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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 10:44 GMT
Should children be smacked?
The government has decided against a new law to prohibit the smacking of children in England and Wales.

The decision followed a UK-wide consultation, ordered after a 1998 European Court of Human Rights ruling that Britain had failed to protect a boy whose stepfather beat him with a cane.

Health minister Jacqui Smith said 70% of the members of the public consulted had supported the status quo.

But children's rights organisations say they are disappointed.

NSPCC director Mary Marsh said the idea that smacking was acceptable was "Dickensian".

"Children should enjoy the same legal protection from being hit as that afforded to adults." She said.

Is this the right move? Should children be given the full protection of the law against smacking?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Do we really want to introduce yet another controversial law which would be almost impossible to administer properly? I think that we've got to have a sense of proportion here. We've got to come down like a ton of bricks on people who really physically abuse their children but have also got to realise that many perfectly normal non-violent adults have been smacked as children without it having harmed them in the slightest.
John, UK


Children need guidance and chastisement but it does not need to be physical

Kathleen, USA
I have successfully raised two children and have never smacked either of them. Of course children need guidance and chastisement but it does not need to be physical. Do you smack your friends and relatives when they make a mistake? What would your reaction be if they smacked you? Think about the message you are sending your children. There are other ways to teach our young ones.
Kathleen, USA

Discipline is needed to regulate order. Common sense is needed to regulate discipline.
Ronnie W, Taiwan

I think that smacking children is the wrong approach. We should be guiding them to respect themselves and others and hitting is not respectful.
dan theal, Canada

All Children need some form of discipline when they are growing up in order to learn the rights and wrongs of society and culture. What that discipline is will vary from child to child. For some, being sent to their room would be sufficient, but for others it is not. Only the parents can decide.
Keith, Uk

I smacked my kid, and I smack my granddaughter. That is my right. If you let your own kids behave badly with impunity, that's your business. But it isn't the government's business. I'll raise my clan the way I see fit, and you are free (for the moment at least) to do the same. My way works, I have the proof before me every day.
Jim, Texas

The issue lies with the fact that the law is black and white whereas the reality is relative. A gentle smack on the hand is not the same as a smack with a cane.
Andrew Penrose, Ireland


A child should only be smacked if it is done out of love and not anger

Hugh Gleaves, USA
A child should only be smacked if it is done out of love and not anger or malice. Small children do not have a sufficiently developed character to reason; they evaluate the world very differently from adults. A responsible parent will smack and promptly, as soon as disobedience is shown and warnings have failed.
Hugh Gleaves, USA

As an American, I was horrified at what I read. I couldn't believe it. Here smacking is child abuse. The psychological effects are devastating. Non-violent forms of discipline such as redirection are better alternatives. Smacking is a cop-out by parents who refuse to take the time to use other means. Having two small children of my own, I know it can be frustrating, but we are the grown-ups; we know better.
Rebecca D, USA

Chastisement is a necessary part of development of the parent/child relationship, and this includes smacking. A lot of people giving opinions here are missing the point. We have to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that every parent applies common sense to the individual situation, as we should in everything in life.
Bri.S, UK


Could it be that smacking children generates violence in our society?

Steve McCoull, England
I have a Norwegian girlfriend and in her country smacking is considered physical abuse both by law and by culture. But despite this they seem to manage to produce a much better behaved, less violent society than ours. Could it be that smacking children generates violence in our society?
Steve McCoull, England

Can anyone give just one reason why a child should have less protection against violence than an adult? I personally think it should be the other way round.
Joachim Korte-Bernard, Germany

I have two step-children and two children of my own. In the past I have had cause to smack all of them occasionally. Every time I did I felt like crying as, to me, there is nothing worse than seeing a child hurt. Luckily in recent years as they get older, I have not had to smack any of them for any reason. Now I usually find that a telling off does the trick. However, I agree that there are occasions when you cannot reason with children especially the younger ones so it is necessary to give them a smack.
Phil T, Oman


Smacking is nothing better than parental bullying

Mary B, UK
Smacking is nothing better than parental bullying. I was smacked regularly and hard as a child and I can only remember it making me resentful and upset. I ran away from home twice after being hit - being small I didn't go far, but I might have gone further if the abuse had continued into my teens. Why is 'smacking' adults judged to be assault, but smacking children called 'reasonable chastisement'? Any form of planned violence against children is unreasonable. If I was a child today I'd be lobbying my parents to move to Sweden, where smacking has been banned for years, and children have a better chance of growing up without experiencing violence and abuse.
Mary B, UK

Oh pleaseż.smacking is not violence, and smacking does not automatically teach a child that violence is right. I am not a parent but would want to be able to smack my child if he/she deserved it. By smacking I mean with an open hand on the backside. I would also explain why I was doing it before I did it. To me this is a whole lot more humane than some of the alternative 'non-violent' punishments that I hear advocated.

A smack is done and dusted and over in a second and frankly, once it has been used a few times you rarely need to smack again (I base this on observing friends who have kids) because the mere threat is enough. I have read of non-violent punishments such as taking away a favourite toy for a day. So you have a punishment that lasts 5 seconds or one that lasts 24 hours. You tell me which is the more cruel? Incidentally I do not approve of using implements to smack so I would not use a cane, or a slipper or anything else for that matter.
Rob, UK


Parents should take the time to explain to their child why something they do is wrong rather than simply striking them

Mike, UK
Parents should take the time to explain to their child why something they do is wrong rather than simply striking them. If you strike a child, you are programming them with a simple fear of punishment (pain), rather than an understanding of why what they are doing is wrong and why they should not do it.
Mike, UK

As a parent of grown up children, I did sometimes administer a smack, when other means had failed. My kids have grown up well adjusted and successful in their chosen careers. There is no harm in parents being allowed to discipline their children, and making it illegal would be an unenforceable, and therefore bad, law.
John Atkins, England

Smacking a child is not wrong. Most parents who smack do so because they want to stop their children doing dangerous things. The moment a slap on the backside becomes more than a temporary stinging sensation and actually causes bruising or other damage is when it becomes abuse. Children should never be hit with objects of any kind, or on any part of the body that is delicate - there is no excuse for contact with the head for example. But a smacked bottom has never done me any harm, and I don't see what right the government has to say I shouldn't do the same if I have children of my own.
Lizz, UK


Someone they trust and rely on to protect them in a dangerous world has betrayed that trust

Mark, India
From bitter experience I can say that smacking sends all the wrong messages to children - 'might is right' - because I'm bigger and physically stronger than you I have the right to physically exert my will over you. To the advocates of smacking I suggest that sometime they look in to the eyes of a smacked child and see the shock, the hurt and pain that goes way beyond the physical. Someone they trust and rely on to protect them in a dangerous world has betrayed that trust. Then look in to the eyes of a smacking parent and you see all too clearly this has nothing to do with 'punishment' for wrongdoing, and everything to do with the adult letting off steam, releasing their own anger or frustration.

I believe the smackers are generally good people, doing the best they believe they can. I welcome any help that can be given to provide parents with alternatives. It probably wouldn't be so bad that the smackers inflict pain and hurt on those who trust them most if they were also inclined to provide sufficient and adequate positive feedback to their children. To anyone who smacked a child in the last week I ask "Did you tell that child that you love them at least once in the last week too?"
Mark, India

I have two children; one realises that the smack means that I am serious, the other you could smack until the cows came home and it would make no difference. This child hates being sent to their room, so when they are they know that they have gone far enough. I do not advocate smacking for the sake of it, nor do I back child abuse in any form. But a child does need guidelines and each child is an individual. Maybe the saying that discipline (not in a extreme way) is a form of security has some truth in it.
Mandi, UK

Yes, smacking is fine if you fall into one of two categories: (1) You're someone who is so lacking in patience and the ability to communicate that the only way you make yourself understood is to hit someone, (2) If you want your children to grow up with the view "People who are older than me can make me do what they want by hitting me, and when I grow up I will be able to make people do what I want by hitting them as well."

So sure folks, carry on slapping your kids. But don't then go on to moan about the "violent society we live in" because you, my friends, are one of the main causes of it.
Simon Moore, UK


The children rights groups are focusing on the wrong approach here

Barry b, UK
The children rights groups are focusing on the wrong approach here. This is an argument that needs to be tackled by positive encouragement and education, giving parents better understanding and choices, while accepting that at times smacking may be suitable and sadly at times an emotional safety valve, followed by kiss and make up from loving parents.

Banning smacking will be unlikely to achieve anything for those children at physical risk and who really do suffer, there are after all existing laws for assault, however many families might find their harmony fragmented by outside interference following a smacking. In the rush to protect a child from perceived harm, might more harm actually be caused? Child groups may be disappointed, but then we can also be disappointed that the groups are not perhaps getting the focus correct.
Barry b, UK

When I was a child my father used to smack me when I was naughty. Occasionally, my mother would do the same. However, I feel no animosity towards my parents for their actions and genuinely believe it did me no harm. Today I consider myself a descent member of society, with a wife and a mortgage. I wonder if I was allowed to 'get away with misbehaving' when i was a child, would I have turned out the same?
Scott Fleming, UK


There is a big difference between a light slap and sustained physical violence

Russ, UK
There is a big difference between a light slap and sustained physical violence. To hurt children habitually is appalling, but a smack as punishment is more symbolic than painful - it is a means of physically reinforcing the reprimand given by the parent's words. Children who choose to ignore their parents' verbal warnings have to realise that this will escalate to more serious consequences. We should try to remember that as children there are things we don't understand, dangers that aren't apparent, and behaviour that we don't realise is unacceptable! It is better that we learn about this from our parents than from the emergency services - otherwise we run the risk of our kids growing up into fools and criminals.
Russ, UK

Violence breeds violence? I don't agree. My parents smacked me on numerous occasions as I was growing up and when I look back now I know that I deserved it. As a result I like to think of myself as a well-rounded citizen, not once have I broken the law, not once have I hit another child or adult because I was brought up knowing that if I did, I'd be punished.
Hannah, UK

I believe that parents who command respect from their children do not need to smack. Any parent who has to resort to physical discipline needs to appreciate that their child will never see them in the same light again. Look at it from a child's perspective: it's ok for a parent to hit me, but if I tell my parent that I hit someone, or that someone else hit me and they are angry. How confusing?
Kristina, UK


Other techniques, such as time out, are much more effective

Chris, Ireland
The fact is that smacking children accomplishes nothing. The only thing that children learn from being smacked is that violence can be used to control other people. Other techniques, such as time out, are much more effective.
Chris, Ireland

Take a look around you at the world we live in, it is full of thugs and idiots who are now out of control. They are the product of a society that stopped punishing its young for doing wrong. We live in a world were even the act of holding onto a child to stop them doing something wrong can land you in court for assault. It is about time there was some common sense from our Government.
Ian Thomas, England

Your picture seems to show a child being smacked on the head. The smacking debate should go further than just "Smacking: yes or no". A smack does not need to hurt the child to effectively show an adult's disapproval, for example, if a child risks its health by repeating a dangerous action such as running into a road. Not all children listen to adult reason! However, I see no excuse for smacks to the head or smacking with excessive force.
Anthony, Germany (UK)

In my opinion if you smack a child or anyone without warning it is wrong. If you state that the result of a child's behaviour will result in a smack and they then choose to continue doing whatever you have warned them not to do, they learn to take the consequences of their action. In my experience(I have two children) they do not repeat the action. Once you start to offer a punishment in return for unacceptable behaviour, the punishment can as easily be a non-violent one. I don't think that an image such as used on the top of this article is acceptable though, as no one should hit a child around the head in any circumstances.
Sarah Baker, Italy

Do the people on this forum who advocate smacking not know how amazed people in other European countries are that we actually hit children in England? The parents here can't believe this debate is even happening, yet they seem to suffer far less discipline problems compared to us.
George Abel, UK resident in Sweden

Disciplining a child with physical violence is just laziness, and harms the child. I was smacked as a child and even as a young adult I would cower from anyone that shouted at me. Punishing a child with a smack who has just smacked another child is hypocritical. If parents invested enough time to listen and talk to their children, they would get much further, just as you would with an adult. And yes, I have children!
DF, UK

Children should not be smacked just for the sake of it, but within a context of reasonable punishment it is an entirely valid form of discipline. Nobody is suggesting that kids are beaten senseless for trivial misdemeanours, but the steadily rising crime rate and yobs who have no respect for anyone or anything are the unfortunate result of raising kids in an environment where they soon learn that whatever they do nothing is ever done back to them.
John B, UK

The argument that smacking leads to violent children is absurd. In my experience, the kids who were told "not to be naughty" ended up being the thugs of today's society - primarily because as far as they see it they can get away with anything and receive nothing more than words. Those who got a smack when they deserved it joined the disciplined, law-abiding sector of society. Pacifism breeds arrogance.
Simon Miles, UK

I think most people do not advocate smacking, or accept it as a general means of discipline, but rather accept that occasionally it is appropriate. Most people who are anti it, who use language that implies that if you ever lose your temper you have failed as a parent or who ponder using violence to teach lessons/discipline, haven't actually got children themselves and should cut those that do some slack.
WGS, UK


Teach your child that smacking is right and they will smack others

Will Faulkner, Cheshire, UK
Violence breeds violence. Teach your child that smacking is right and they will smack others. If you are not capable of controlling your children without the use of physical violence, then you need to think about why this is. We live in a civilised society where violence is not acceptable amongst adults, why give our children a completely different message?
Will Faulkner, Cheshire, UK

Whilst I can still recall some of the rare occasions on which I was hit as a child I can also remember the circumstances under which it occurred. Generally it was because I was being a little horror and quite frankly deserved it. I never harboured any resentment and neither would any child of today provided they were made aware of their motives for misbehaviour in the first place.
Carl Bradbury, UK

As usual, the English are lagging the forward thinking Scots. Smacking children is an outdated practice, where children are taught about the use of violence and pain to control others, which in turn can lead to violent behaviour. No way on earth am I ever going to assault my children.
Andrew Castle, England


If a smack is required to instil moral or ethical values in a child, then it must be applied

Chris Cowdery, UK
Parents must be allowed to exercise their responsibility in bringing up their children, disciplining them as they feel fit. If a smack is required to instil moral or ethical values in a child, then it must be applied. There is a large difference between a smack and abuse. Responsible parents can make that distinction, abuse must be against the law, but reasonable disciplinary steps must be within the law.
Chris Cowdery, UK

I don't agree with smacking and as a non-parent hope whole-heartedly that I never smack, but the point is that at one point I might and it wouldn't be the end of the world. That I could be fined or jailed for this horrifies me and I'm glad that for once the government has tempered its nanny state sensibilities. The point is to understand the difference between 'a smack' and abuse. The legislation and practice of this is what needs our attention.
Wendy, London, UK

It amazes me how some people think. I have spoken with people who claim never to have smacked their child. They say they talk with them and explain why their actions were wrong etc. I have three children, all under 5. I would dearly love not to have to smack, but you can't always reason with children of this age.
Mike, England

As a child, I was sometimes (but not often) smacked, as a way of being disciplined. This appears to have caused me no harm, either mentally or physically. In fact, considering the things I used to get up to it is no surprise that I had to be disciplined in some way.
As long as it is only a smack and does not hurt the child then I do not see a problem. It is when smacking develops into abuse that problems occur and it is this that must be stopped.
Jane Adams, England


Physical chastisement probably is preferable to mental punishment

Anthony, England
Some children are smacked much too much, and are caused physical and mental harm. Some cruel little devils could do with at least one smack in their lives. Physical chastisement probably is preferable to mental punishment in enforcing some sort of moral behaviour. My mother informed me that as a small child I would kick people's ankles for attention. It was only when she did it to me that I realised what I had been doing, and never did it again. That was the only time she ever physically hurt me. It did me and everyone else a power of good.
Anthony, England

It is up to individual parents to decide how to discipline their children. Taking away their right to smack their child is wrong - if you don't want to smack your child then don't. I was smacked on the bum or back of the legs when I was a kid, and if I hadn't, I would not have learnt to respect other people and their property in the way that I do now. Of course we still have to keep an eye out for those who are abusing their power, but why should the majority of people have the choice taken away, because a minority abuse it. For once, the right decision has been made!
Sandra, UK

 VOTE RESULTS
Should children be smacked?

Yes
 67.91% 

No
 32.09% 

1178 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

25 Mar 98 | Politics
Corporal punishment banned for all
07 Jan 00 | Education
Keeping order in class
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