Smacking Children Could Be Made Illegal As UK Officials Set To Address United Nations

But not everyone agrees this is the best way forward.

23/05/2016 11:45 | Updated 23 May 2016

Smacking children in the UK should be made illegal, four children's commissioners are set to argue.

A UN inquiry looking into 'Children's Rights' will hear evidence from the UK officials during a two-day meeting kicking off on Monday 23 May.

The commissioners will state that "all corporal punishment in the family and in all other institutions and forms of alternative care should be prohibited," according to The Sunday Times.

Current UK law states parents are able to carry out "reasonable chastisement" to discipline their children, but cannot leave bruises or cuts. 

Smacking is currently illegal in other countries in Europe including Germany, Spain and Holland. 

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However not everyone agrees making smacking "illegal" is the best way forward. 

"Of course children need protecting from violence and abuse, but I am concerned that criminalising parents for this can lead to more problems that it solves," Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children told The Huffington Post UK.

Gummer said she believes the current law around smacking is "just about right", arguing kids who don't have the cognitive or emotional ability to understand consequences may, on occasion, benefit from a physical consequence.

"It is the context that is paramount here," she continued.

"If a child knows he/she is loved unconditionally and has consistent boundaries, and an emotionally stable home, and has received an occasional smack for repeated dangerous behaviour, it is very different from a child who lives in fear of getting smacked inconsistently and for the mildest of misdemeanours.

"It is this second form of discipline that is most damaging to a child’s emotional development."

Siobhan Freegard, founder of video parenting site Channel Mum, agreed. She is against smacking, but is not for making it illegal.

"Criminalising smacking might just end up penalising the wrong people, as 'abusers' won't stop behind closed doors," she said.

“I don’t agree with smacking in any form and believe it isn’t needed - but I also understand how easy it is to be close to the line, for example as a reflex action when a child shocks you by running in front of a car.

“As it stands, the law allows for a ‘grey’ area and doesn’t criminalise parents in these cases. It is reasonably sensible as it covers gentle smacking, as any other kind is already illegal.

"I'd rather see more support for parents who need parenting help and a societal move away from accepting smacking, which is already happening.”

An NSPCC spokesperson told HuffPost UK: "Parents are often under pressure but the NSPCC believes that smacking is not the best way to resolve problems or improve behaviour.

"Hitting children only teaches them to use violence. If you were trying to convince an adult not to do something you wouldn’t hit them, so why would you do that to a child?"

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Speaking about the effects on children, Gummer said the impact of smacking as a continued, long term discipline option can be "severe".

"Children can suffer with low self-esteem and are more likely to resort to violence as a conflict resolution strategy themselves," she added.

"Children learn best when natural consequences are used to discipline children - e.g. 'You made a mess, you can’t do what you want to do until you’ve cleared it up'. 

"As children grow up, they are able to take more responsibility for their actions and should be encouraged to put things right if they’ve behaved badly." 

Nick Harrop, from children's mental health charity YoungMinds, said the issue of solving children's challenging behaviour is perhaps more significant.

He argued that if parents are finding it hard to cope with their child's behaviour, they need to know they can ask for help.

"All children go through stages of feeling anxious or angry and they can show this in lots of ways - for example, tantrums, crying, sleeping problems or fighting with friends or siblings," he told HuffPost UK.

"Parents should talk to friends and family about how they're feeling, go to their GP, or call the YoungMinds parents helpline for free advice."

In July 2015, a UN report suggested parents smacking children should be made illegal in the UK

In the report, the UN stated the UK should put an end to smacking "all settings including the home" and "encourage non-violent forms of discipline instead".

They suggested the UK Government should take practical steps to stop parents smacking including legislative measures "where appropriate", with the aim to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings throughout the UK. 

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