Ban Smacking Children

I read this article on the BBC website today, and thought I’d write a post on it since I have quite strong feelings on the subject.

The tl;dr of the article is that assembly members wanted the Welsh goverment to ban smacking a child by removing the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement or punishment’ for assaulting a child. The minister responsible for children has ruled out such a change before 2016 but wants to encourage parents to change their style of discipline using other means. Children’s Commissioner Ken Towler says that, “Children should be entitled to the same level of protection as adults. There’s no such thing as a safe smack.”

I disagree.

I think it is absurd to equate a smack with child abuse or assault. A smack is not the same as a slap or a punch. I was smacked as a child and I find it offensive that people are trying to tell me that my parents were abusive, and that I was assaulted.

That is why I have such a strong emotional response to this issue; how dare someone who has never met me, my mother or my father try to tell me now that I was abused!? It’s ridiculous. It would be laughable, if it weren’t so slanderous. My parents are good people, and I love them both. I’ve never been bitter about being smacked. I’ve never looked back and thought ‘that was wrong’.

Some of the comments left on the BBC article just raised my ire further;

I find it astonishing that people still believe that using violence against a child is an effective means of behaviour management. The people leaving comments, who say they want the right to strike a child, have the benefit of protection under the law from violence being used against them. Yet they would deny that right to those less able to protect themselves – their children. The idea that having been smacked as a child has “done me no harm” when it has left someone with a readiness to use violence against their own children speaks for itself. Surely we can do better than this. The prevailing social attitude is changing to recognise this; lets apply ourselves to do better for our children. This change should be welcomed and supported by loving parents.

Jan Godfrey, Cardiff

Jan likes using the word ‘violence’ as it’s an emotionally provocative word. According to the dictionary definition, s/he’s perfectly correct to use it – violence is a physical act designed to cause hurt (amongst other definitions) – but I had personal experience of being smacked, and it’s a whole world away from what comes to mind when I think of ‘violence’.

Jan says that “the idea that having been smacked as a child has “done me no harm” when it has left someone with a readiness to use violence against their own children speaks for itself.” Does it? What does it say, other than the fact that you learned what was an effective parenting technique from your own parents? You may as well say that being given a ‘time out’ for being naughty speaks for itself when it leaves someone with a readiness to give their own children a ‘time out’ for being naughty.

Now, since I don’t have personal experience of being abused, I’m just making an assumption here, but I’d bet that children who were actually abused are going to be less likely to want to abuse their own children (assuming they have grown into otherwise well adjusted adults). They would know first hand how bad child abuse is, and wouldn’t want to visit it on their own kids – conversely, children who were smacked know that it stung for a couple of seconds, gave them a bit of a shock and left no other lasting harm. Therefore it’s reasonable to think their own children won’t be affected by it any more than they were.

Finally I really hate Jan’s closing statement of “this change should be welcomed and supported by loving parents,” implying that if you do not welcome the change then you’re not a loving parent. Loving your kids and smacking them are not mutually exclusive. Again, how dare you try to tell me that my parents didn’t love me?

The smacking of a child is a form of physical abuse whether people agree or not. The hitting of a child is a sort of parental failure where verbal chastisement would be more suitable. At least the Welsh Government is being pro active in trying to protect children from over zealous parents who use violence to subdue their off spring (violence breeds violence). The Tories in Westminster are just playing politics with the Assembly by attempting to throw a spanner into the legislative works by showing little old Wales that they’re in charge really. David Davies do shut up and let Wales Govern itself!

Richard Lewis ap Davies, Swansea

Firstly, when Richard says that the “smacking of a child is a form of physical abuse whether people agree or not”, what he actually means is that he thinks it is wrong, whether or not people agree with him. I dislike parents getting their babies’ ears pierced, but me saying that it is physical abuse, doesn’t make it true even though it’s a permanent physical alteration that the child cannot consent to. I wouldn’t actually be arrogant enough to say that my opinion is the ultimate truth on the matter, I just say that I disagree with it, and give my reasons for that opinion.

Richard says that ‘the hitting of a child is a sort of parental failure where verbal chastisement would be more suitable’. The problem with this is that the idea of ‘suitability’ is very subjective. It is suitable to try and reason with a child who’s throwing a screaming, flailing tantrum? Although I don’t have kids myself, I’ve been able to witness a wide variety of parenting styles in the toy shop where I work. I’ve seen kids throwing toys and hitting other children, and when their parent tells them off and explains that it’s not nice to hurt other people the kid gives them a look that says ‘and I should care why?’ and keeps right on with what they were doing.

Verbal chastisement only works if a) the child can understand that other people have feelings and b) the child thinks it’s more important to care about others’ feelings than to get what they want. So is it suitable to verbally chastise a child that doesn’t understand what you’re telling it, and is it suitable to verbally chastise a child that doesn’t care about the chastisement?

If I am at a meeting at work – is it ok to lean over the desk and smack someone around the face cause they do something I dont like. Smacking is nothing more than lazy parenting from those who have neither the guile, patience or intellect to avoid having to use it. One thing is for certain you will pay – in a dimmution of the love from your child one day. I pity you.

Steve Daly, Sidcup, Kent

My instinctive reaction to this is that Steve is an idiot. On second thoughts he may be a troll, that’s how daft this comment is. If you want to compare smacking a child to an interaction between adults, try this;

I had a plate of chips. My friend tried to steal one, thinking I wasn’t looking. I spotted her and smacked the back of her hand as she grabbed one. We both started laughing and shared the chips.

Notice how I smacked my friend in exactly the same way as one might smack a child? Notice how she didn’t get upset and say she was going to call the police and press charges for assault? Notice how it didn’t affect our friendship in any negative way?

Steve says that “for certain you will pay – in a dimmution of the love from your child one day”. This is simply not true. Again; first hand personal experience lets me say definitively that this just isn’t going to happen. I hold no grudges against my parents, if anything I’d tell them to do the exact same things again.

My father was a barrister and worked with children’s charities. He always said that he supported ‘smacking’ children and that he smacked his own. What that involved was being physical smacked to his own point of exhaustion whenever he lost his temper, usually because he was stressed at work. I was so terrified of him I used to try to lock myself in the wardrobe in my bedroom or put the bed against the door with my back braced against it and my feet against the wall to stop him getting in as the room had no lock.. Yet as a barrister, he’d always have been able to argue that this was ‘reasonable’ chastisement. He always conducted himself impeccably when in public and as a ‘reputable’ citizen. It would have been hard to take meaningful action to protect me – I did tell the school and they didn’t want to know because of his ‘standing’. I wasn’t allowed to have friends come home and had no relatives to turn to at all. If there had been a law preventing any form of smacking. I just know he’d have obeyed it and I’d have not been so terrorised by him. So well done Welsh Government for investigating ways to take a ban forward. Parents in a loving caring family make the effort to think of ways to secure the behaviour and values in their children that they want to without resorting to violence. Violence is never the answer.

Yvonne

I feel sorry for Yvonne, sorry that she had such a crappy childhood, but let’s make an important distinction here; Yvonne was abused. Being smacked until your parent is too exhausted to continue is abuse. Being smacked because your parent had a bad day at work is abuse. Yvonne’s father wasn’t trying to teach her an important lesson, or correct a dangerous behaviour – he was venting his own frustrations on someone who couldn’t fight back. That is not acceptable, but it is also not what I mean when I talk about smacking.

A smack is an open-handed strike that is given hard enough to sting, but certainly not with the full force an adult could put behind it. It should hurt, but not harm (injure/damage) the child. It should be given because of something the child has done, and not because of how the parent is feeling at the time.

I think it’s all very well to talk about alternative methods of discipline, and shaping behaviour – a number of other commenters said that you’re not allowed to hit dogs, and that dog training experts use positive reinforcement so why don’t we do the same thing with our children? In most cases, I think they’re right. I think most problems can be solved by other means, and that children will learn more from those other methods than from smacking, but there are some times when a smack is just the best thing you can do.

Let’s take another example from my toy shop. Two very young children (about three) playing at the train table. Child A pushes child B away and snatches the train they’d been playing with. Child A is now happy because they have two toys – they learned that by pushing and snatching, they got what they wanted. The parent of child A came up and verbally corrected the child; ‘no sweetie, that’s naughty, we have to share with the little boy’ and took the train off child A and gave it back to child B. Child A gave child B a filthy look and tried to snatch the train back. The parent of child A gave the kid a smack on the back of the hand that was reaching for the train while repeating that snatching was naughty. Child A gave up on trying to snatch child B’s toy and settled down with the toy they already had.

How can anyone say that in that example child A was being abused? I can’t even wrap my head around it.

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