It’s a topic most parents and grandparents have an opinion on and experts in the United Kingdom have now warned that smacking children could negatively impact their mental health.
While it’s not illegal for parents to smack their children at home in many countries, the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) claims smacking and corporal punishment is harmful to a child’s mental health and has called for it to be banned.
While many parents use a smack as a way of disciplining their children, the AEP has argued that smacking models aggressive behaviour and tells children it is acceptable to use violence. It also claimed that as many as two in five parents who smack their child admitted to using a greater degree of force than intended.
Furthermore, the organisation claimed corporal punishment creates lower quality of the relationship between the parent and child being smacked, increases levels of aggression and anti-social behaviour and could even increase the child’s risk of being a victim of physical abuse.
“We believe that there are many other more effective ways of teaching children right from wrong than by hitting them,” the AEP said on its website.
It also argued that 60 countries around the world including Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Portugal have already placed full bans on corporal punishment and as such, has tabled a motion to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the UK calling for smacking to be completely banned in the country.
John Drewicz of the AEP told Sky News the organisation hadn’t yet defined what would be considered a crime under the proposed changes in law.
“I don’t think one can draw an absolute line on these things,” he said. “A lot depends on the individual circumstances. We certainly wouldn’t anticipate as a result of any change in legislation, that lots of parents would be facing criminal charges.”
Instead, he said the AEP wanted to send a message to parents who feel they need to rely on physical punishment to control their children that there are other ways to manage naughty behaviour.
Meanwhile, Dr Stuart Waiton from Abertay University, who is against the smacking ban, said experts were taking things too far with their calls for a complete ban.
“We seem to be having a situation where apparently liberal professional people are increasingly criminalising aspects of everyday life,” Waiton explained. “Basically loving parents, who care for their children who lightly tap their hands, will be seen as criminals.”
It’s a topic that has also sparked debate in Australia. Earlier this month, Jett Kenny, son of Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry and Grant Kenny, made headlines when he said a mother should smack her misbehaving child.
“Give your child a goddamn smack,” he said on Instagram, alongside footage of a naughty child.
Kenny also asked his followers if they’d been smacked as children and revealed he was when he was naughty as a kid.
The topic of corporal punishment has also made headlines in the United States, where a school in Georgia sent letters home to parents asking for permission to punish misbehaving students with a paddle as punishment.
The school told parents it wasn’t compulsory, but said naughty children would be taken to an office where they would be smacked on the bottom no more than three times, and in the presence of an adult witness.