions while missing out on a fun activity. Talking to them after time out and explaining why what they did was wrong, is surely more important and better than handing out smacks? 

As parents we make informed choices – should this choice be taken away from us and how will it be regulated?


What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to know.






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