Smacking 'does no harm if a child feels loved': do you agree?

(524 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 18-Apr-13 21:30:49

Hello.

We're wondering how you feel about new research that suggests smacking does children no harm as long as they know it is for the right reasons and feel loved.

The publication of this study - which focused on teenagers, it must be said - is causing quite a stir, with, according to the Telegraph, 'parenting groups and charities [reacting] angrily to the findings, [and] maintaining that a child can suffer long term damage from physical discipline'.

In Britain, parents are not banned from smacking their children but it is illegal to inflict injuries causing more than a temporary reddening of the skin.

So, do you agree that smacking is fine, as long as it's tempered with a backdrop of love and affection? Or do you think that smacking is never the answer? Please do tell.

Wishwehadgoneabroad Tue 23-Apr-13 20:04:24

I posted earlier to say I was smacked - I honestly don't think it did me any harm ( I definitely deserved them) . Personally, I won't be smacking my DD but that's nothing to do with the fact that I was smacked.

However. I do recall an incident from my childhood.

Me (aged about 3 ish) being naughty in the corner shop. Mum warned me appropriately enough. i chose to ignore and took the consequences.

Woman behind mum in the queue decided to tell my mum how out of order she was smacking me.

Me? Aged 3 ish something. 'Don't tell my mummy what to do, I love her and she's the best mummy ever' (as I grabbed my mum's hand and kissed it)

I do believe can't take smacking just in the context of the actual smack - if that makes sense. I had a very loving childhood and fabulous parents.

crazeelaydee Wed 24-Apr-13 10:24:40

My parents used to 'rule by fear' their reasons being "that's how they were brought up" don't get me wrong my mum also used to have cosy nights with me and give me hugs but these felt empty due to the fact that she had previously tried to strangle me hmm. I hated it, and I now hate them. It did nothing to help me grow into a well rounded adult other than make me an anxious/withdrawn person who will allow anybody to speak/treat me how ever they want and it has also cause major problems when trying to speak up on behalf of my children. I do speak up for them but at the same time I have a huge feeling of regret, sick to the stomach, shame, and also anger because I have been brought up to believe I am not worthy of this. thanks mum and dad for the outstanding job, you must feel sooo proud!

I have broken that nasty circle with my own children. I do not hit them I 'speak' to them they are humans not animals, the one thing I always wanted from my parents was for them to 'listen' to me. I was a very bright child and very understanding. Children are some the most vulnerable of people in our society, so small, innocent, defensless, we as adults are here to protect them not to abuse them into conforming, be that physically or emotionally.

Now ask me if I would find it acceptable to headbutt an adult I see whacking a 4 year old around the head........I have given careful consideration to that, but the fact that I would be imprisoned is quite off putting..........we live in one crazy society, which I will never quite understand.

crazeelaydee Wed 24-Apr-13 10:36:27

I think that being smacked and the affect that has on the child depends on their personality. My younger brother is very strong headed-always has been, he had similar done to him (although not as severe as what happened to me and my elder brother) and he wouldn't think twice about taking something large and heavy to someones head if they dare cause conflict (One of the things I really dislike about him). But then you may have a very emotionally tuned child who can not sleep if he/she thinks that some sole living next door but one is being treated badly, and the affect of a few slaps can have drastic impacts on their well being. I say NO to smacking! It's a sign of lazy parenting.

myfriendflicka Wed 24-Apr-13 13:36:33

The trouble is there is a wide variation in the violence used. People mean different things when they say "smack".

My mother used to whack me round the face several times, hard. She called it "a clip round the ear". I think smack is a mild word for something like that. That's one of the problems with the whole smacking debate.

Even as a child I felt it was all about her anger. The affect of it was very damaging, I felt humiliated, frightened, hurt and, well, like somebody very bad. As it often took place in public it was embarassing and shaming as well.

Like some other posters, I was horrified to my core when I contemplated hitting my children because of the association with what my mother did to me. Not because I am a self-righteous holier than thou parent, as has been suggested, but I remembered how disturbing, awful and destructive to my self esteem it was. I didn't usually remember what I was being punished for, either.

Hitting children doesn't do anything useful - I certainly wouldn't say I have all the answers when it comes to punishing children, but I just couldn't stomach hitting them at all.

Pan Wed 24-Apr-13 14:18:20

I realise that this topic is being introduced on the MN front page by a picture of a young girl being pointed at my what looks like a male hand.

If hitting children was 'socially reasonable' shouldn't there be a picture, or a short video of a child being hit by an adult? I'd think the effect would be to make adults look at themselves 'from the outside' and see what it is they are actually doing and what it looks like.

Pan Wed 24-Apr-13 14:20:13

The issue isn't about pointing at children, is it? Can we have a picture/video of a child being hit at all?

Goldmandra Wed 24-Apr-13 16:29:39

Smacking is never good but if its necessary at all then the kid must be made to understand that you are a well wisher and only wish for him.

I have admitting to doing it earlier in the thread and I did it because I lost control. I will never believe it is ever necessary. There is always a more appropriate and more constructive alternative.

If it were necessary I would be allowed to hit childminded children.

pan if the 'picture' was true to what smacking means to me it would show someone tapping a child with two fingers on the back of their hand whilst clearly saying no. i suspect though people would rather see a picture of a crazed woman frothing at the mouth and whacking a child around the head.

garlicyoni Wed 24-Apr-13 18:55:52

Is "tapping a child with two fingers on the back of their hand whilst clearly saying no" smacking?

I'm not pretending to have the answer to that. My own perspective is probably skewed, but I wouldn't say so - it doesn't even make a smacking sound, however closely you listen.

My big issue with 'smacking' is, as others have said, escalation. A smack is intended to hurt. Therefore it is violence. Violence against children should never be sanctioned.

If hitting children hadn't been normal in my youth, I would have found out before I reached adulthood that I was suffering abnormal violence. Of course I didn't, because when I said "Daddy hit me", everybody assumed I'd been smacked for disobedience - and violence against children was considered normal, desirable even. How can that be right?

seeker Wed 24-Apr-13 19:39:30

But if it's "tapping on the back of the hand with two fingers" what's it for? Why do it?

garlicyoni Wed 24-Apr-13 19:52:22

I thought it was a non-verbal Stop thing, Seeker? I may be wrong! I tap kittens & puppies on the nose to teach them not to do things I don't want them to. Tapping a human on the nose would be weird - but I thought hands were the equivalent?

As adults, we do 'tapping' to train ourselves (well, some of us do.)

Puppies and kittens have very sensitive noses though, so it hurts more than other parts of the body.

And in any case they are permanently non-verbal so I'm not sure the analogy is at all useful.

garlicyoni Wed 24-Apr-13 20:25:42

I was worried about that (sensitive noses) - thanks sad I won't do it any more. And I understand that, as I believe it's wrong to hit children for discipline, I must also believe it's wrong to tap them on the hand.

xabiuol Wed 24-Apr-13 20:26:30

Smacking was my mother's punishment of choice when I was a child.
She died when I was 7 years old.
Sadly, most of the memories I have of her are of her smacking me.

I find it hard to imagine that I am a better person because I was smacked as a child. To those who say "I was smacked and it never did me any harm"... I think smacking does harm children. My mother may have controlled my behaviour, but I think that the memories I have of my her demonstrate that smacking is not just some trivial punishment, quickly forgotten.

ExRatty Wed 24-Apr-13 23:39:10

I'm still not convinced that a smack as part of a spectrum is necessarily a bad thing. I'm not advocating frightening, hurting or beating children. I think it's not something to be used regularly. I do think it's a last resort type of scenario.

I think that it depends on the reason why the child was punished
How rational that decision making process was by the adult.
How they were punished ( was it a smack, a smacking, a beating etc ) was it a reasonable, rational response
Did the child understand why it was happening?
Was it used in addition to/ after normal reasoning etc?
How often it occurs
The general relationship between the child and the person administering the smack
The child's psychological make up and support set ups
If the child thinks ( without fear etc ) that it was a fair thing to do.

Screaming at a child can be just as frightening as a smack IMO.
I've observed many many people shout scream and verbally abuse and humiliate their children
Unpredictable punishments and environments of any manner imo can be very damaging
Living with too many rules, time outs, reasons to cause fear, undue worry are worse than a smack

MagicHouse Thu 25-Apr-13 00:02:05

I really disagree with smacking. I think it teaches children that it's ok to hit when things aren't going your way. The handful of times I was smacked as a child I remember feeling furious, humiliated and sometimes scared, and linked it to stress, not great parenting.

My ex sadly believes in smacking - he used to say he was hit quite badly as a child, but despite this decided that "it never did me any harm". I would beg to differ, as an adult he can be extremely short tempered, aggressive and impatient, especially with situations he can't control. It upsets me that my children have to put up with smacking from him when they see him - I see it as bullying, and that there is nothing I can do about it because he "doesn't leave a mark". My younger ds often mentions being smacked by his dad, and he also lashes out and tantrums very frequently. I know this behaviour is normal in young children, but I can't help wondering if it is linked.

To the PP who stood up for her mum as a child - I think children will often stand up for and love their parents, despite being shouted at aggressively or smacked, but it still doesn't make it right.

xabiuol I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your Mum all those years ago.

Tashymondo Thu 25-Apr-13 02:40:21

I find this a hard debate to take sides on. Smaking implies little force and that thought and self control has been used in order to of come to that.

A lot of the view on here seem to state that smacking and hitting are intact the same thing. Maybe there shouldn't be a difference in order justify the action and more importantly control the use of it.

I can see the argument from more then my own personal views though as when I was on holiday with my best friend and her 3 year old. She was very trying at times and even I do not understand how my friend remained in control. At times her daughter did receive a smack ( I would more say a tap) there was never a mark and it was only given as a last resort. My friend would always reason with her daughter, explain she was being naughty, tell her she should not carry out the offending behaviour. It was always after the 3rd or 4th time if you do that again mummy will have to smack you because...

I was surprised she smacked but admired her for remaining in control. After she would sit her daughter on her knee and run through the situation that lead to the out come. Getting her daughter to identify the bad behaviour that lead to the smack. I thought that was good as they both had a kiss and a cuddle after and it was forgotten.

But I do not think I would smack my child. At such a young age the naughty step, exclusion and talking to them about their behaviour and the effect it has on you and others works just as well. No child wants to displeased their parent, so getting that message across that they have displeased you and why/how without raising a hand is something that is very important I think!

Having said that, I have no idea how I will be when it's my turn to be a mum. I can only hope that I do the right thing by my child and they in turn grow into well rounded respectful/ respected members of society.

Wishwehadgoneabroad I understand where you are coming from. I love my parents and they smacked me as a child. Being smacked doesn't stop you loving or wanting to support or defend your parents.

Sadly, even children (I am not talking about me or you or anyone I know personally but I have heard of such children) who are treated very badly still love and defend their parents.

However, as a society I do think it is right that we set certain standards for what is acceptable in parenting. I do not believe hitting children is acceptable and I don't think it is helpful. Sometimes guidance is needed from outside the family because all families may act differently and the level of 'violence' could vary a lot even in families who love each other.

* MagicHouse* I am sure it is complicated but I don't see why you have to put up with your ex's behaviour because he doesn't leave a mark. Can you talk to him and get him on side with a non-smacking parenting style? My thinking is that if he continues to smack he may well end up oe day leaving a mark, so what will happen then, will he report himself for it? Or will he say that it does not matter. Maybe for him coming to terms with his own parenting and finding a new way to do it, might help him to come to terms with what happened to him as a child (although if it really has affected him some counselling might help - just a thought).

Once you begin to understand how children's minds work and how behaviour is leant etc it seems to me (IMHO) that smaking only 'works' (as in controls behaviour) for a very short time, basically until the child is as tall or as strong as the parent! as we are all getting frailer and kids get stronger there comes a point where they are as big and strong as the parent! So either one has so totally dominated their spirit by that point or they will start to fight back! Surely parenting is about teaching them why things need to be done in a certain (the wisdom and the logic), allowing them to make some limited mistakes and learn from them (obviously safely!) and most of all giving them the tools and skills to enter the adult world. Smacking seems (to me) to teach one thing, whoever hits is in the right! Not a great message and not a great relationship builder.

But for anyone reading this who has made mistakes etc, it is not too late. Things can change.

I read a few books and done a few courses and I can really recommend a book called 'The parenting puzzle', there is also a DVD and even a parenting course that people can go on.

theparentingpuzzle.co.uk/

Definitely worth a look if you have had any problems and even if you have not, fascinating and helpful. (Just to say I am not at all a great parent, I am learning all the time hence doing all the courses and reading the books! I've been a terrible shouter for a long time and am still learning not to shout - I can actually see how me shouting exasabates a situation!)

This is also a good book, 'How to talk so children will listen ad listen so children will talk'.

www.amazon.co.uk/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/1848123094

jessjessjess Thu 25-Apr-13 13:25:23

I haven't had time to read all the other replies so apologies if this has been said.

If you hurt a child by hitting them and also let them know they are loved, you effectively teach them to seek reassurance from someone who is also a source of fear. Otherwise known as insecure attachment. Maybe it'll be fine, maybe it won't.

Personally I think it's lazy and cruel to smack.

jessjessjess Thu 25-Apr-13 13:34:10

Hit post before I was ready. I meant to say I think it's important to differentiate smacking from other punishments as it's a bodily attack. Nobody likes watching children getting smacked. There's a reason for that!

I don't think teaching a child to rely on being hit to get in control of their behaviour is a very good idea. And smacking against a backdrop of love makes zero sense and sends a very dangerous and confusing message.

Whothefuckfarted Wed 17-Jul-13 12:34:42

I was 'smacked' as a child.

I remember many occasions. One even descended into her kicking me while I was in a ball on the kitchen floor. She also let my Nana 'smack' me - I was instructed to lay over a dining chair, bare bottomed to be hit with a plastic brush. My mum also had a bamboo stick for a houseplant that she like to 'smack' me with. Two grown women against one little girl. There were many marks left on my body for days sometimes.

When I was 14 I snatched the stick from her. I said if she ever threatened me again I would be the one doing the 'smacking'. I was bigger than her by then.

I don't have respect for her and what she did. We do get on, although she irritates me a lot after a certain amount of time. We don't see each other often as we live 6 hours away from each other. I like it that way.

I will never 'smack' my daughter.

Even if she was running into a road in a life threatening situation. I would grab her, I would tell her why it's dangerous, I would blame myself for not making sure she couldn't put herself in that danger. If you smack a child in that situation they aren't going to learn to come back to you when you shout them, they're going to keep running away so as not to get 'smacked'.

There are many other ways to discipline. 'Smacking' is wrong.

Yingyang1111 Tue 01-Jul-14 10:30:10

I listen to my kids...I play with my kids...I eat with my kids...I spend one on one time with my kids...I never tell my kids to "shut up" I say please be quiet I can't concentrate...I take my kids on holiday...I take my kids to restaurants...I take my kids into town to buy them clothes they like...I watch films with my kids...I let them have the odd day off school when they are too tired or feeling crappy...I nurse them when they are sick...I allow them and encourage their social life and I show them I should have one too and that Mummy's are not just for doing housework but have other interesting outlets...I laugh with my kids and I cry with my kids...I am toleratent and discipline calmly at times...I flip out and smack my kids on the bum when they are very disrespectful and rude at times...I say sorry to them when I have lost control...I explain why I lost control...I love and learn lessons...I love and loose lessons...I am human...I am me...

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