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There has to be another way ..... The Smacking Debate


Today I am delighted to have Vivien Sabel as my guest blogger putting forward her opinion on smacking or spanking as my USA parents call it !

“Smacking or spanking is an act of aggression and in some cases violence against a child. In my opinion it has no demonstrative qualities and it has no place in parenting for the 21st century. Parenting in the 21st century means parenting with consciousness doesn’t it? Conscious parents DO NOT SMACK their kids.

Currently, parents are allowed by law to mete out “reasonable chastisement” on their children, providing smacking does not leave a bruise or mark. The Children’s Act 2004 clarifies these points and specifies the limits for parents. Children’s groups and MPs have argued that spanking or smacking is an outdated form of punishment that can cause long-term mental health problems. Despite persistent enthusiasm for physical chastisement in significant sections of the population, social scientists are virtually unanimous in arguing that smacking has more negative than positive effects.

As a forty two year old ‘social scientist’ I am totally convinced that smacking or spanking is outdated, unnecessary, misguided, ineffectual and is a hopeless measure in support of discipline. Aggression is not the only way to deal with a problem. In demonstrating and modeling aggression and smacking it will not encourage the positive teaching of our children, nor will it support them to consider alternatives solutions. It will affirm that ‘hitting out’ is the only way to deal with problems. And you and I both know it isn’t!

Smacking seems to me to be a loss of control. If parents have already lost control how far will they go in their attempts to discipline and control? How do we accurately measure “reasonable chastisement?” Take a look into the mind of a child and how he or she will process the concept of smacking, very simply in the following way. Mum or Dad smacks me so it’s OK for me to smack others too, especially people who are smaller and more vulnerable than me – just as I am small and vulnerable to them. And so the cycle continues.

The consequence is that children who are smacked consistently hit out as initial response to dealing with their problems and conflicts. I have worked with many children for many years and not only do I hear and see their parents in them and their learnt behaviours I have been on the receiving end of a couple of punches, whilst in the clinical space. Yes punches rather than smacks. The abused child is not going to stop and distinguish. They are simply going to hit out with as much venom as they feel. A child who is regularly hit will feel discomfort and pain, and he or she will experience shame.

Shame affects us in so many negative ways. A child will innately ‘act out’ their feelings in one of two ways – harming themself or harming another. They will not stop to consider the difference between a smack, a punch, a bite etc.

To add insult to injury smacking doesn’t ‘fix’ the problem. Many children learn to expect and tolerate the pain experienced from being smacked; some go on to request smacking as punishment as it is perceived as a rapid form of punishment, that is brief and over with in a flash.

Smacking will not see an end to negative behaviours; they will continue and in addition the seeds of parental hatred begin to grow within your child. Will it be your child visiting me in my clinical practice to discuss how being parented negatively (through smacking etc.) has affected their lives? I hope not, for their sake and yours.

I have three further comments to make firstly recent media articles are suggesting, “smacking never did me any harm” and “kids who have been smacked are more likely to attend university” etc. I’m afraid I believe the reason why people who have been raised using smacking as a disciplinary measure attend university is they are more than likely to feel a need to prove themselves to the world. I recognise the personality features of an abused child and low self-esteem and self-confidence are just two of them. Attending university may be seen as one way of proving yourself and making you feel better about yourself.

Secondly, research shows and so do many of the popular parenting experts/authors there is no place for smacking. We know that firm and consistent boundaries and reward-based systems will benefit our children thereby allowing for their development and growth through learning more of the impact of their behaviours and how this can affect themselves and others around them.

Finally the issue of smacking must now be considered in light of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention of Human Rights, particularly Article Three on protection against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 is also relevant for child punishment, as Article 19 states: “Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.”

In 1995 the Committee on the Rights of the Child, after examining the UK’s first report under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, recommended that corporal punishment in the family should be prohibited, and criticised the existence of the defence of “reasonable chastisement”.

SAY A BIG FAT NO TO SMACKING….it is not the answer.”



Relational Psychotherapist/Clinical Supervisor/Researcher/Author/Infant Attachment Advisory Council Member



Vivien Sabel is the author of The Blossom Method ™ – The Revolutionary Way To Communicate With Your Baby From Birth – publication date June 2012 (The Blossom Method has received outstanding worldwide reviews, a publishing house in Australia has already tipped it to be a global bestseller and it is now being published by Random House – Vermilion, home to The Baby Whisperer).

Vivien is a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist and a qualified Clinical Supervisor. She is a published researcher, a soon to be published author, a British Mummy Blogger and a parenting book & product reviewer.


©Vivien Sabel 2011 All rights reserved


What do you think of the study that suggests =>  smacking is good for children?


Here is an article I wrote about suggesting that smacking children reduces emotional intelligence and worsens behaviour.


What are YOUR thoughts – I’d LOVE to hear them …….

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