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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Do parents have a right to smack kids?
Campaigners have promised to continue the fight to ban smacking after peers backed a compromise which allows parents to use "reasonable chastisement".

The House of Lords backed an amendment to the Children Bill outlawed smacking in England and Wales only if it causes harm such as bruises, reddening of the skin or mental harm.

The government had urged the Lords to reject a total ban on the grounds that it would criminalise parents who smack their disobedient children.

But MPs opposed to smacking called on the Government to give them a free vote when the Bill is voted on in the Commons.

Do you think parents should have the right to smack their children? Do you think this bill will reduce abuse? Is this an infringement on civil liberties?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

This topic was suggested by: James, UK
Are the proposed limits on smacking acceptable?

This will punish good parents who discipline their kids properly, it won't tackle child abuse. Teens are bad enough now, imagine what the streets will be like in 15 years?
Mike Hiddleston, Liverpool

No parents don't have the right to smack their children. If they do they may accidentally cause more serious harm to their children. There are other ways of stopping them misbehaving such as restricting them from going outside or not letting them play with certain children etc.
Lorna Braniff, Belfast, Ireland

People seem to forget there is a difference between smacking and beating...
El Spencer, Cumbria

I was abused up until the age of 13 and have been seeing counsellors since I was 14, I am now 18. A small part of the abuse was beatings. Even at a young age I could recognise the difference between my parents' methods in that my mother would give us three warnings and then one slap, my father would come in from work in a bad mood and beat us. People seem to forget there is a difference between smacking and beating... maybe they should refresh their memories? In all the times I remember being harmed by my parents, if any of us got a slap from my mother it was well deserved and well warned and we knew it was coming, and we certainly didn't do it again, therefore we were better behaved with her. My father on the other hand was abusive and cruel and did not smack - he beat. When I have kids I will not have a problem with smacking them, after just warning. Speaking as a survivor of extensive abuse I do not think smacking should be banned.
El Spencer, Cumbria, England Don't people realise that those children in our society that have a tendency to abuse others will take that attitude into their adult lives, if there is no form of discipline. The best deterrent to enforce this is a short sharp shock that lets them know that there is a point you can reach and if you go passed it there is a penalty to pay. Perhaps if there was more discipline in schools there wouldn't be the increase in murder, rape and hooliganism that has occurred since my childhood in the seventies and eighties.
Mark, Shipley

If the government want to take away our rights to reprimand our children then they should change the laws of responsibility and not take parents to court when the children break the rules like refusing to go to school. If the child has no deterrent then how do we control them? Grounding them only works if they agree to be grounded. What happens when they just think they can do as they please?
Glen Barber, Tamworth, UK

I think strong discipline during the upbringing of a child is crucial to ensuring they develop into a decent adult with respect for all things. And strong discipline most certainly includes smacking. Teachers should also have stronger powers of discipline, such as use of the cane. The current fashion of overprotecting your child is the reason why there is so much petty theft, vandalism, and hooliganism.
Jon, Cambridge, UK

We now have a society of children who are anti-social and have no respect or regard for others
Martin, UK

I was smacked as a child. I am not physically or mentally scarred. However it taught me to respect other people and their property, sadly something that is lacking in today's society. We now have a society of children who are anti-social and have no respect or regard for others. Who is going to control them if they have no self discipline?
Martin, UK

I think this is a very grey area! I agree that to cause physical or mental harm is totally wrong but the occasional, short sharp smack to the back of the hand may well get across the appropriate message, especially if safety of the child were an issue. I have a 3 year old whom I would not hesitate to smack if they were to run into a road or such like. Also, how is all this going to be monitored in people's homes? Is it not just going to make smacking something that is done in secret and therefore unable to monitor and control?
K. Jones, Bristol

I cannot wait for the next 10 to 20 years or so when all the people who support a ban on smacking will be moaning that the kids "have no respect" and that they are too frightened to go out because of the yobs who are ruling the streets. Please, no decent person wants children being abused, but a smack on the legs is not abuse. As usual the do-gooders are trying to make out that anyone who smacks their children is as bad as someone who beats their children. There is a huge difference.
Derren Cooper, SE London, UK

Over here in Sweden they've had a total ban on smacking children since the seventies. The problem in England lies with the mis-education of the poor. Sweden has one of the highest standards of education in Europe and at the same time, one of the lowest crime rates. You need a licence to have a TV but anyone can have a child...
Andy Pints, Sweden

The only outcome of such a law would be the criminalisation of parents who lose their tempers at the supermarket. It will not save children from abuse.
David, Bristol, UK

I disagree with some of you who claim that smacking cannot be planned and only done impulsively. At a time when our 4 year old son's behaviour was often dreadful and sometimes dangerous to himself, we agonised for weeks over whether we should smack him and decided very reluctantly that it was in HIS best interests. A few slaps on the wrist over the next couple of weeks was enough training. I suspect many caring parents have had to make this very difficult decision. Outlawing smacking will not stop the cruel child beaters - they need psychiatric help - but will compromise the abilities of caring parents to raise their children the best way they feel they can.
CB, Southampton UK

I remember the (few) times I was smacked as a child. The main emotion was shock, rather than pain, and it stopped me in my tracks when talking and shouting didn't. My sister has smacked her kids a few times - and she cried longer than they did afterwards. That's how it should be, and is by no means abuse.
Sylvia, Cardiff, Wales

I agree that children should have the same rights as adults - so let's change the law to allow smacking of adults. I can think of a few who could do with a good slap.
Paul, London, UK

Parents today are being given more and more responsibility, with less and less power
Linda, Colchester, UK
When campaigners look at all these countries where smacking is banned, what do they choose to introduce first? The generous maternity and paternity leave, free high-quality childcare for toddlers, supportive social workers to teach parenting skills? No, just push through a ban on smacking ... at the same time as the government introduces more laws to punish parents whose children go astray, e.g. truanting, with fines and jail sentences. Parents today are being given more and more responsibility, with less and less power.
Linda, Colchester, UK

I was hit regularly as a child by both my parents and my school. I was beaten with canes, cricket bats, hairbrushes and by hand. I remember the terror of being chased round the garden by my father who was intent on thrashing me for some supposed misdemeanour. I was 10 at the time. My parents were not monsters, simply good middle class folk who believed in the value of discipline. But they left me wit a burning hatred of adults and authority figures which remains with me 30 years later. No-one should be allowed to hit children for any reason.
Steve Thomas, Ealing, UK

Recent scene on a bus: 2 tough looking council estate women and a 4 year old boy. The boy, (fidgeting or something, but doing nothing wrong!) is smacked hard, once, by his mum. He started crying. "You're bad, mummy". He had such a wee sad voice. The mother responded with "Do you want another smack? Do you?" Afterwards, I don't know if I was more mad at the mother, or at myself for not giving her a piece of my mind.
Caroline , Edinburgh, Scotland

We already have a near lawless society
Keith, Sunderland, UK
We already have a near lawless society full of yobs and thugs. This is why. This country will never recover from the damage already done by the goody goody two shoes who think criminals should be taken for holidays not punished.
Keith, Sunderland, UK

Are we really at the stage where we need legislation to raise children properly, as well as eat the correct food or to decide whether we smoke or not? Will this really protect children who are at risk? I think not.
Kelvin, Oxford, UK

I'd dearly love to know how many anti-smacking people are actually parents. If anyone wants to know I've got four kids, I can't remember the last time I smacked one of them and I'm against a ban of smacking.
Dr Ged Cowburn, Durham, England

If parents can't control their kids without smacking then it is time to call the police or social services. Perhaps some parenting class could be made available for those parents unable to cope.
John , London, UK

Smacking is banned here, and the children are much better behaved.
Tracey, Stavanger, Norway

It's an interesting conundrum that over the last 50 years or so the 'child lobby' has managed to make disciplining a child, whether by smacking or any other tried and tested method, an anathema yet at the same time violent crime has increased exponentially. I wonder if there is a causal link between the two issues?
Andy, Salisbury, UK

If we put a complete ban on smacking, children will push the boundaries even further
Sean, Shropshire, England
As a police officer I attended a house in which a little boy had had an argument with his mother. She was unable or unwilling to control him, and left the house to let him calm down. As she got half way down the street she heard the sound of smashing glass. The little boy had smashed the window of an interior door, and then stamped on the telephone. The woman called the police, and owing to our obligations, we arrested an 11 year old boy for criminal damage. The whole time that I was there I couldn't help but think that what the boy was lacking was discipline, and what the mother was lacking was a will to discipline. If we put a complete ban on smacking, children will push the boundaries even further, until it's too late for anyone but the courts to address their behaviour.
Sean, Shropshire, England

There is a difference between smacking and hitting. The former is reasonable chastisement, delivered in context as a last resort and with the parent in control of their actions. The latter is abuse and is delivered in anger.
David Browne, Frome, UK

If smacking is to be banned, then schools should begin to teach good parenthood instead. Otherwise we will see more and more out-of-control children, who have not been taught respect for others, nor for their property, and who think it fine to steal and run riot. I suspect older children will now get away with anything they choose, saying 'you can't touch me, the government says so.' It's about time that all children are taught respect for their fellow humans, and that it is wrong to abuse them and steal from them. Otherwise, we are going to fall into anarchy.
Kathy, UK

So it's ok to take pre-emptive action half way around the world, but illegal to smack in chastisement. What a load of rubbish. A waste of tax payers money and parliamentary time which could be used for something far more useful, like getting to the bottom of WMD lies. I have two children who were both smacked when appropriate and what lovely children they have turned out to be. In fact in the case of my daughter, her school wishes every child in the class was like her.
Sheldon Telliam, Dunstable, UK

I'm all for a total ban. If only this legislation had been on the statute book when I was a kid 30-35 years ago, it may have made my mother think twice about kicking the living daylights out of me for 10 years.
Chris, London

Verbal abuse can be far more damaging
Julie, London
I don't agree with a total ban. But I also think it is foolish to discuss how to monitor how hard the child is slapped. Is it not always how hard you smack a child but how often. Daily smacks as well as verbal abuse can be far more damaging than the occasional hard smack - the law does not seem to taking this into consideration
Julie, London

Part of the learning process of any child is to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour until they get a clear indication that they have gone too far. A short sharp smack clearly defines that boundary of acceptable behaviour. Psychology doesn't.
Simon, Essex, UK

I have very clear memories of the smacking I received when I was little. It's not about hurting someone physically but about sense of punishment. I am grateful to my mum for smacking me and I oppose any stupid law that would take away what I consider not only a right but a duty (the duty of punishment so to teach social rules) of every parent. Look around yourself and try to explain why young kids are lacking of respect to everyone in a contest where they have become untouchable.

What about the right of a child
Chris Barton, Reading, UK
All this talk about parents rights, what about the right of a child not to be smacked.
Chris Barton, Reading, UK

Parents smacking their children as a disciplinary aid is not a "right". It is an indispensable obligation and privilege that all parents should observe until their children able to understand reason and to take responsibility. Parents who cannot discipline their children without losing their temper are in a very small minority. Child abuse usually results from totally different issues. Working with children who have behavioural problems, I am very aware that many cases could have been prevented by simple discipline in the home. In these instances the lack of smacking has been the abuse.
Mike, Ivybridge, UK

We may indeed need to inflict physical pain on each other to maintain discipline. But that hardly says much about human nature, does it?
Alexander Hay, Winchester, United Kingdom

It's only going to stop responsible parents from adequately disciplining their children
John, Southampton, UK
This law is not going to stop abusive parents from beating their offspring. It's only going to stop responsible parents from adequately disciplining their children.
John, Southampton, UK

Nobody is saying it's acceptable to beat your children - but smacking is a useful disciplinary tool if used with restraint and proportion. Keep the law out of it, unless the child's health is in danger.
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands

I've said it before, I'll say it again. What makes it right to smack a child, but illegal to smack an adult?
Jenny, UK

Smacking can never be right. Whenever I have smacked my children, it has been when I lost my temper and control of the moment. I would never choose to smack as a cold-blooded action. And you only have to look around at all the parents smacking the older sibling whilst saying "Don't hit your brother/sister!" to see the futility and perpetuation of it. But legislating against it? How do you legislate against people losing their tempers? Better I think to instil an awareness of the pointlessness and consequences of smacking and give parents alternative strategies for coping with what can be very trying situations.
Alastair, Reading, UK

Parents, teachers and police already have no power to control children. This will just make matters worse.
Gary, Sutton, Notts

The law is the last thing on a parents mind
Lee Sutcliffe, Bradford UK
An outright ban is not only ludicrous, it is completely unenforceable. Is a new bill really going to stop children being smacked? I seriously doubt it, a toddler is not aware of their rights, and when a toddler is gouging out their little baby sisters eyes, the law is the last thing on a parents mind.
Lee Sutcliffe, Bradford UK

I would be horrified if anyone accused me of abusing my 4 year old simply because i smacked his legs for constantly trying to run into the road. There is a vast difference between abuse and necessary discipline. Those quoting the law as it applies to adults are missing the point, adults can be reasoned with.
Martyn, Nottingham UK

As I child, I was disciplined, but never abused, by my parents, who used the occasional smack. It brought me up to respect authority, and to behave in a considerate and courteous manner. Whatever the law may say on the subject, I will discipline my children with a smack if that is what I think the situation requires.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, England

Common sense should prevail
Nigel, UK
Can someone tell me the difference between 'moderate smacking' (which is in the bill) and 'reasonable chastisement' (which is being removed?) Also, what is 'moderate smacking'? Once a year? Once a week? Common sense should prevail whatever the description. I'm not in favour of corporal punishment on a regular basis, but there are times when we all need a short, sharp shock. Let good parents exercise common sense with their own children and let the law continue to prosecute people who truly abuse children.
Nigel, UK

It seems that a few high profile cases of blatant and horrific child abuse have lead to an almost universal assumption by some groups that all parents using smacking are monsters.
Chris, Bristol

Why do these people who propose such legislation insist that it will "protect" children? The legislation does not, and cannot, prevent someone hitting a child: it can only punish the offender after the fact. Where's the "protection" in that?
Rob, London, UK

We need to enshrine in law that it is wrong to use physical violence towards children
Martin, Isleworth, Middlesex
I understand the arguments on both sides but the bottom line for me is that we need to enshrine in law that it is wrong to use physical violence towards children whatever the circumstances. Over time peoples attitudes and values will change slowly but the end result will hopefully be a society less violent.
Martin, Isleworth, Middlesex

I am of the opinion that the behaviour of a great many children today leaves a lot to be desired. Smacking should be allowed as a suitable form of punishment, especially when a child misbehaves badly. Children today need more discipline, not less! A good smack never did me or any of my friends any harm.
Mike Beare, England

Do kids have a right to smack parents?
Stephen, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

No amount of legislation will protect the children who are "abused" by their parents/guardians"
Cheryl Bailey, Ramsbottom, UK

Nanny state strikes again
Kevin T, Alton, UK
Nanny state strikes again. Another silly law! This will do little to protect vulnerable children (just as the tighter gun laws do not deter use of guns by criminals) but I suspect it will deter caring parents from effectively disciplining their children. I am increasingly dismayed by the unruly behaviour of many children in public and by their parents lack of control and unwillingness to discipline them. This new law is a step in the wrong direction.
Kevin T, Alton, UK

So it's OK as long as we don't mark them? A hard thump round the back of the head will pass that test. What a ghastly fudge. Children should have the same protection from assault as adults. Yes, it may be very difficult to police but at least it draws a very clear line: hitting people is wrong.
Frank, Bristol

The arguments for smacking children are as backwards and outmoded as those that used to allow the smacking of one's wife. We wouldn't accept "It's nobody's business if I smack my wife", "How will my wife learn discipline otherwise?" or the pathetic "Sometimes the only thing my wife respects is a slap". Yet these are seen as valid arguments for hurting kids. If someone tries to teach an adult a lesson by giving them a slap, it's called assault, the same applies to children.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)

The Government should make a huge effort to educate people about more effective, positive forms of discipline
Adam, Brighton
What about children's human rights and children's civil liberties? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to be protected from all forms of physical punishment. What is "moderate" smacking? All smacking causes pain and hurt. There are far better ways of disciplining children. The Government should make a huge effort to educate people about more effective, positive forms of discipline.
Adam, Brighton

Children are not simply under-sized adults - the law recognises (by the age of responsibility) that they are not able to tell right from wrong, and as a result they can't be imprisoned or fined for harmful behaviour. What sort of punishments are parents supposed use to dissuade them from bad behaviour that would be thought of as criminal in an adult? Withdraw their food? Make them sleep in the garden?
Alan Young, Oxford

You are creating a time bomb by taking the right out of the parents hand to discipline their children, how they see fit. Children will soon have more rights than their parents. What will we sit with - undisciplined brats. As long as the parent is not abusing his or her child, I feel that a "proper" hiding when needed will do no harm.
Mandy Arendse, South Africa

The misery of childhood in these cases often goes unnoticed
Ray Lee, Whitstable, England
Who can ever tell why a parent or guardian smacks their children? It isn't always "justified." Let us not avoid the psychological damage from perverse parentage, which often isn't obvious to outsiders. The misery of childhood in these cases often goes unnoticed.
Ray Lee, Whitstable, England

Friends of my partner have a toddler who is resentful of his new baby sister and takes every opportunity to drop things on her, being 'woolly' liberals they tell him that's bad but he soon repeats the action. I wonder if, god forbid, their daughter sustained serious injury, whether they would feel a quick smack could have saved their daughter from a lifetime of disfigurement and their son a lifetime of guilt.
Quin MacLeod, St Albans, England

My father did not know the difference between smacking and beating - How many more are like him?
Louise, Wakefield, UK

A smack is a temporary sting and does the child no harm what-so-ever
Nick, Essex
I was smacked, my parents were smacked and their parents were smacked. It did nobody any harm and taught us the difference between right and wrong. Words to a child mean nothing - actions do. A smack is a temporary sting and does the child no harm what-so-ever.
Nick, Essex

Abuse and discipline are two different issues and the line between them must not be muddied. It is the role of the parent to instil in a child the difference between right and wrong and on occasion a child can/may be wilfully defiant, or disobedient; the best way to deter this is the short, sharp, shock of a smack. It is also essential to explain to the child why they have been smacked, if they are too young to reason with, perhaps then they should not be smacked.
Jez, UK

One thing I would say is that each parent knows their own child, their limitations and what works in terms of discipline. I smack very rarely. But to have this "final resort" taken away from me would be severely limiting my ability to teach my child the difference between what is good and bad for her. And what upsets me about the anti-smacking lobby is their complete inability to distinguish a simple tap on the hand from child abuse. I am not forcing them to smack their children as punishment - they should not be telling me that I should never smack my child.
Nichola, West Sussex, UK

Time honoured tools in moderation
Rod French, Poole, UK
The government is systematically taking away the rights of teachers and parents to wield any effective sanctions against bad behaviour. The result - a generation of children for whom the correct bounds of acceptable behaviour have not been set. Is it any wonder that Anti Social Behaviour Orders and school exclusions (admissions to the University of Crime) have increased? I'm not asking to abuse children, just to be allowed to use some time honoured tools in moderation to teach the nation's children socially acceptable behaviour.
Rod French, Poole, UK

My little boy is 2 years old, has been smacked a few times while both parents are fully in control of their emotions. He is much loved, we always receive comments on how well behaved he is, so yes is the answer to the question. Our current laws are sufficient.
Steve, London

What a waste of Parliamentary time! The law is fine as it is - a total ban will just give rise to more ill disciplined children, growing up into unruly teenagers & future petty criminals. If a child is being abused by its parents, a ban on smacking is not going to either protect the child or deter the parent.
Michael, London, UK

Parents must have the right to chastise their children
Tashini , London
I don't agree with banning smacking completely - parents must have the right to chastise their children. Some would argue you can reason with a child - I wonder how many of these have successfully reasoned with a two-year-old determined to do something dangerous! There is nothing that the government can introduce that will stop child abuse. Very few, if any, bits of legislation have protected children over the past few years. Clearly something must be done to stop the abusers and it will take far more than a simply smacking ban to attain this.
Tashini , London

It is illegal for any adult to physically abuse. A man cannot physically abuse his wife. Why shouldn't this law extend to the members of society even less able to defend themselves?
Dr Lee Clewley, Oxford

Most of us are sensible and would only give a light slap in the worst of cases. Unfortunately, there are some who don't seem to be able to control their temper or aggression and need to be stopped from harming children. Whether this bill will actually stop them remains to be seen but at least it gives those in authority a lever to act from.
Mags, Oxford, UK

Good parents use psychology first and a slap as a last resort
name here
Good parents use psychology first and a slap as a last resort, because sometimes no matter how much psychology you use some children will ignore it. Although there is a link between diet and ADHD/hyperactivity I firmly believe that minority of these cases are not and it is just the child 'playing up', knowing full well that mum or dad will not smack it. A last resort smack followed up by an explanation and guidance is a tried and tested method which has worked for centuries!
Mike, Darlington, UK

It is wrong for parliament to pass legislation limiting a parents rights to discipline their child, even if the legislation does go through, it's going to be very hard to enforce.
Benjamin, Mursley, UK

I do not think smacking should not be banned but parents should think carefully before they decide to smack their child. Smacking should be reserved as a punishment for more serious or dangerous behaviour, or as a last resort when the child is not responding to any other action. A smack doesn't have to be hard - just enough so that the child knows their bad behaviour will not be tolerated. When they grow up and see a world of lawless adults and criminals around them they will thank you for not letting them grow into one of them.
G, London, UK

Almost all smacking is a thoughtless, loveless act of frustration or anger
Paul, Essex, UK
We're lead to believe smacking occurs only after parents have gone through a detailed, balanced decision-making process on what is the best form of punishment for their naughty child. This, of course, is nonsense. Almost all smacking is a thoughtless, loveless act of frustration or anger. Of course it should be banned.
Paul, Essex, UK

Should smacking be banned?
5389 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed

Smacking laws set to be tightened
05 Jul 04  |  Politics
Parents 'to face smacking limits'
04 Jul 04  |  England
Children 'smacked too hard'
10 Jul 03  |  Health


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