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Do You Support A Parents Right To Smack Their Child?

Posted Oct 15 2009 10:00pm

This is a curly issue that keeps raising its head in our society. I think the issue should be broken down into two streams - the rights of the child and the benefits to society. I don't think that parents have any 'rights' when it comes to this issue. So let's look at each of the issues.

The rights of the child

A smacked child? Children have rights as we all do. However, with rights comes a certain element of responsibility, a factor that most expert would agree only become possible around the age of 10. If children under ten have little concept of 'responsibility', is it right to then punish them when they act irresponsibly.

We need to take this issue to another level here. Children also have a right to be raised in such a way they know right from wrong, they are prepared to take on responsibility when ready, and, in the longer term, ready to take on the world.

Are we denying a child their rights by not using a smack as part of that teaching? That in a way is the debate at hand and I will return to this issue shortly. Yes, children have rights but I wonder if we are clarifying them correctly.

The rights of society

Do we as parents owe anything to society in general. We are part of society and our children are a part of our society. When they grow up into adults it is hoped they will play an active part in our society. As parents we have an obligation to ensure that our children enter adulthood with all the necessary skills, knowledge and behavioral patterns that will allow them to play a positive role in society.

So, society has a right to expect parents to raise their children correctly using all possible strategies to reach that outcome. Does society accept that smacking is a legitimate strategy?

Is smacking an effective form of teaching?

Punishment in some form has been around for centuries as one of the methods used teach children right from wrong. The concept probably has its origins in cave man days - everyone learned that pain signified a problem and was used as a learning tool. Cave man soon learned that putting a hand in the fire hurt. When a child went to put their hand in the fire, rather than learning from the experience (and possibly suffering bad burns), the parent stepped in and gave the child a smack across the hand.

The problem with using that form of punishment is what the child learned. They did not learn that fire was dangerous - they learned that going near the fire whilst someone else was around was dangerous. Based on that example, smacking is useless as a punishment tool.

Modern society has other tools that can now be incorporated. Cave man was a poor communicator. We are (or should be) much better communicators. A smack is not JUST a smack. It needs to be followed up with language. Using the fire example, if you smack the child's hand telling them that the fire is dangerous - they now relate the smack to the fact that fire is dangerous (and so is going near it with mom around).

The rights of the parent

I said earlier that parents don't have any 'rights' when it comes to smacking. I believe they have an obligation to raise children in such a way that these children grow into capable adults.

This I think is where society is letting parents down. Academics, many of whom have never been parents, are trying to dictate a no smack approach to the way parents deal with children. The one thing I have noticed over the last 20 years is the rapid downhill decline in the respect that our youth show towards others. There is little discipline in their actions and no respect for people, property or themselves.

The dropping of corporal punishment in schools together with the attempts to prevent parents from punishing their children has to be one of the causes of today's problems. Not the only cause but it is one of the core causes.

It is interesting to see a survey conducted today that has shown that 92% of 1500 respondents were in favour of allowing parents to smack without fear of arrest. Of course, there is smacking and there is smacking and I don't accept the extremes.

There used to be an old saying - spare the rod and spoil the child - I think there may be some truth in that old saying.

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Lawrence Whittemore

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