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

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


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.

Goldmandra Fri 19-Apr-13 00:36:15

smacking does children no harm as long as they know it is for the right reasons and feel loved.

Denying a child food as a punishment does them no harm as long as they receive adequate nutrition the rest of the time but it doesn't constitute an effective or acceptable sanction.

There are plenty of things we could do to our children which can be shown to cause no lasting damage but it doesn't mean that to do them is a good idea.

I have smacked my children on a very few occasions, e.g. the day my DD tried to put a family heirloom (given by my aunt whom I miss very much 12 years after her death) through a wall. I lost control and I bitterly regret doing it.

It is good to know that research indicates that I have caused no lasting damage because she feels very, very loved and knew that she had done wrong. However I will continue to be appalled at my own lack of control and will never see smacking as desirable or effective.

minibird69 Fri 19-Apr-13 00:51:28

Siiiiiiiiigh i agree with you. I think there is a difference between abuse and a parental smack, they are on a different part of the emotional and physical spectrum, though those who have been genuinely abused may not be able to discern. Actually where the line is is hard to define because it is subjective which is why so many have zero tolerance. I also agree with BOF.

twofalls Fri 19-Apr-13 01:53:26

I just don't see how it can be justified. All you are doing is teaching them that it is ok to hit or be hit.

Full text of original research here:

ChompieMum Fri 19-Apr-13 07:10:35

How about this proposition then

Domestic violence does no harm as long as it leaves no mark, is done for the right reasons and is offset by the love of your partner.

How on earth is hitting a child any better than hitting an adult? They are smaller, more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves. For those who are unable to control their children without smacking, parenting classes are needed. I have never hurt/frightened my children and they are extremely well behaved (not perfect of course though!!!!).

exoticfruits Fri 19-Apr-13 07:23:08

I agree with Chompie, you can't smack a partner saying, 'it is OK because I love you'! You only get away with it because they are smaller- no one does it once the DC is big enough to hit back and hurt!
It is lazy parenting.
Those who say 'it did me no harm' are quite wrong- it obviously did harm to leave them thinking 'it does no harm'
Either hitting is right or wrong- you can't have exceptions just because they are your children. ( you can't smack other people's children).
If a teacher can manage 30 children, some quite challenging, without smacking, a parent should be able to cope - if not there are parenting classes.

Forgetfulmog Fri 19-Apr-13 07:34:22

How can your child feel loved if you smack them? How then are you supposed to teach them that hitting people is wrong, especially in anger, if you hit your child? If you wouldn't hit an adult, what makes it acceptable to hit a child?

lljkk Fri 19-Apr-13 07:35:24

I don't think you'll find hardly anyone to agree with the research.
Smacking is unacceptable on MN and this attitude does not reflect real life (yet again).
I don't have an opinion about smacking, except that it looks an awful lot like ordinary traditional human parenting (worldwide custom), and I can't believe that everyone who was ever smacked as a child felt abused & unloved.

So I sometimes think MNers are strange, maybe very hysterical, to completely ignore all that.

Forgetfulmog Fri 19-Apr-13 07:40:40

Really tired - "very few adults who were smacked are violent" - how do you know this? Are you referring to the modern age of adults (& by that I mean 20-39ish yr olds) or our parents.

My mum smacked me; her mum smacked her. I, however, do not intend (& hope I never do) smack my children as I remember the fear I felt when my mum smacked me.

BelleDameSansMerci Fri 19-Apr-13 07:45:39

Absolutely not acceptable. I don't understand why anyone thinks it's ok to hit someone. Especially a child. Why would you do that?

BelleDameSansMerci Fri 19-Apr-13 07:49:03

lljk - you think it strange that some of us don't hit our children? I think it's strange that you think violence is acceptable. The reference to "human parenting" is ridiculous. You may as well refer to domestic violence as "human relationships" given its prevalence. Just because something is distressingly common doesn't make it acceptable nor does it follow that those of us who do not behave that way are strange.

GizzaCwtch Fri 19-Apr-13 07:51:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HappyMummyOfOne Fri 19-Apr-13 07:51:37

Having grown up with this method used as a punishment, its something I would never do. I still flinch when i see people smack children so it obviously does affect adults in later life.

Its against the law to smack another adult yet we allow people to do it to children who have no form of self defence or any means of removing themselves from the situation. Physical punishment is very wrong and there are many other ways of dealing with children without resorting to violence.

GizzaCwtch Fri 19-Apr-13 07:54:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Badvoc Fri 19-Apr-13 07:57:30

Lets call,it what is it, shall we?
It's not smacking.
It's hitting.

TheFallenNinja Fri 19-Apr-13 08:28:54

The whole study is taken from a very specific ethnic/social/economic group and, reading between the lines, is a thinly disguised means of explaining away the behaviour of this group, rather than attempting to understand how smacking has continued to be used as a method of discipline within said group.

It looks like a defensive counter justification.

I am pro boundary/consequence discipline and anti smacking.

Give a child an opportunity to change the behaviour, then follow through with the consequence.

siiiiiiiiigh Fri 19-Apr-13 08:34:43

If a teacher can manage 30 children, some quite challenging, without smacking, a parent should be able to cope

I didn't cope.

When my kids were small, I didn't cope, was hanging on by the skin of my teeth most of the time.

I'm not sure that it's helpful to compare teaching - a job performed by a skilled professional to parenting - something most of us are making up as we go along, and are doing our best, hoping it all works out.

I have smacked my kids in extremis.

If you have never been pushed to shouting, or smacking, or any behaviour which would be defined as domestic abuse in an adult relationship, by your kids then I am in awe.

But, don't feel superior to me. I am doing my very level best - it might not BE the best, but I do think it's ok to make mistakes and for your kids to see that adults can screw up, be remorseful and apologise.

Quite a valuable life lesson there which is denied to the offspring of Perfect Parents.

exoticfruits Fri 19-Apr-13 08:44:10

You can go to parenting classes- I did and they are very useful.
I think it a mad world if other people would get prosecuted if they smacked your child and yet you can do it because 'it is part of a loving relationship'. hmm
Logically you either smack children or you don't- you can't have a system where you only smack if they know that you love them really!

AnnieLobeseder Fri 19-Apr-13 09:01:16

I have occasionally smacked mine, but usually as an absolute last resort and it's certainly not a regular or preferred item in my parenting toolbox. It is a loss of control, not something I'm particularly proud of and not a method I'd recommend.

I do think MN can be a bit hysterical about smacking though, with shouts of abuse etc. No, you wouldn't hit normally hit an adult, but adults don't usually wind you up to quite the same extent that children do. Adults have learned to behave and socially interact in an acceptable way that doesn't cause the same levels of stress and frustration that parenting can. So no, smacking isn't ideal, but it's understandable (no doubt many will disagree with me).

I was regularly smacked as a child, I have no negative memories of it, I can't remember any of the actual smackings. I have more vivid memories of being left to howl in the dining room whenever I threw one of my frequent tantrums.

So, to conclude my waffling: I don't think this article is helpful, I don't think smacking should be something parents rationally plan out and act upon while telling themselves it's okay and their children are still safe and loved. While I accept that it happens and completely understand why, it should always be something you feel remorseful about afterwards. And should apologise for.

Perhaps if it never had been used a regular method of discipline in the past, it wouldn't occur to parents to ever do so now.

Pan Fri 19-Apr-13 09:18:01

Why on earth should one positive aspect of life (being loved) be "off set" by a very negative aspect (being hit), when this negative aspect is utterly avoidable and damaging? The authors appear to be confusing issues in the way they conducted their research,imo.

Startail Fri 19-Apr-13 09:19:13

I agree totally that smacking within a love and secure background does no harm at all. Its how most of my generation were brought up and, on the quiet, I think it's how many of us bring up our own DCs. Modern parents don't admit to smacking their DCs I suspect many occasionally do. Certainly among my DFs the ones who wouldn't get all lentil weaving on the subject had better behaved and happier young DCs than the DF who did.

A quick slap and get on with life, it's not a perfect solution, but it works.

Long drawn out withdrawal of privileges or periods sat in the naughty step are just as harmful to a relationship, perhaps even more so. No TV for the day is a constant reminder that Mummy doesn't like me I'm naughty.

Most young DCs misbehaviour is limit testing, they need to be told to stop, but they don't need to sit on the naughty step thinking about it. They just need to understand that when mum says stop jumping on the furniture or don't run off or put your shoes in now she means it. Neither of you needs a deep discussion of why. DCs aren't stupid they know why.

As for hitting being humiliating, so is being yelled at or picked up and shoved on the naughty step or sent to your room. Even a parent counting to three is humiliating. Being caught doing something you shouldn't is humiliating full stop.

siiiiiiiiigh Fri 19-Apr-13 09:21:13

Exotic I'm pleased that you found the parenting classes useful - but, I think you are missing my point.

My parenting is based on love - but, sometimes, I am too tired or harassed or distracted or, pure angry, to do what The Book Says. With 3 kids in 4 years, I was quite often tired, harassed, distracted and angry all at the same time.

I resorted to doing my best. It is not always The Best.

It's very easy to judge, and not so easy to own up and say "sometimes, parenting is hard and I make mistakes"

Eskino Fri 19-Apr-13 09:21:57

4 children and 23 years of parenting and I have never hit my children. I haven't got it in me to use violence, least of all towards the ones i value, love and cherish most of all. Those that do, do so to assuage their own anger and need to cause pain, nothing to do with discipline.

EauRouge Fri 19-Apr-13 09:31:17

No, it's bollocks. My dad loves me but I will never forgive him for hitting me as a child. Maybe some children are not harmed but children are not all the same. Not worth the risk IMO, there are plenty of ways to parent that do not involve violence and fear.

MisForMumNotMaid Fri 19-Apr-13 09:33:20

On the flip side, whilst I don't advocate smacking, I think that there are worse styles of parenting.

The parenting relationship is one of dictatorship not democracy. Some children seam to run their parents lives and need reigning in.

When I was little if an adult told me off I'd be petrified they'd tell my parents and I'd get another telling off. Now strangers are chastised for encouraging children to behave in an appropriate manor.

My sister and I were once caught leaning over someones low front wall with our heads in a plant routing around for snails. The owner came out and shouted at us - nothing desperately aggressive probably something along the lines of 'oi, what are you doing to my bush'. We were so embarrassed/ scared by being shouted at by a neighbour we both went home heads hung low. When we got home we were very sheepish so my dad sat us down to find out what had happened. My mum was so angry she had to leave the room (or so we thought, but as it turns out, now we're parents ourselves we know she used to leave the room when she couldn't control laughter).

In my opinion to grow up with a complete lack of respect for society is far worse than to grow up having had the occasional light smack.

I'm not sure that the smacking debate is the one that energies should be focused on.

80QuidYoniJob Fri 19-Apr-13 09:40:36

I used to get smacked on a nearly daily basis when I was younger. My mum denies she ever smacked me. My younger brother has never been smacked.

It upsets me so much that me and my older brother were targeted and that she can't even admit that it happened.

I would never ever smack my children.

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