Disciplining young children is what parents are supposed to do, but smacking should be illegal, writes Saman Shad.
We've all been there – when the kids won't listen to what you've asked them to do possibly for a hundredth time, all the while the dog is barking, the dinner is burning on the stove, you're running late, and then your child goes and does something that sends you over the edge – like smashing a mug on the floor.
And that's when parental reaction splits – either you react without resorting to physical violence or you smack your child. You smack them despite the fear in their eyes, despite how scary you may appear – how big and looming your body must seem to their tiny self. A self that is forming thoughts about how the world works, about their place in it, about actions and consequences, and their own reactions – much of which is learnt from you.
Thankfully, many of us have found a way to control our emotions, our instincts to be rash. Many of us parents have realised that hitting our children is not the way forward. It's not in our child's interest. And while in the short term it may make them stop doing what it is they weren't meant to be doing – mostly out of fear – in the long term it will work against them.
Research has shown that in the long term smacking may make a child's behaviour worse and can lead to depression, anxiety and antisocial behaviour as they grow older. An established link has also been made between dangerous types of physical abuse against children that started with smacking. As Professor Kim Oates from the University of Sydney said, “There are many cases where discipline has got out of hand, all paediatricians see it... Children have been killed by parents and suffered many broken arms and black eyes and severe bruising.”
No wonder then that the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) are calling for a ban on smacking – thereby giving children the same rights against assault as afforded by adults. NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell however has no plans to introduce such laws. Many parents in the community too have expressed outrage at the ban.
Many hark back to their own childhoods, and use the old adage “didn't do me no harm”. Well smoking during pregnancy used to be quite common and many women didn't think it was harming their baby then – but we all know better now. Others think that it'll land ordinary parents in jail for doing little more than giving their child a harmless smack on the hand. However, the RACP's Associate Professor Susan Moloney has mentioned these laws would “identify families at risk of child abuse early and it's actually stopped families using physical abuse.”
To me it seems like a no brainer – yes smacking children should be illegal. The saying “violence begets violence” is often quoted and well known, yet for some reason it seems that violence against children is perfectly acceptable as long as it's termed “spanking” or “smacking”. It's time we put an end to it once and for all.