In early 2005 the Children's Act came into force in the UK, banning any punishment which causes visible bruising, grazes, scratches, swelling or lacerations – but it did not go so far as to outlaw a parent smacking a child.
Now the Welsh Assembly are debating a change to Welsh laws on child discipline, removing the defence of 'legal chastisement' that currently allows a parent to smack their child.
This is the second time the issue has been debated in the Welsh assembly. Then, in 2008, research seemed to suggest that while many parents did not use physical punishment to discipline their offspring, they did not support an outright ban and preferred the responsibility for positive parenting to remain with parents rather than the police.
I can only recall 'smacking' my child – a toddler at the time – once. My physical punishment came in the form of a smack to his hand to reinforce a 'no' when all other forms of parenting appeared to have failed. Interestingly this technique also failed and left me feeling terrible and apologetic, and not that I had made the right choice on discipline.
Having learned – on this occasion – that the problem lay with me, I didn't choose smacking again.
I think I was using a 'smack' because I'd lost control of the situation, failing to take a step back and understand that instant correction of poor behaviour in children isn't always possible, no matter which parenting techniques are deployed.
Many parents have similar experiences. Jayne says: "I've smacked in the past on the hands, but not for years. I felt wretched and out of control."
She added, "Once I realised it was me who had the problem, I stopped."
Interestingly, research carried out for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) suggests that any physical punishment administered to a child has no positive effect on them at all. Smacking a child was not found to alter a child's behaviour positively in the future.
But some parents still use smacking as discipline. Cheryl, mum to two boys, aged seven and four, is against any ban and says: "I have rarely smacked my boys, but I believe their good behaviour is partly down to fear of physical punishment."
Fellow mum Jody says: "So I'm in my local supermarket with a child throwing a tantrum. Is the supermarket going to provide a naughty step or time-out room for me to use? No, I don't think so.
Children are not rational creatures and cannot be reasoned with. Smacking is necessary sometimes.
While the NSPCC supports the motion currently under discussion in the Welsh Assembly, it also acknowledges that promotion of positive alternative parenting techniques is just as, if not even more, important.
The charity's head of service in Wales, Des Mannion, says: "Clear and consistent boundaries are essential for children and young people to have a secure and happy childhood."
"But whilst we would never want to criminalise loving parents, the NSPCC believes smacking is not an effective or constructive way of dealing with bad behaviour."
Indeed there is plenty of advice on the NSPCC website about positive parenting techniques. You can download the NSPCC advice for encouraging better behaviour which details alternatives to smacking children.
One mum I spoke to during research for this article said: "I find it astonishing that people still believe that using violence against a child is an effective means of behaviour management. 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."
Would you support a ban on smacking? Should it be a personal decision or a law?
Do you smack your children or not? Let us know what you think...
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