14/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Why I (Occasionally) Smack My Children

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Naughty child being told off

Let's just clarify something before we begin.

A parent who smacks their child is not a child abuser, regardless of what many would have you believe. There is a huge gulf between the two, and automatically labelling every parent who has ever smacked their child as some kind of abuser is like saying those who kill spiders hate all animals.

Now we're clear on that, I can explain to you why I, very occasionally, smack my children.

It's a lovely flowery concept, isn't it, that in order to discipline a child all you need to do is sit them on the naughty step and explain to them what they've done wrong. But as anyone who has actually had children knows, it's rarely that simple.

Try calmly telling a child who is having a full-on tantrum that Mummy or Daddy is disappointed because they are misbehaving. It just doesn't work. Smacking, of course, is not the obvious next step: speaking for myself, I only ever smack as a very last resort, and only after warning my child first that one is coming if they don't behave.

Mostly, the threat of a smack is enough to make my child stop misbehaving and start...well, behaving. The thought of a slap across the wrist or leg (a slap, note, not a whack - I'm not dishing out any bruises here) is more than enough to stop the strop.

I was smacked as a child. My father was smacked, as was his father, as was his father. They were probably caned at school as well; and I know that if something has been done for years doesn't make it right, but I can't help noticing that they haven't all become abuse victims either.


To presume that smacking makes you a bad parent, or being smacked makes you some kind of quivering abuse victim, is ridiculous.


Why is there so much focus on smacking being so terrible? I've seen parents smack their children, and five minutes later the child has forgotten what they were tantruming about and is playing happily. But I've also seen a parent screaming at their child, who remains in tears and visibly terrified for a long time. Which is worse? Exactly. So why is there no ban on screaming at your child?

At the moment, under UK law, 'mild smacking' is allowed, but anything which causes visible bruising, grazes, scratches, swellings or cuts is not. Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, says that smacking should be banned completely.

This will definitely eliminate all smacking, of course, just like banning people from speeding has stopped everyone from speeding, or like banning murder has stopped people from killing each other. It's a nice idea, but completely impractical.

Instead of trying to manage how every parent raises their child, politicians should focus on making sure our schools are in the best possible condition, and that each has employed the best possible teacher. They should work on ensuring our children have a job to go to when they leave school.

Leave the parenting to the parents.

Smacking should never be a first resort: but it is not as evil as many would have you believe. Everyone complains about the 'good old days', when people were courteous to each other and respected their elders. These were also the days when teachers and parents were allowed to discipline children, and that included the occasional smack. I'm not saying the two are directly related to each other...but it's worth noting.

What do you think? Should smacking be banned?

More on Parentdish: Are we more verbally vicious than our parents who dealt out smacks?

Punishment Vs. Positive Discipline