Parents of boisterous toddlers often hear the words, -All that child needs is a good smack! Smacking vs. not smacking is a controversial topic and for years, the debate on whether a -good’ hiding is all the child needs has waged on – without resolve. Does smacking a child really help and does a hiding turn a naughty child into a good boy or girl?
As with any argument or debate there are always arguments which are for and which are against. Many countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Sweden have gone so far as to outlaw spanking, making it illegal. Corporal punishment in South African schools was stopped in 1994 and our constitution affords all people the right to be free from violence from either public or private sources. A lot of parents are arguing that the law cannot tell them how they should raise their children. Lawmakers are arguing that the law needs to uphold the constitution and also enforce boundaries which relates to what behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable?
The reality of the situation is, regardless of laws – what effect does smacking a child have and does it really have any benefits?
Over the last few decades, many studies have been conducted into how effective smacking really is. These studies were able to -conclusively prove that spanking offered no benefits as a disciplinary technique. The study observed thousands of families who have used corporal punishment or smacking as a deterrent for bad behaviour but the technique did not work and had no positive effect on the child’s behaviour or on the child.
Besides having no effect on the child’s behaviour, smacking did cause a barrier to exist between parent and child, and the studies indicated that spanking actually elevated violence in society. Parents who only use spanking or a hiding as a means of discipline are unable to find more positive or constructive methods of discipline that would actually help them to build a better relationship their child.
The purpose or reason for smacking a child is to cause them pain, in the hope that the pain inflicted by the hiding will serve as a deterrent for any future -bad’ or unacceptable behaviour. In addition to causing pain, giving a child a hiding will result in the child feeling humiliated. If a child who is acting up appears to be -sorted out’ after receiving a smack on the bum – it may seem that the method works and the child has learnt his or her lesson but in reality, the child is not in fear of receiving another smack but has developed a fear for the person dishing out the smacks (their parents)!
The study conducted on the effects of smacking kids, allowed experts to believe that although kids who are punished with a smack may appear to be more compliant and better behaved, underneath their controlled exterior is a raging turbulent anger. Kids also become more withdrawn and less expressive of their emotions and often battle with issues of trust later in life.
Parents, who examine their actions after dishing out a smack, realise that the smack has only helped to relieve their own feelings of anger!
RAPCAN (a non profit organisation) (Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) had this to say about corporal punishment -Corporal and humiliating punishment allows the parent to express their frustration and anger but it does not teach the child about logical consequences. It results in fear, resentment and a breakdown of the relationship of trust with the parents
Some parents may argue that the passage in the Bible -spare the rod, spoil the child is in fact an indication that good, loving parents who care and love their children must and should to use the -rod’ to discipline their child. The Bible also condones that adulterers should be stoned!
Just as there were studies done to show the negative impacts which smacking had on kids, there were studies done that showed that smacking did have a few positive effects. A psychology professor Marjorie Gunnoe, conducted the study and found that kids who were smacked before age 6 grew up to be more successful and furthermore that there was not enough evidence that could fully back up the claim that smacking actually harmed to kids. However, the study did show that kids who were smacked after the age of 6 were a far more likely to develop behavioural difficulties in later life, and were also more prone to get into fights.
When parents spank kids who are under the age of 6, they generally smack for a safety need. They may smack the hand of a child who is getting too close to a dangerous item, such as plug point or stove. They may spank a two year old’s bottom, when the child is making a beeline for a road or an unsafe area. This kind of smacking is done more as a means of protecting the child rather than humiliating him or asserting parental authority.
The debate continues
Regardless of how many studies are conducted and have been conducted, the -to smack or not to smack’ debate continues. Parents who themselves were given occasional hidings as children are usually pro-smacking and their argument is that -I was smacked, and I am fine! . Parents, who were smacked regularly as children and who felt that hidings were dished out too readily and too liberally, may be against forcing their own children to deal with the humiliation caused.
Countries, such as New Zealand where smacking is banned totally are now questioning if an outright ban on spankings has had a positive effect on their youth. Pro-smacking parents are throwing up their hands in defeat and asking the government to reconsider the ruling and requesting lawmakers to carryout meaningful research as to whether spankings or the lack of is what’s actually harming children.