According to the BBC the Welsh government are looking to ban the smacking of children just like Scotland recently has. Ministers said removing the defence of reasonable punishment would make it clear smacking was “no longer acceptable.” When it comes to smacking children, I have to ask whether Wales, and the UK as a whole, should introduce a smacking ban? Or are the government trying to take away a legitimate form of discipline from parents? When it comes to the introduction of a smacking ban, my first thought is rather simple:
IT’S ABOUT BLOODY TIME
I’m generally quite conservative with this blog when it comes to my opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I stand by what I say, but I always try to see things from everyone’s perspective before making any judgements. But on this one, my first thought is rather simple: If you hit your children you are being a bad parent. I’m not saying you’re always bad, or that you are in fact a bad parent – there’s the fence sitting. But in that moment when you’re hitting your child, you’ve effectively lost control, and that loss of control isn’t a good thing.
I assumed it was mostly conventional thinking these days that you shouldn’t hit your children. Research even says you shouldn’t. Physiologists even say the same. But then in a recent poll carried out by YouGov only 22% of people supported a smacking ban.
Perhaps, however, there’s a difference between supporting a ban on smacking and supporting the notion of actually smacking children. Many of us disagree with things that we don’t believe should necessarily be illegal. Either way, I’m going to ask one simple question:
Should There Be a Ban on the Smacking of Children?
My answer is currently yes. I’m going to talk about why I think this but also debate the other side too. You’ve probably heard a lot of this before, but here are a bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t hit your children and perhaps why it should be banned.
There’s Too Much Grey Area
At what age is it acceptable to start smacking your children? Can you smack a one year old since they don’t understand words that well? When do you stop stopping? How hard is too hard? What’s the difference between a smack and physical abuse?
That’s just a few questions, some slightly sarcastic, that lead me to believe that there’s just too much grey area surrounding this topic. The fact that different people will have different answers to those questions lead me to believe that the grey area is vast.
Everyone has different forces in which they apply their smack, and different styles in which they enforce it. And why do you want there to be any doubt around what’s accepted, wouldn’t it be easier to just say “don’t do it”? Putting a ban on smacking might not eradicate it, I dare say people will still manage to do it, but it will at least go a long way to discourage the action.
On the same line of thinking however, if a ban was in place, what exactly would be banned? I’m not even sure what’s currently acceptable and what would then be made illegal.
It’s a Poor form of Discipline
Smacking your children doesn’t instil discipline, it instils fear. Will they listen to you? Perhaps. If I punched a person every time they touched a cigarette, I’m pretty sure they’d stop touching cigarettes. Or they wouldn’t allow me to catch them with one.
You might get your children to listen if you smack them. But what you won’t get is an open dialogue with them where they’re willing and comfortable to come to you if they’ve messed up. Instead, what you teach is to hide your mistakes better and not get caught. For me, the best form of behaviour control is simply explaining to a child why we don’t do something. Will it take longer for the message to sink in? Of course, but I would rather them understand a rule and want to follow it, than avoid doing something out of fear, or think the overall message is “just don’t get caught.”
And if a rule can’t be explained all that well then perhaps we should question whether the rule should even exist.
Of course, this is just a clash in parenting styles. This technically has nothing to do with whether something should be made illegal. Just because I find smacking children a poor form of discipline doesn’t mean it can’t actually work for others and it should be illegal.
You Wouldn’t do it to an Adult, So Don’t do it to Children
I try my best to treat my daughter as if she was an adult. It doesn’t always work and it isn’t always applicable, but I try. So if I take that logic to this then I’m clearly not going to smack her.
When is this ever accepted to do that anywhere else? You can’t use this form of punishment in any other walk of life. It’s not even used on criminals, but it’s acceptable for a child who didn’t want to sit still in the trolley quietly?
I can’t smack my wife. How many people would say it’s unacceptable for me to hit my wife in the middle of an argument? Probably the vast majority of people, hopefully everyone. So what’s the difference? Yes, my wife can be reasoned with and understands me better than a child, and I don’t need to mark my authority with my wife, but that doesn’t mean you can hit your child. I think it just stems from frustration and a desire to exert control over someone smaller than you.
Good luck telling your child it was wrong to smack another child for calling them names when you smack them for something they did wrong. If I was being smacked for doing something wrong, then I wouldn’t see a problem with going out and doing it to someone else. If it happens to me, then I don’t see why I can’t do it to someone else.
Well, sometimes people do deserve a punch. And occasionally some form of violence overcomes even the best of us.
But again, much like the other points raised here, this is just a critique of smacking children. My criticism of smacking, and calling it hypocritical, shouldn’t lead to it being illegal.
Arguments In support of not Introducing a Smacking Ban
Despite my dislike for smacking children, it clearly is something that parents use as a form of discipline. Since I like to be balanced in my arguments, I’m going to consider some reasons for smacking, and also reasons for not actually banning it.
“Well I Got Smacked and I Turned Out Fine”
Ok, this one is often true. Everyone knows that back in the day it was perfectly acceptable to hit a child. As you probably know, it was common practice in many schools, and of course, many of the people who were hit turned out just fine. But this is a form of a logical fallacy, or an anecdotal fallacy. Because a person was ok from something, therefore that something must be fine.
This thought process can create dangerous patterns of behaviour, and set others up to fail. For example, plenty of people have given birth to babies who have been completely healthy despite smoking and drinking throughout their pregnancy, but does that mean it should be done? Of course not. And the same goes for smacking children. Just because one person was perfectly fine after being hit, doesn’t mean everyone will be the same.
Punishing Parents for Acts of Frustration
We all know that parenting can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes that frustration gets the better of us and we have a little outburst. But what happens if that outburst turns physical for a brief moment? What if a parent simply taps a child on the cheek after they’ve screamed non-stop in their face for the past hour.
It’s almost understandable.
What happens then in regards to the law? What would actually constitute a smack in the eyes of the law, and how would it be enforced and how will evidence even be presented? It would obviously be quite complicated. But perhaps the ban itself would discourage smacking in the first place and the law would hardly be needed for enforcement.
When is it ok to smack children?
I will admit, there are a handful of times where it is acceptable to smack children. If the danger a child finds themselves in far outweighs that of a smack, then it might be considered reasonable. For example, if a child is about to touch a flame then it’s ok physically remove their hand from danger. If someone is a little over zealous and smacks it away, then that’s better than letting them burn their hand.
I’ve done it with my daughter. One time she had one of the dogs by the tail and refused to let go. I tapped her hand to the point where she felt it and removed her hand. I simply chose the lesser of two evils. But say I had to use a bit more force and left a mark. Would that then leave me in trouble in the eyes of the law? Or would that smack be considered acceptable?
Obviously hitting in the context of sport also has to be acceptable. If you’re training your child to be a boxer then you might accidentally throw a right hook that lands. So any sort of contact in that situation has to be legal. Just as long as you don’t get a massive uptake of parents taking their children to boxing class purely to spar with them.
Personally, despite what happens with the Law, I think smacking children will gradually phase itself out
It doesn’t really matter all that much about what the law states. Smacking is on the decline – In a study by the NSPCC 61% of young adults in 1998 reported having been smacked on the leg, arm or hand when they were children, compared to 43% saying the same in 2009. I dare say if there was a more up-to-date study then those numbers would be fewer still.
What are your thoughts smacking children? Do you do it? Should there be a ban on smacking children? I’ll be honest here and say that I really like to absorb myself in as many sides to an argument as possible. I used to think arguing in front of children was a bad idea until I thought deeper about it. But I don’t really understand the other side on this one all that much. I understand people smacking children out of frustration, but less so in using it as a legitimate form of punishment.
I’m more than happy to listen to anyone’s point of view on this one, especially if you agree with smacking children.