I have long been ambivalent about smacking children. I don’t smack my own children but I was dubious about any proposal to make smacking of children illegal.
Then two things changed my mind.
I heard a speech a couple of years ago. The speaker said that in the past a man could hit his wife, his servants, his animals and his children. Hitting children is the only one of these still allowed. This has been knocking around at the back of my head ever since. The more I think of it, the more I believe that it is never legitimate to hit a child and, really, the fact that it’s your child doesn’t matter at all.
I read an article about how we are only just starting to acknowledge and vindicate the rights of children. Just because their voices are less coherent and less audible than those of adults does not mean that their rights as human beings should be ignored. Making it illegal to assault children puts down a marker for society generally as to what is acceptable and what is not.
So, I would be in favour of making smacking children illegal including, yes, a slap across the back of the legs of a small child because he ran across the road without looking. What do you think?
Updated to add: The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has commissioned a study on “Parents’ Perspectives on Parenting Styles and Disciplining Children” which is worth a read, if you’re feeling enthusiastic. It’s a small enough sample but for what it’s worth, some 25% of parents reported using physical punishment in the previous 12 months and 42% of respondents said that smacking should be made illegal. Interestingly, 28% of respondents thought it was illegal already.
Health warning: You would want to be enthusiastic as it runs to over 100 pages.
A boy child who sees his father hit his mother learns it is permissible to hit women. A girl child who sees her father hit her mother learns to be a victim. By the same token, we tend to adopt the parenting style of our parents. Violence begets violence. We have to break the cycle.
It never did me any harm.
To deny something like this, don’t you have to claim to understand the other person better than they do themselves? That’s absurd. Therefore, a quick smack does no harm to the child.
It’s meddling to ban smacking. Surely things should be permitted unless there’s very good reason to ban them. Granted that preventing violence and protecting innocents are exactly the sorts of consideration that would count in favor of banning something, but surely we should set the bar a little higher. Smacking is only appropriate for a few years of a child’s life. It does no harm. It establishes a clear connection between what they’ve done wrong and the punishment. It is something a child can understand and the punishment is over as soon as it’s happened.
I appreciate that there’s only a difference of degree between a harmless smack and grievous bodily harm. But there’s still a HUGE difference. It seems ridiculous to me to treat the two things the same. You might say violence brutalises and hardens the victim, but I don’t believe a child is made less sensitive to the feelings of others by a smack. It would be to real abuse, but there’s a big difference.
(On the point that a man can beat his children but not his horse: is this true? Can’t you smack the horse’s rump in just the way you can smack a child. And you can’t thrash a child violently just as you can’t thrash a horse).
WOL, I suppose, it’s not just about the cycle of violence but about the signal it sends out.
Ken, I think it’s about the signal it sends out about what is acceptable. I agree that there is, of course, a huge difference in degree between abuse and smacking. And there are kinds of behaviour which are very hurtful and harmful and which do not involve smacking at all. But, but, but, I think that society saying that any kind of physical force is wrong does send out a very powerful signal about what is acceptable generally. I know that they have made smacking illegal in Scotland and I would be interested to see a review of what impact it has had there. On the animals, I don’t know – you could be right there, perhaps the speaker had a good line and she was going to use it. Breda O’Brien has a good article on it here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0710/1224274415188.html.
Yes that’s a great column by Breda O’Brien. Some of the comments are pretty far out. This topic gets people agitated. The funny thing is that those same people would probably never comment on your parenting to your face. There’s a real inhibition against interfering at a personal level.
I agree that it would be a big signal. At least in Ireland that sort of thjng would be put to a referendum so that everyone has a chance to agree on the message before the signal is sent. They banned it in NZ. And then when there was a citizen initiated referendum on the matter that came out against a ban, they ignored it. There was some signalling going on, but unfortunately not of the will of the people.
I didn’t read the comments. I always get a little depressed when reading comments in the Irish Times, they all seem so mad, somehow, I expected better. Hadn’t realised that smacking was banned in NZ – you guys always do everything first.
heart in san francisco says
I am here by way of Brolo. I do not condone hitting children for any reason, and believe it is nothing but cruel bullying, no matter how it is dressed in justifications. Hitting a child teaches him that he is worthless and unloved and instills anxiety which pervades every area of his life. When children grow up lacking confidence, they are far less likely to become loving parents themselves. I was beaten as a child and certainly this colored my views, but I also worked in the domestic violence field and agree completely with WOL.
H is SF, thank you for commenting. Certainly, it’s a topic that seems to lead to very definite views on one side or the other. Personally, it took me a long time to make up my mind – which shows how very wishy-washy I am.