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Smacking Your Children

Updated on August 21, 2010

Should You Smack Your Children?

This was a recent essay I wrote. The idea is to demonstrate how any topic can be written about in a calm and methodical way that doesn't try to impose views onto the reader. The topic was irrelevent but a great one to cover. For a more subjective and emotive version please read Smacking Your Kids. *NOTE* The views expressed in this article are not necessarily my true opinions.

I believe that a parent should be free to physically discipline their children. It should be a decision that each parent makes, free from government interventions. There are a few basic areas of discussion, which include physical discipline and how it establishes authority, its benefits for the society as a whole and the use of physical discipline as a deterrence for the future.

Firstly, the traditional parenting ideal would see the parent as being the figure of authority within the home. This idea of authority is usually established within the child’s mind from a very early age. Children who are not yet able to understand the words of their parents will benefit from a physical indicator, something that will shock them into knowing right from wrong. Once the child reaches an age of verbal understanding, then the parent can choose to use physical discipline to suit the situation. However, even after reaching this stage, a child’s level of reasoning is lower than that of an adults and it is therefore difficult for the parent to be viewed as an authority figure through verbal communication alone if the child is lacking in understanding.

In addition, some children, when not exposed to physical discipline, can view their parents as some sort of obstacle in their way of freedom instead of seeing them as the figures of authority that they need to be. Whereas a child who is physically disciplined can grow to understand why they need to have that discipline and can understand and perhaps appreciate the role of authority that their parents are required to perform.

Second in this discussion are the benefits to society. By first learning the boundaries their parents set for them in childhood through physical discipline, the child can grow into an adult that knows their boundaries within societal life. Take Sweden as an example, Physical discipline was banned in 1979. The evidence shows:

'That perpetration of criminal assaults against 7-14 year-olds is increasing most rapidly in age groups raised after the law against smacking was passed. (Larzelere R, 2004)'

This report, written by Robert E Larzelere PhD who is an associate professor of psychology, outlines the evidence that exposes the faults of a complete ban on smacking and of what the effects of not physically disciplining your child has on the wider society. It would seem from the report that in the case of Sweden, child on child violence has dramatically increased after the banning of smacking in 1979.

Additional to the study of Sweden, another study performed by Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan states that:

'Children smacked up to the age of six were likely as teenagers to perform better at school and were more likely to carry out volunteer work and to want to go to university than their peers who had never been physically disciplined. (Gunnoe M, Unpublished)'

Marjorie Gunnoe points out that physical discipline is seen to have a positive effect compared to no physical discipline at all. Just because a child does not like to be smacked, it doesn’t mean that a blanket ban on physical discipline will help to improve society. It simply gives some children the courage to be disobedient towards their parents and others. In addition, if a child is raised not caring about the discipline they receive and simply do as they please then there isn’t much to prevent them from carrying this careless attitude into adulthood.

Lastly, if a child has been physically disciplined in the past then this may act as a deterrent for the future. Just as the thought of a prison sentence may stop people from committing crimes, the fear of being smacked may make a child think twice about the way they act. If a child is smacked from a young age, then it is possible that, once a little older, they would no longer require physical discipline as they have been made aware of the possible consequences of their actions i.e. a smack. However, without that initial phase of physical discipline that child may not have an understanding of what their parents’ would allow or forbid. Worse than that is, they may not even care for the consequences at all. Moreover, for those children who grow up with the fear of physical discipline from the figure of authority within their home may even transfer this fear later on in life to a fear of the authorities within the community that they live in thus acting as deterrence for future crimes.

In conclusion, with physical discipline parents can come across as being the figure of authority within the child’s life to attain a position from which to effectively steer that child’s life. Physical discipline can help to develop a child into becoming a thoughtful, empathic adult that understands and respects the norms of society and it can act as a useful deterrent for future misbehaviour, extending even into crime prevention.

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    • FranyaBlue profile image

      Jacqueline 7 years ago from London, England

      Thanks Rafini for taking the time to read it! It is a very difficult topic because hardly anyone has a single view on it i.e. it's wrong/right, people tend to sit somewhere between the two and it always depends on the situation.

    • Rafini profile image

      Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      Hope you got an A! It is interesting - with the increase in abuse awareness the very idea of smacking your children became a weapon for children to use against their well-meaning parents. How else do you establish authority when you have a 2 yr old throwing toys on their new infant sibling? It's a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing. :)