Smacking children: Why is the debate in the spotlight again?

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Most of us want to teach our children that violence is never the answer; that resorting to inflicting pain on somebody is never the way to show them they’ve done something wrong.

So why do some people think it’s OK to do just that to their children?

That’s what people who believe spanking should be banned have been saying recently as the debate reared its head in Europe as Scotland looks set to become the first country in the UK to make spanking your children illegal.

It’s likely that a law will be passed in the country next year that would make spanking a crime.

But while Scotland will join a growing list of countries to introduce legislation about corporal punishment, it’s a topic that continues to divide opinion.

Pakistani Yousuf Saifuddin says he doubts he’d be the man he is today without a smack from his mother.

He says: “Fear is an important part of raising kids who are intent on learning through making mistakes. As parents or elders it is our duty to stop them ruining their lives so if a child deserves a little smack, don’t spare the rod.

“I was a terror as a kid and what disciplined me was being hit. I could very well have ended up a failure but it was the fear of my mother that kept me alive and on the right path.”

Hamdan echoes Yousuf’s thoughts. He says: “Studying in an Indian school I was hit every week, minimum three times a week. If they didn’t do it when I was young I would have become a rebel.”

Brit mum Gail Sugden says corporal punishment allows parents to stay in control.

She says: “There is a difference between tapping your child on the hand because they have done wrong and beating them but today you are made to feel guilty for shouting at your child. They will learn nothing because society has decided disciplining your child, whether it’s a tap on the hand or a telling off, is wrong.

“Kids today rule the roost because parents can't discipline them or they don't know how and spend hours trying to reason with their kids or they allow bad behavior thinking it will get resolved on its own but it just gets worse to the point parents don't know what to do or where to turn . I have seen parents pleading with their children in tears.”

But while many of us turn to our own mum and dads for parenting styles, they’re not always great examples, says Helen Farmer, the UAE-based mum and author of The Mothership blog.

She says: “I think every parent has been so frustrated or enraged that they have come close to smacking their child. We are an in-between generation - many of us were smacked by our own parents, but we’re well aware that we shouldn’t do the same to our own children. We know that it doesn’t solve anything, we know that we would feel terrible afterwards, we know we would never forgive ourselves.”

Why would you do something to your child that you wouldn’t dream of doing to any other creature on the planet, asks British teacher and mum of two Gemma Kirkpatrick.

“You wouldn't smack your partner, you wouldn't smack your pet, you wouldn't smack your parents, you wouldn't smack a stranger, you wouldn't smack a stranger's child. So why is it okay to smack your own child?” she asks.

“Children are among the most innocent and vulnerable individuals on the planet. It is our duty to protect them from harm, not inflict it upon them in moments of frustration. Smacking teaches fear and distrust, not discipline.”

Lebanese dad Bassam Saifi finds that giving his daughter time outs and showing her that he is upset when she misbehaves is usually enough of a punishment.

He says: “We always try to explain what she did wrong and why she shouldn’t be doing things. It doesn’t always work especially now she is in the terrible twos. Very, very rarely we tap her gently on the hand only when she does something that is dangerous like insisting on putting her finger in the electrical plug.”

Disciplining children is all in a day’s work for Rana Mani, who is the director of UAE-based Stepping Stones Nursery.

And she believes while smacking may be the ‘first instinct’ of some parents, it’s vital they bear in mind why they’re raising their hand.

She says: “Do we smack in the hope of instilling our own form of physical discipline possibly as our parents did, or are we merely smacking the child out of our frustration because of their behavior?

“We need to consider what we have achieved by smacking the child. Will the child’s behavior improve? Do they understand why they were smacked and do they realize that every action has a consequence?”

Rather than going directly for a smack, Rana advises parents to try to take a few seconds out when they feel frustrated.

She adds: “Despite the fact that society today is very fast paced and stressful, is it not better to reflect and try to understand the reason behind the child’s possible bad behavior? Were we once not children ourselves?”

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