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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.

lisianthus Fri 19-Apr-13 09:45:20

"I just can't get my head round it. Either the smack comes from a position of anger, which is clearly a bad idea, or it comes from a position of total calm and reason, which makes me feel slightly sick."

^^ This.

Smacking is not OK. It can easily wind up as being the default parenting method, the thing you do every time as it's easy. People who say smacking is OK might not think this if smacking is what happens for every single trivial misdemeanor. Also, you tend to get people saying that it is their "last resort". Well, what do you do if the smack doesn't work? Hit them harder? Hit them with a stick? The concept of smacking just doesn't work from even a logical standpoint.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 09:45:22

my ds had the odd smack between i'd say 18months and 3 years. ranging from a tap on the hand to emphasise the word 'no' after said hand has been stuck in an inappropriate place for the tenth time to the detriment of their safety or someone else's belongings, to a warning, warning, warning, smack on the thigh at the higher end of that bracket.

i don't think i've ever smacked as a result of 'losing it' - when people talk about losing it they're talking about something else that i don't mean when i say 'smack'.

i would never 'lash out in anger' at anyone least of all a small child.

when this gets discussed on here it tends to get polarised and language becomes as emotive as possible to hype things up. i don't see a similarity between me tapping a toddler with limited cognitive skills on the back of the hand whilst saying no firmly as a means of teaching something and someone angrily punching their partner in the face to feel powerful or relieve their own fucked up rage.

beyond 3 i don't think i've ever smacked ds. it wasn't necessary or appropriate by that age. it was a tool in the box for the high mobility and capacity for damage to themselves and others and low sense and cognitive abilities stage which is quite a short window of childhood thank god! it was sometimes very effective in the same way as clicker training is in the sense that it reinforced a behaviour - a two finger tap to the back of the hand whilst saying 'no' to a destructive behaviour - it's hardly violence imo.

but i suspect when i say 'i have smacked' on here people envisage me raging across the room with a red face roaring and lashing out like a crazed madwoman who should be put in a cell.

MisForMumNotMaid Fri 19-Apr-13 09:52:58

Well put swallowedAfly.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 09:55:11

i also think it's important to observe the fact that these discussion are never representative as people who don't smack are very keen to talk about that and get very emotive about it whilst most sane people who have smacked/do smack are scared off from commenting because the tide is so loudly and righteously against them.

no one can stand against the wrong, wrong, wrong, violent, evil ra ra ra posts effectively because they're so much more persuasive on a moral righteousness level.

it's also harder to explain the oppressive weight you see upon children as their mother goes on and on and on with her parenting manual talk at some poor small child whose spirit is dying under the weight of the endless, too many words, emotional pressure of it. it's hard to put that picture in words so effectively as it is to demonise a tap on the hand.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 09:58:35

i would rather have had a quick smack when i got totally out of my head as a toddler than sit and listen to that lecture personally. ineffective streams of emotionally loaded words coming at you to try and make you feel bad (you guess) or to need you to fain more sorryness (what is it i need to say to get out from under this weight) when you've already forgotten what the hell it was about and just want to get on with the day.

again that's another extreme but one i've seen a lot of and felt such pity for the poor child straining under it.

anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 09:59:27

Yes, I don't mind at all when my DH smacks me if I haven't got the cooking quite perfect, or if I have backchatted him, as I know there is a backdrop of love and affection.


Seriously, perhaps smacking does less harm if done by a loving parent but violence is never positive or acceptable. I simply don't understand how you can accept it is possible to be violent in a "loving way" unless you go back to finding husbands beating wives a reasonable way to go.

anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 10:00:20

Oh swallowedafly Well put! I much prefer a quick smack from DH than a big sulk from him or a lecture.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 10:00:26

i should clarify though that i also actually potty trained my child rather than let him walk around in nappies for three years and was in no way up for 'baby led weaning' so i am a demon mother by MN standards.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 10:01:13

i'm guessing you're not 2yo though the cognitive skills (back with the tabloidesque emotive and totally inappropriate analogies) are familiar grin

anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 10:01:14

and I hate it when he tries to talk to me with emotionally loaded words. Bring on the smacking!

anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 10:02:12

sorry, I didn't realise your 2yo was stupid. Mine weren't. Of course if they had been, then smacking would have done them no end of good.

anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 10:04:03

Seriously, think through what you have said. You have advocated smacking for those with low cognitive skills. How do you distinguish between toddlers and adults with cognitive disabilities? I presume you don't believe in smacking adults with learning disabilities? If not, then why toddlers?

GirlOutNumbered Fri 19-Apr-13 10:05:56

I wouldn't smack my own children, just because I think the research has shown that modelling good behaviour is far more affective, so I can't smack my child and then expect him to to hit others.

Howeve, my mum did smack me and I don't believe I have suffered any effects and I love my mum dearly, she is awesome.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 10:06:45

yes of course i'm saying we should whack people with learning disabilities hmm that's exactly what i said.

just to be very clear about the nonsense of the domestic violence analogy - adult sexual and domestic partner do not have the job of disciplining, socialising and teaching each other the very basic skills and realities of life - one hopes their parents will have done that for them. there is no comparison.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 10:08:28

i must flee the rita skita-ism - it is my 'thing i like least' about mumsnet as it throws out logic, common sense and rational interaction in favour of spin and bollox. much like politicians favour.

kelb6180 Fri 19-Apr-13 10:09:29

I don't agree with smacking a child, there are far more better ways to teach a child right from wrong.

If your child smacks another child, you'd tell them off as its wrong, where it seems acceptable for the child to get a smack from an adult! Mixed signals IMO

Smacking I'd ok if you show your child they are loved... So in 20 years time it's ok for them to get hit in an abusive relationship as long as they feel loved.. That's the signal this lets off!

I once saw a mother smack there child because their child hit another child WTF!! Unacceptable!!

TolliverGroat Fri 19-Apr-13 10:10:15

The study doesn't say that smacking "does no harm" if a child feels loved. It says that smacking does not result in a greater incidence of antisocial behaviour if a child feels loved.

I suppose out there there may be one parent whose rationale for not smacking is "No, I won't smack my child, because I am concerned that if I do he/she will go on an antisocial behaviour spree" but I can't imagine that it's a particularly common scenario.

ppeatfruit Fri 19-Apr-13 10:13:26

swallowedafly Because a small child has "limited cognitive ability" Is not a reason to smack them; MY DM was unusual in the 50s she and DD did not hit us or go on and on at us; we had boundaries though. BTW we have not grown up as weirdo lentil weavers. My 3 DCs were not smacked (you just remove a child from the electric plug or whatever by giving them something else to do and saying NO, it doesn't need reinforcing with a smack).

As for smacking a child who's run into the road shock it's more because the adult knows THEY were wrong by not having the L.O in reins or leaving a door open.

dawntigga Fri 19-Apr-13 10:13:42

I have hit The Cub and felt really awful about it afterwards, it was about my anger not his behaviour. Violence in never the solution to anything. ANYTHING. And, ime, smacking children is 99.9% about the adults anger not what the child has done. There are equally effective ways of providing consequences that don't involve hitting.

Hitting from my parents only ever made me fear them, of course my parents were as much use as a porridge condom when it came to being parents. I don't want my child to be afraid of me, I want my child to know that actions have consequences, outcomes for actions depends on the quality of the choice, poor choices = bad outcomes. It's a much better life lesson than if you are bad you get hit.


anorexiamum Fri 19-Apr-13 10:19:00

"yes of course i'm saying we should whack people with learning disabilities that's exactly what i said."

but the only reason you have given for smacking your 2 yo was a reference to his/her limited cognition. If you are ruling that out as your justification, then what are you left with? (A serious question - why on earth would you think that hitting a small child is acceptable and any different from a man beating his wife - you can do it only because they are smaller than you and because you want to "teach them" something).

People always bring up the "he was about to run into the road" argument (very rare), but we wouldn't dream of teaching an adult with learning disabilities not to run in the road by hitting them....

MintyyAeroEgg Fri 19-Apr-13 10:20:41

I really dislike your username anorexiamum.

echt Fri 19-Apr-13 10:22:35

Hitting a child is OK in the backdrop of love in precisely the same terms that the sexual abuser of a child couches their "love" in terms of affection in order to cloud the issue in their own mind, and crucially, in the mind of the abused child.

Hence the claim of the smacked : it never did me any harm. Er..yes. it did.

The question is, how is it ever OK to hit someone because they can't hit back and are smaller than you? Because that's at the root of this. If women could fight back on equal terms with men, would they be quite so beat up? No. If your kid could slap you back would you do it? No.

swallowedAfly Fri 19-Apr-13 10:22:41

vile isn't it

echt Fri 19-Apr-13 10:26:02

The arguments about limited cognition as a reason to strike a child sanction the hitting of the demented and SN people.

Not so clever now, swallowedafly

lisianthus Fri 19-Apr-13 10:27:20

See, that's another issue I have with it. When any corporal punishment is regarded as acceptable, you get some people who think that smacking consists of a tap with two fingers on the back of the hand, through those who give a hard slap on the arm, those who pull a child's pants down and smack his/her bare bottom and finally those who whale the tar out of their kids with a belt. When smacking is OK it allows the worse end of it to camouflage themselves as "just doing the same as everyone else".

Even back in the day when the majority of parents smacked their kids, I'll bet that there were those who thought smacking was OK but still would have been shocked at how often some kids were smacked and for what trivial causes, even if the smacking wasn't a harder smack than they did (but rarely) themselves. And those who smacked all the time or smacked harder than other parents were able to tell themselves that what they did was OK as "everyone smacks, don't they?".

It is safer for all children if all hitting is wrong- no-one gets to kid themselves that what they are doing is OK really, and no-one assumes that the guy whaling the tar our of his son behind closed doors just taps the child lightly with two fingers because that is, to them, what smacking means.

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