Although attitudes
towards smacking have changed drastically in recent decades, some
parents still use forms of physical punishment. But NSPCC parenting
adviser Eileen Hayes explains why smacking may do more harm in the long

ATTITUDES towards smacking have changed in recent years –
a lot of parents want to find a more positive way, and some even
believe it should be against the law.

An Economic and Social
Research Council (ESRC) survey in 2003 found 40% of parents believe it
is never acceptable to smack a child, and half think it is only
sometimes acceptable.

The same research also showed one in
seven parents have used physical punishment, despite the fact they
disapprove of it in principle.

While the numbers of parents
who smack their children is falling, as many as 70% of parents have
said that they have smacked their child or used minor physical
punishment at some point during their childhood.

Most parents
under pressure will admit to having done it a couple of times but they
will usually feel guilty about it, turning them against smacking.

many of these cases, it is not the child’s behaviour that has caused a
smack, it’s the parents feeling out of control – if they are feeling
stressed and tired, they will overreact.

Their experiences,
however, will be significantly different to the small minority of
adults who see smacking as part of their daily repertoire.

same ESRC study – the National Study of Parents, Children and
Discipline in Britain – found that only one in 10 parents find physical
punishment “always” acceptable.

The NSPCC believes that harsh,
punitive, day-after-day physical punishment where most interactions
between parent and child are negative can be extremely damaging.

Smacking may stop a behaviour in its tracks, but is not helpful in the long term.

Young children probably don’t understand why a parent is angry or what behaviour is required from them.

Over a long time, smacking can make children resentful and the relationship with parents and carers harmed.

children only do as they are told for fear of punishments, they may
also never learn to develop a conscience and behave well simply because
they know they should.

From the point of view of the parent,
it may also very hard to enjoy family life if you are constantly
looking out for naughty behaviour rather than noticing and recognising
positive behaviour.

The NSPCC believes that smacking gives out
the wrong message – that hitting someone smaller is an acceptable
tactic to getting your own way.

Some children can also become
more defiant and challenging because smacking makes them angry. This
can lead the parent into a vicious circle of having to smack and shout
harder and harder to get results.

We have moved a long way
from a generation ago when smacking was a regular form of punishment
for most children. Parents no longer think that it is OK.

The NSPCC advocates positive parenting tactics, which don’t include smacking.

I know from my own family experience that positive discipline can work a treat.

now know more about positive parenting – the importance of
concentrating on the children’s behaviour that they like and want to
encourage, rather than just focusing on the naughty bits, and
encouraging children to behave well by using praise and positive

That’s made a big difference to discipline and
means that parents do not feel they have to resort to smacking. A lot
of parents understand that there are alternatives.

There is
still a tendency, however, for some parents to get confused. This
should not be about replacing smacking with another form of punishment.

A punishment of any kind, even if it is the naughty step, should be a last resort.

you replace smacking by yanking a child by their arm and forcing them,
for example, onto a naughty step, that is almost as bad and will not
work well in the long term because it is not creating a good

Rather, this is about replacing smacking with
positive parenting and concentrating on good behaviour, ensuring that a
parent has a good relationship in place with a child so he/she wants to
please you. It is about wanting to stay in that good, loving place.

can also sometimes feel very alone when dealing with challenging
behaviour. There is, however, advice and support available from

Smacking is now outlawed in a number of
countries around the world, including in various European countries
such as Austria, Bulgaria, Finland and Germany, and further afield in
Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the UK, the
Children Act 2004 allows mild smacking, but any punishment which causes
visible bruising, grazes, scratches, minor swellings or cuts can result
in legal action.

The National Assembly for Wales has
previously voted in favour of the principle of a blanket ban on
smacking and it is Assembly Government policy to actively discourage
parents from using physical punishment.

The NSPCC, as part of
the Children Are Unbeatable Alliance, believes that children should
have the same right of protection against physical assault as adults.

such a change in the law would not eradicate all smacking, legislation
can lead to a cultural shift, which can create changes in behaviours.

some ways this is a bit like the seatbelt law – the law coupled with
public education campaigns played an important part in giving people
that final push to wear a seatbelt.

It is hoped that such a
change in the law would influence society, so that more and more
parents come to see smacking children as unacceptable.

Source: WalesOnline –