Saturday 18 November 2017

Smacking never right, say doctors

Fresh calls to ban the smacking of children
Fresh calls to ban the smacking of children

Rebecca Smith and Martin Beckford

PARENTS should be banned from smacking their children because of the risk that "today’s smack will become tomorrow’s punch", the Royal College of Paediatrics has warned.

In a letter to a UK newspaper, the specialists say the punishment is equivalent to “physical assault” and is a “very ineffective deterrent” to bad behaviour.

Prof Terence Stephenson, president of the college, suggests that parents instead adopt a “positive” approach and set stronger boundaries for their children.

The college decided to intervene after Cristina Odone, a Daily Telegraph columnist, said that working-class parents were reluctant to discipline their children because they feared social workers would take them away.

She praised David Lammy, a Labour MP and former education minister, who said last summer’s riots were partly caused by parents being scared to smack their children.

Prof Stephenson warns parents that smacking is the “easy” option.

He says: “Children should be provided with the same protection against physical assault as adults, and aside from being unnecessary, smacking is generally a very ineffective deterrent to 'bad’ behaviour.

“Smacking is too often seen as the easy option – sadly as paediatricians we see all too often today’s smack becomes tomorrow’s punch.”

Parents could previously use “reasonable chastisement” to discipline their children, but the law was tightened under Labour in 2004. The new definition prohibits any force that causes “reddening of the skin”.

The letter states that 100 children a year die or are left disabled by their injuries after being hit, almost always by someone known to them.

Mr Lammy’s comments have prompted renewed debate on smacking, with parents on Mumsnet and other parenting websites discussing whether such punishment can ever be justified.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, said most were against smacking.

“On the whole people think it’s a little bit hypocritical if we tell our children not to use physical violence and then resort to it ourselves,” she said.

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