Is it ever OK to smack?

Smacking a child Photo Credit: libertygrace0 via Compfight cc

As parents, we all have different ways of disciplining our children. That’s OK – we are not all the same, our children don’t all respond in the same way. But how and where do we draw the line?

Smacking is a hot topic at the moment – wherever you look, you find conflicting advice, opinions and legislation. 

Smacking a childSo that clears that up then. Or not. Basically, it all depends on the age of the child, and what exactly they have done? But who decides what is reasonable? 

In our house, discipline has a few levels. We start with a reasonable request, asking them to stop what they are doing. This is followed by a firm request – a final warning if you like. This is followed by one of our tried and tested methods, depending on which child it is, and what exactly they have done. We try to avoid sending them to their rooms where possible – their bedrooms are for sleeping, their safe haven, not for feeling sad and cross in. The naughty step has worked a treat over the years – it’s a place they can be placed to calm down, think about what they have done, and how they need to change their behaviour in order to rejoin the fun. As the children have got older, the naughty step has been replaced by a chill out area – currently this is a spot in the corner of a room, where they can sit quietly – or scream and shout if they need to – until they are ready to start over.

In public, chill out spots don’t really work. Removing from a situation still does though – simply taking them away from the area, calming them down, and starting over. Sometimes a firm word or a stern look in public is enough – especially now they are older and do not wish to be embarrassed in front or their mates. 

But smacking? No, it’s not for me. I know several a lot of people who smack (and by smack, I mean a small tap on the hand or bottom, not full on hitting) – and this brings me to the main topic of this post. When is it OK? Is it ever OK? Should I look the other way and accept that different people use different methods of discipline? Or should I be standing up and doing something about it? Is it my place to interfere? 

Is it ever reasonable to strike a child – and then admonish them when they lash out in retaliation? Should we not practice what we preach?

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16 Comments

    • kate
      Author
      August 28, 2014 / 8:06 pm

      It is – I know everyone is different. I am glad chill out works for you too.

  1. Scarlett Silvester
    August 28, 2014 / 8:16 pm

    For me I don’t think smacking a child is ever right. I am a firm believer that children soak up everything you as a adult do infront of them. If I smacked Ella for being naughty she would feel it is acceptable to hit another child when she feels they are being naughty. I feel you are treaching a child that it is ok to use violence to punish a child.
    I also believe a child will become frightened of the person who uses force or smacking as a punishment.
    In our house I often say to ella whether or not her behaviour is acceptable. If it is not she is to go off to another area and calm down.
    For us in our house we chose gentler forms of discipline. If someone else chooses to smack there child then that is up to them. If inwas out with my mum she would tell the person smacking their child that they were commiting child abuse….. I often cringe when go out with !

    • kate
      Author
      August 28, 2014 / 8:19 pm

      I feel the same Scarlett – I don’t feel I can smack my child yet then tell them it’s not OK to hit?

  2. Keri Jones
    August 28, 2014 / 8:18 pm

    I have written and deleted my comment so many times, this really is a tough subject.
    I was smacked as a child and it did me no (long term) harm. However, I will NOT be smacking my child (2 nearly 3yo). From my point of view there are better ways to discipline. Being calm, firm and consistent is always a good place to start x

    • kate
      Author
      August 28, 2014 / 8:20 pm

      It’s such an emotive subject. I was smacked as a child too, and I turned out OK (lol) – but it’s just not for me. It’s not the way I want to discipline my children.

    • Abi Booth
      August 29, 2014 / 5:21 pm

      Sometimes the whole ‘I was smacked and it didn’t do me any harm’ doesn’t ring true, it may well have effected you in way you are unaware of? it doesn’t always show as making you a violent person xx

  3. jenny
    August 28, 2014 / 8:31 pm

    An emotive subject indeed, personally I would use different methods to discipline a child, as long as the discipline is consistent, how will a child learn

  4. Fi Ní Neachtáin
    August 28, 2014 / 8:57 pm

    I was smacked as a child and am against it now as an adult. I do not smack my child and never will. We opt for a time out for five minutes and it seems to work, in fact, he seems to enjoy the quiet moment by himself to reflect and calm down. I then ask if he’s sorry, even though he can’t talk yet and he gets a hug. This method works for us and for him and we will continue to do this as long as it works.

  5. August 29, 2014 / 2:26 pm

    My daughter is not old enough for this even to be an issue, at the minute she is just learning (and ignoring the word no) however I don’t think I would/could ever use smacking as a form of discipline. Time-outs etc seem to me to make the most sense.

    I really like your thoughts on bedrooms, you are right, they should be a safe haven for your child not a punishment zone so to speak, and until i read your post I hadn’t thought of it like that.
    zofloya11 recently posted…The Gruffalo @ Birches Valley – Cannock ChaseMy Profile

    • Abi Booth
      August 29, 2014 / 5:18 pm

      I agree too, bedrooms should never be used as a place of punishment, it then only make bedtime feel like a bad thing?!

  6. Abi Booth
    August 29, 2014 / 5:13 pm

    Its NEVER ok to smack / hit (whatever you want to call it or try to justify it).
    If I smacked another adult cause I didn’t like the way they spoke to me, I would arrested, but its ok to hit a defenceless child?
    Hitting a child to teach them that hitting is wrong? its like bombing for peace? its all rather backwards!!
    don’t get me wrong there are times with my 2 that I could easily loose my cool, but its called restraint!!

    Hitting a partner is domestic violence……hitting an animal is animal abuse…..hitting a stranger is called assault….all of which are arrestable and can end in a custodial sentence…….but hitting a child cause you don’t like the way they spoke to you or didn’t do what u told them to do is ok cause its punishment? No way!! craziness!! anyway, why would you want to cause your beautiful, tiny piece of amazingness harm and pain?

    Yes everyone is different and have different parenting styles but I will never agree with this or be ok with it…..EVER!

  7. Mo Ade
    August 30, 2014 / 10:35 am

    Hello Kate, thoughtful post; not an easy topic. I was smacked as a child and grew up in an environment where smacking was acceptable and not an emotive topic. Smacking taught me many things but never that it was okay “to hit another child when” i felt they were “naughty” or that “it is ok to use violence to punish a child” as Scarlett wrote. Even then, i’m not particularly a fan of smacking. Nonetheless, i won’t campaign to outlaw smacking. Would I smack my child? I’ve previously discussed with my husband, before we had a child, that we wouldn’t. My child is not at that age yet so I haven’t been particularly faced with the choice. Would I interfere if someone is smacking their child in public? Probably not. Would I interfere if someone is beating their child in my presence? Probably yes. So, what is smacking exactly and how does it differ from hitting or beating? Sorry, thinking about this issue has sparked different thoughts in my head.

    I’m planning to start my own blog next month and I think i’ll join this conversation with a post. This will give me more time to really chew on it. I can’t wait to read Collette’s follow-on post about this topic. Thanks for starting it.

    I also really enjoyed your thoughts about what the bedroom is for and what it isn’t for when it comes to disciplining children. I hadn’t really thought about it that way before!.

    A long comment, sorry.

  8. September 9, 2014 / 8:38 pm

    I have in the past “smacked” my children. A short sharp tap on the fingers if they persist in doing something dangerous and moving them away and telling them no has not work. Never in public, not because I did not want to but in general I did not need to. A temper tantrum is not the time for a smack, – these were ignored or moved to a quiet part of the shop. Any other inappropriate behaviour was a simple but firm squeeze of the hand, they knew this was their warning.
    In general we used other methods, some work better for one child than another.
    Never used a bedroom as a punishment, and found time out worked well generally.
    One thing I will not do ( and this is just me) is “reason with” a child over and over again. Much preferred mine to learn no meant no and dont bother to argue as I am not changing my mind. I do not feel “explaining” your reasons to a toddler is needed though many of you will disagree.

  9. September 11, 2014 / 9:46 am

    I was smacked as a child and it did me no harm. I do avoid it with my kids though as really don’t think it helps.
    Warnings, time out and toy/treat removal work here mainly.
    Emmys Mummy recently posted…My crazy water babyMy Profile

  10. September 11, 2014 / 10:19 pm

    this is such a controversial subject and one that in fairness no one sits on the fence with.

    I was smacked as a child and in fairness it didnt do me any harm, I have smacked one of my children but I dont choose that method and i think till everyone has walked a mile in someone’s shoes its hard to judge. I have and I will continue to try alternative ways instead
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