ban-smackingYou can smack a child in the UK if it’s for “reasonable chastisement and does not leave a serious mark”. It reminds me of the Sharia law that allows men to beat their disobedient wives as long as they leave no marks (or at least according to the “Islamic feminist” interpretation).

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, had finally brought some sense into the Government’s debate by saying that parents should be banned from smacking their children.

Of course they should. Children are not the properties of their parents. They are human beings that deserve protection, even more so than adults, because they are so vulnerable.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he isn’t opposed to smacking as “sometimes it sends a message”. I’d like to smack Grayling in order to send my message but hold on, I’m not allowed to smack an adult and even a pet – but a vulnerable child – it’s permissible under the law.

And it shouldn’t be.




  1. Dave Day is right. Smacking or otherwise physically “disciplining” children is never necessary – it simply represents failure (i.e. failure on the part of the person resorting to it to succeed using other methods). I’m not suggesting that this is easy – but Me is completely wrong to suggest that the only alternative to physical “discipline” is to spoil a child with overindulgence. On the contrary, it is perfectly possible to give children the security of firm and even quite high expectations while loving them unconditionally and never raising a hand to them. A lot of parents manage this just fine. Hell, if even I could do it it can’t be that hard.

    1. “Dave Day is right.”
      Really? But do you provide any Evidence to substantiate any of the highly contentious assertions that follow that first one? No, just assertions assertions assertions, as if just asserting assertively enough somehow makes an assertion true.

      1. Robin,

        Have you offered anything other than assertions yourself, or evidence from any professional body or individual?

        You’ve offered, as far as I can make out no compelling evidence that smacking children is ‘good’ in any way. As a whole, posters have offered you arguments as to why it is immoral to smack children, why it causes psychological harm and leads to less than optimum social skills, and also suggested (in general terms) better ways to deal with children whilst working with parents to give them the social skills to do this. Anti-social behaviour is often passed down the generations, and smacking is not a good model of behaviour and social interaction to be passing on to children.

        I think you’re unconvinced because you don’t want to be, which is rather irrational, but not that unusual. You seem to want to reject a better model than corporal punishment completely out of hand for reasons we can only guess at. I’ve tried to summarise numerous lengthy papers on various areas of psychology and child development that point to smacking and other forms of corporal punishment being a negative influence rather than giving you a huge reading list which I don’t think would be helpful overall, and you probably wouldn’t read anyway.

        You are, to my mind at least, dead set against accepting any evidence that runs contrary to your current view. Maybe you could share with me and anyone else reading this what evidence you’d accept that would make you reconsider and accept that corporal punishment is not the best model for dealing with children? It’s only fair that I do the same, so if you’d like to present anything in the way of evidence to back up your views, I’d be interested to see what I’m missing.

        1. Not at all. You keep making extreme “never” “always” type assertions which are furthermore radically out of line with usual thinking and as such require some basis in justification.
          The things I have been saying by contrast are non-extreme notions which just about everyone already agrees (throughout centuries) with. But as I’ve pointed out already it’s a waste of time trying to discuss with you because you have such a blinkered simplistic perception of this matter.

          1. PS I haven’t read your longwinded lastests because it it all too obvious from opening lines that you have nothing useful to teach us nor much capability of learning from us either. I’ll now leave you to continue peeing into the public wind, cheers.

        2. I’m afraid that Me (as witness his last two comments) really isn’t interested in providing any evidence. So far we’ve had nothing but a several-times reiterated argumentum ad populum – with absolutely nothing to back up the “but everyone knows …”

          I take my hat off to your patience and forbearing, Dave Day. Me just seems to like the idea of hitting kids, for some reason; if there’s any more to it than that, I’m sure he’d explain why it’s all right to hit children when it’s not all right to hit, say, your grandparents.

          1. Opposablethumbs, I think I may have been slightly foolish to engage in a battle of wits with someone so obviously ill-equipped as ME/Robin. My mother taught me that in general it’s rude to mock the afflicted, but in this case I feel it isn’t so inappropriate. I think several comments were rude in the extreme. I wonder what life experiences taught ME to try to intimidate and belittle in such a way. Maybe pity is a more appropriate response.

            I think it’s clear that ME has no argument to speak of, but it’s usually polite to offer someone the right to reply to your points with either contrary information or some form of rational, logical, philosophical argument. ME seems to have declined my offer to do so. He (I presume) also seems to have wished me to ‘shut up and go away’ in effect. I think he just found me annoying, as he had no serious counters to the main thrust of my arguments.

            However, we may meet again on another point, and for all I know, we may agree, however slim that chance might seem at present.

  2. Robin,

    I’m pretty sure there are no “bad children” and even more sure that they don’t “need to be punished”!

    Children in general learn social skills from parents and adults. If adults use violence, however mild, this becomes the norm for children and this behaviour is generally copied, and can often become exaggerated, leading to more extreme forms/ levels of violent behaviour. When adults condone violence, however minor, this reinforces the idea that when you can’t convince someone using reason, or you just don’t have time, or can’t be bothered, don’t have the skills, then resorting to violence is perfectly acceptable.

    Giving adults and children the social skills to be able to interact positively and resolve differences without resorting to physical force is surely more desirable than using physical force or arguing about what levels of violence are acceptable.

    As for vaccinations, I’m not sure which “harmful vaccinations” you’re talking about. Would we really be better off without vaccines? Which ones?

    1. “I’m pretty sure there are no “bad children” and even more sure that they don’t “need to be punished”!”

      Really? Any evidence to support these peculiar notions?
      From my many years experience of living in a society I can say that 99% of people would disagree with you.
      With those statements alone you make clear you are a seriously confused person with whom there is no point in trying to discuss anything.

  3. The opening comparison with Qur’an 4:34 is unsound. Mohammed’s enthusiasm for beating of women is entirely about subjugating women. By contrast the smacking of children is sometimes about abuse but can also be a matter of proper management in either (1) training of a non-verbal child, or (2) due punishing of a child who is being bad (or “naughty” as the term goes).

  4. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly recommended against any kind of corporal punishment. I have included the group’s comment on spanking. :

    Parents often ask, “Should I spank my child?”

    Many parents occasionally lose their patience or, in anger or fear, may spank their youngster. For instance, if a child runs out into the street, a parent may sweep the child up and, in a moment of anxiety for the child’s well-being, spank her to emphasize the parent’s sense of urgency or worry.

    Spanking may relieve a parent’s frustration for the moment and extinguish the undesirable behavior for a brief time. But it is the least effective way to discipline.

    It is harmful emotionally to both parent and child. Not only can it result in physical harm, but it teaches children that violence is an acceptable way to discipline or express anger. While stopping the behavior temporarily, it does not teach alternative behavior. It also interferes with the development of trust, a sense of security, and effective communication. (Spanking often becomes the method of communication.) It also may cause emotional pain and resentment.


    The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child. If the spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They might apologize to their child for their loss of control, because that usually helps the youngster understand and accept the spanking.

    1. There’s some sense from the AAP there. But also it is more complicated than that. There are some bad (brutal) parents but there are also some bad children who need to be punished. There is a power struggle between generations. Many children deliberately do embarassing tantrums in order to manipulate their parents into giving them sweets or whatever.
      And the AAP is far from an impressive source. They support the forcing of very harmful vaccinations on children. The nanny state at its worst.

  5. Dave Day wrote:
    [We should] not have degrees of grey between what’s good and bad.

    This characterisation of the situation is incorrect. The degrees of grey exist in the reality of different ways of upbringing. The question then becomes where do we best put the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable. Laws and courts and society in general have to do this all the time. In the smacking case, at one extreme, violently injuring a child would generally be considered excessive therefore “bad”. But likewise there is the other extreme, of managing a non-verbal baby without any smacking to warn of dangers which would put the baby in severe danger and likewise “bad”. The only good in this case is the reasonable medium, which is a matter usually best judged by the parents themselves, with legal systems available in the background to intervene in instances where excess has clearly occurred. We already have laws criminalising child abuse. More than that would be worse rather than better.

    1. Robin,

      Your points make little sense. You say that parents know best, but clearly they do not. Many cases of child abuse and child neglect demonstrate this. Children who don’t understand language are clearly (to most of us) unable to understand danger. Hitting them to get them to understand what is dangerous or bad for them seems rather sick, and far from loving, nurturing, caring, protective, and all those things that an ideal parent should be.

      I could kill you with my bare hands, but that would be extreme, so a happy medium might be for me to break your nose and maybe dislocate your arm at the shoulder. Somehow such ‘mediums’ don’t seem reasonable to me, or a lot of other people. You come across as somewhat brutal and thuggish when you talk of smacking children too young to understand language. There’s something somewhat unsettling about what you say… and slightly sickening! I think I’d rather stick with black and white and say that smacking and hitting are clearly signs that parents don’t have the skills needed to deal with children. Maybe those skills should be taught/learned rather than condoning the brutal treatment of children by adults who should know better.

      If you’re tempted to respond with more reasons why brutality against children is acceptable, however minor, I’m really not sure it’s going to increase the very little respect I might feel for you right now!

      1. Dave replied:
        “Your points make little sense. You say that parents know best, “

        No I didn’t say that. I said:

        which is a matter usually best judged by the parents themselves, with legal systems available in the background to intervene in instances where excess has clearly occurred.

        You appear to see things in simplistic yes no format. Note I said there usually.

        “but clearly they do not. Many cases of child abuse and child neglect demonstrate this.”

        Not so. They merely demonstrate that that usually is not an always. And that there is the need for the legal backup as I stated. Millions of cases of parents NOT abusing their children attest to the parents usually being best judges of the matter. Besides which policing of conduct is rarely cheap and rarely reliable.

        “If you’re tempted to respond with more reasons why brutality against children is acceptable,”
        But I nowhere indicated any support for any brutality. You appear to be very confused and I suggest you take a break from writing and spend more time thinking about your mistakes. The internet is a great place for quickly making a fool of yourself and then finding it preserved for years afterwards. Best err on the side of silence and respect!

        1. Robin,

          You say that there are “legal systems available in the background to intervene in instances where excess has clearly occurred.”

          You also say that “policing of conduct is rarely cheap and rarely reliable.” This seems to directly contradict the first statement. You basically say that authorities can protect children from excessive physical abuse, then say that it’s expensive, and doesn’t always work anyway.

          It’s also clear to me at least that your views contradict the views of professional bodies that deal with child welfare and human rights in general. Having dealt with children who have suffered physical and/or psychological abuse of various kinds and levels of extreme I can see no positives for even mild physical force. On every level it teaches children that brutality is acceptable, or at the very least, if you can’t convince someone using reason, it’s acceptable to use physical force. This is why I see things so ‘black and white’ as you put it… because it essentially is.

          Much as you think I’m a confused fool who should go away and think more, I’d have to decline your suggestion and ask that you consider again that any level of brutality is still wrong… the thin end of the wedge, if you like. If you start using force, where do you stop? Being too difficult and expensive to police, it’s better not to tolerate any form of violence against children!

          1. Thanks Dave for your reply but it appears increasingly clear that you are unable to understand the concept that some things can combine both bad aspects and good, and that a best solution may lie between extremes rather than only at one or other extreme.

            “Having dealt with children who have suffered physical and/or psychological abuse of various kinds”

            And a great many more children have been psychologically damaged by being spoilt – treated too “kindly”.

            I reiterate my point that you would be better advised not to record any more of your confusions and blinkered notions on the public internet, and instead stick to working on self-criticalness until such time as you can learn a bit more balanced view. Cheers.

  6. Children are not the properties of their parents.
    Any evidence for or proof of this notion?
    It is not self-evident. Indeed cannot be.
    Ownership is not a real thing like a table or chair, or a truth such as 2+2=4.
    Rather it exists only in peoples’ minds as beliefs or attitudes.
    A great many people do believe their children are their property.
    They invest a huge amount of time and money and commitment in them.
    Some even think they have a right to kill them.
    At the very least, parents have a good basis for rights in judging how best to bring up their children.
    A right to torture them can reasonably be dismissed as excessive.
    By contrast, because a child does not alway understand very well, it can be proper upbringing to lightly smack them in certain contexts.
    We already have vastly too much nanny state.
    Laws banning us from expressing our true knowledge for a start.
    I think you should concentrate on continuing to challenge those nanny-state impositions rather than promoting this one. Or maybe in ideological style you still belong back in the Mother of All Nanny States that is Iran?!
    Cheers, Robin.

  7. The first problem with this law, apart from the obvious, is that deciding what’s a ‘serious mark’ is subjective. When does one even judge if the mark is severe? Immediately after the ‘smack’? An hour later? The next day? We need to have the courage of our convictions, and if something’s wrong, we need to stick with that, not have degrees of grey between what’s good and bad.

    Also, we need to become much smarter in how we spend our money, especially when it comes to children. Rather than underinvesting in children’s services all through their childhood, then locking children up when they turn 18 and break the law, we need to invest more in working with families to educate both children and parents in how to build better families and better societies.

    Rather than paying for people to go to prison (£119,000 for a new prison place, average cost to keep someone in prison, £40,000 per year) social services shouldI believe, be working intensively with families to give parents the skills they need. Mr. Gove should be insisting that social skills, psychology, philosophy, sociology, health, and other vital skills are taught to every child from a young age rather than some of the other crazy ideas he’s come up with.

    If we want our society to move to a better place, we need to have a plan, then carry it out, because it seems that government isn’t going to do it for us for a multitude of reasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.