Why is smacking still allowed?

“Britain is now one of just two countries in the EU (the other is the Czech Republic) not to have banned corporal punishment, nor to be considering doing so. If swearing at children is worse than swearing at adults, the same should apply to hitting them. Yet we deny children the protection from assault we give to adults, by permitting “reasonable chastisement” that doesn’t leave a mark. Defenders of the status quo say smacks are different, because they’re admonitory gestures, rather than assaults. But the “idea of the orderly smack”, delivered to teach a lesson, is a myth: “adults mostly hit their children when enraged and out of control”. And concerns that a ban could cause loving parents to be criminalised is not justified by evidence. New Zealand’s government found that such cases have been almost non-existent since smacking was banned there in 2007. More than 100 countries worldwide have outlawed smacking or are about to: Wales and Scotland intend to join them. England will surely follow at some point. So why not do it now.” (Susanna Rustin, The Guardian).

I must say I have mixed feelings about this. I agree that smacking children while angry is a bad thing, but then smouldering anger and grumpiness for the rest of the day isn’t very nice either. As a child I was smacked (actually caned at school and hairbrushed at home). Curiously, I never resented these incidents, for one good reason – I deserved them, and knew it. They were fair. I also learned from them. Not only do I not resent the chastisements, but I think I benefitted from them, since they helped me become more judicious and less impulsive. I still don’t conform but I did learn to apologise, or, with a smile on my face, to politely explain my actions in a persuasive way. Accepting that you have broken the rules and listening to calm reasoning for your punishment makes you, eventually, a better adult. Children have to have boundaries.


  1. The last quarter century has witnessed a sustained attack on the very idea of parental discipline, and, indeed, on the need for self-discipline, Parents who are both out at work lack the energy to do the job that used to be done. The results are on full display. It seems the majority don’t care or quote human rights at you. Actually, it is a human right to grow up cognisant of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. We do kids no favours allowing them free rein and refraining from training them to be decent citizens when they grow up.

  2. If a driving force in children is acceptance and love, then anger and fear that is violent action against them is unnecessary. If violence is used in a situation of conflict between child and caregiver, then both sides lose, and the child learns it is okay to use violence to achieve their ends against a weaker party. Most violence happens because a relationship has broken down between child and caregiver, this can be down to poor parenting skills, social problems such as poverty, mental health issues and other reasons, requiring the alternative of intervention. If laws come into being to ban violence against children (since smacking is violence) then the infrastructure for interventions have to be put into place first.

    • Thank you for your posts. It’s good to get your perspective. As far as smacking children goes it all depends, from my point of view , on the circumstances and the way it is done. Do it in a kindly and explanatory way and it is a lesson. Do it violently and in anger, then it is abuse.

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