Smacking children

Opponents of smacking say that children who are smacked are more likely to misbehave, and to engage in delinquent, criminal or antisocial behaviour, and even develop mental illnesses. They say that research has found that physically punishing children can have disastrous consequences in later life, that parents who smack their children are less likely to have a good relationship with their children, and that children who are spanked are more likely to experience emotional and physical abuse and neglect. Moreover, smacked children are more likely to go on to be aggressive themselves, with their peers, their own children and their eventual partners. People who were smacked as children are also at a higher risk of having low self-esteem, depression or alcohol dependency.

Since Sweden banned smacking in 1979, 52 other states around the world have followed suit, including Scotland. The UK is one of only eight countries that haven’t committed to outlawing corporal punishment of children.

I can only give my own opinion, based on personal experience. Life is not simple and context is all-important. The key is Epicurean moderation and, to quote Gilbert & Sullivan, “making the punishment fit the crime”, but judiciously and infrequently. Children need boundaries and discipline, and pretending that they don‘t does them no good at all. Simple observation suggests that a lack of home discipline itself does lasting damage to society, and laisser faire does not make children happy.

My grandfather had a barrage balloon on his farm during the Second World War. When not up in the air deterring German bombers the balloon was moored near the house. Against express instruction and severe admonition my sister and I climbed up the ladder onto the massive balloon and were playing when the air-raid siren went off. As we suddenly rose in the air we both screamed blue murder – we had very nearly been whisked to several hundred feet in the sky. This was first time a slipper was used on my backside by a distraught mother. Even then, little though I was, I knew the punishment was well deserved. “There, there, desr, that was naughty” was just too moderate under the circumstances.

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