To Smack or Not to Smack

The recent announcement that Scotland will be the first country in the UK to ban smacking has sparked some healthy discussion with my fellow Scottish parents. There has also been speculation that the rest of the country may follow suit. So it needs to be asked: what do you think of smacking?



A step in the right direction for child protection?

Currently, Scottish law protects adults from all forms of physical violence, but does not grant children the same protection. A parent can claim that physical violence against a child was them merely exercising their parental right to discipline their child.

Removing the defence of justifiable assault of a child would not create a new criminal offence: most forms of physical assault against children are already against the law. This change would make any assault against a child unlawful therefore giving children in Scotland equal protection to adults. 

Those who are in favour of the ban spout evidence that the use of physical punishment affects childrens' health and wellbeing as well as their relationships with other children, their parents and other carers. In my job as an early years' worker I would never raise my hand to a child or be permitted to, so why should parents be allowed? These parents should consider how they are to be positive role models to their children and teach them that physical violence against anyone is wrong, when they lash out themselves when they have a disagreement.

Does the context of smacking make a difference?

Let's be honest - this is not a ground-breaking ruling! A Swedish mum told me that her country was the first to ban smacking in 1979 and since then more than 50 other countries have followed suit. However, a recent poll commissioned by the campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland found that 74% of Scots did not believe smacking should be a criminal offence. Adults who were smacked as children described it as the signal that their behaviour had gone too far. They also believe that there is a clear difference between hitting a child for punishment, and beating a child. In their opinion, as parents, they have the right to discipline their children as they see fit and believe, 'it never did me any harm!' 

Another grey area is how is the new law going to be enforced. One of my parent friends said, "Let's hope that they don't start placing cameras in our homes". This may sound extreme but that is genuinely how some parents feel. 

What do you think?

To summarise, up until now parents have had the ability to decide what are suitable methods of discipline in their own home. For example, a young child may be about to touch something dangerous and due to their limited language skills can't understand when their parent explains that it's wrong. Getting a tap on the hand from their parent may be more effective in warning them of the danger. Under the new ruling would this be breaking the law? It is not for me to say what is right from wrong in this debate, but I would love to know what you think. 

Martine Nadler, mother and owner of Tinies Glasgow

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