To smack or not to smack?

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I found myself – surprise, surprise – in the chocolate aisle of a local shopping centre last week, when I was joined by a family whose young toddler was screaming so loudly that Jimmy Barnes would have been proud.

After a couple of attempts to shut little Johnny up, his father laid down the law: “If you don’t stop shouting, you’ll get a smack”.
Within seconds, silence.

But if looks could talk, silence would be the last thing everyone in the aisle would have heard, as two people in particular turned around and looked at this father as if he’d just threatened to throw his child into a pit of tigers to fend for himself.

You could tell that his relief at restoring peace and quiet quickly turned to embarrassment. He was, to be truthful, for a fleeting moment questioning the way he was raising his own child.

Scenes like that one have been created by this incessant, frivolous debate about whether parents should be banned from smacking their children.

The latest round of discussion over the issue comes after the Royal Australasian College of Physicians said that parents who smack their children should be subjected to criminal charges.

Such bans already exist in Sweden, Italy and New Zealand.

In fact, Sweden is often used as the poster boy for the implementation of smacking bans.

Truth is, however, that there is significant evidence to suggest that the ban has totally failed to achieve its aim, which when introduced in the late 1970’s, was to decrease the rates of child abuse.

Anyone who has fallen for the “but Sweden did it” line should take a look at Associate Professor of Psychology Robert E Larzelere’s report entitled Sweden’s Smacking Ban: More Harm Than Good, which can be found online.

Those who support smacking bans aren’t doing it for cheap publicity, of course, and they seriously believe that the welfare of children will be improved should we criminalise such actions from parents. I, however, strongly disagree.

Those who support smacking bans scoff at the argument often provided by those against such a ban: “My parents smacked me and I turned out fine”.

I will admit that on the surface it seems like a throwaway line, but in truth, it’s a damn good argument.

So much so, that I’ll use it now.

When I was about six or seven, I was riding my bike on the street despite being told not to by my parents.

My dad came out, saw what was going on, and told me to get off the street and stop riding my bike.

In no uncertain terms, I told him what I thought of his suggestion. As a result, he smacked me – and I’m glad that he did.

I always remember that story because it’s the first time I honestly recall knowing right from wrong and that wrong choices have consequences.

My parents are the most loving parents in the world and would do anything for me – I grew up knowing that and I still know that today even as a grown man.

The fact that I got smacked a handful of times growing up never changed that fact, neither as a child or now.

I’ve never hit a woman, have barely been involved in a fight apart from a few schoolyard scuffles, and have never been in trouble with the law.

So yes, my parents smacked me and I turned out fine. Chubby, but fine.

And the majority do. Those who don’t turn out fine most likely had bigger issues than the odd smack from loving parents.

Everyone is entitled to their view, but those who try to put the words ‘smacking’ and ‘child abuse’ in the same sentence are doing the whole debate a mighty injustice.

To suggest parents who discipline their child via smacking are in the same category as those who abuse their children over a prolonged period of time – whether it be physically or sexually – is just plain wrong and an unfair blight on the huge number of parents who have raised successful, strong children – smacking included.

Those who do abuse their children beyond a simple smack should rot in jail – no question.

Not all children turn out right.

Kids will be influenced by many things in their lives, and sometimes those influences can take them off the rails.

Sometimes, the parents are the bad influence and it is true that some people simply do not deserve to have kids.

But if smacking your child is to become a crime, then we’re not just turning into a Nanny State, we’ve become one.

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