To smack or not to smack: it's a highly controversial topic and one that many people take very seriously. When it comes to disciplining children with physical force, some are calling for an outright ban, while others argue that we're becoming too soft and yielding to our kids.
Discipline or child abuse?
In fact, the issue is so topical that it featured on ABC drama The Slap recently. Adapted from the novel written by Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas, the series explores the conflicting schools of thought when a three-year-old boy is slapped by another adult after he acts out of line at a group get-together. The repercussions are huge, friends are divided and it makes for a very interesting exploration of the opposing views.
The debate is still raging in Australia's political sphere. Some experts say we're lagging behind by not making smacking illegal, arguing that in some cases it can lead to child abuse. But others say that by outlawing smacking, this would allow the government to take over the parental role and interfere with parents' decision-making rights and responsibilities.
Even the scientific studies are divisive in their answers. One study published in the journal Social Development found that physical force as a form of punishment can reduce a child's ability to think on their feet and modify their actions accordingly.
However, another study conducted by a professor of psychology at Calvin College in the U.S. argued that kids who were smacked up to the age of six were more optimistic about their lives, more likely to do volunteer work and performed better at school when they were teenagers than those who weren't. Those who were smacked after the age of six, however, were also found to be more likely to exhibit behavioural problems.
To smack or not to smack
For the time being, the decision to smack or not to smack in Australia is up to the parent. But here's a little more food for thought:
- Do you ever use smacking to release your own frustrations?
- Could you discipline your child just as effectively through discussion?
- Has your child ever retaliated by hitting you back?
- If you do use physical force to discipline your children, where do you draw the line? What is the difference between a smack, a slap and a punch?
- Are you playing on a fear factor when you smack your child?
- Is smacking the only form of discipline your child will respond to when they're in a hysterical or worked-up state?
- Would you consider it OK for another adult to smack your child?