A Problem Shared: Is Smacking A Child Ok?


A Problem Shared Parenting & Family Advice | by | 10th Mar 2017

crying child - A Problem Shared: Is Smacking A Child Ok?

Is smacking a child ok? Annie is finding it hard to discipline her children and wants to know. Do you have any advice for this week’s A Problem Shared…?

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Hi FamilyPoint,

I’m wondering if you can help clear something up for me please to do with smacking. I have three children aged three, five and seven and sometimes things can be hard when they are arguing or misbehaving. I’ve found myself very close to smacking them a few times and have managed to stop myself.

I was hit as a child and I think it worked because I was scared of getting that smack so behaved better. I’m finding it really hard to get my children to behave at the moment. The naughty step doesn’t seem to work anymore and I’ve banned things until there’s nothing left to ban. The thing is I don’t know if it’s illegal or not now.

I’ve heard so many different things about it from that you can be arrested to that it’s absolutely fine to hit your own child. Not that I want to get into the habit of hitting them, but I do wonder if a little smack would get them to behave better. Can you help please?

Annie, Cardiff

Our FamilyPoint Advice to Annie

Hi Annie,

Thank you for contacting Family Point, you certainly do have your hands full with 3 young children and it is good that you are looking for guidance regarding your childrens behaviour and how you tackle this.

At the ages of 3, 5 and 7 your children are testing the boundaries and are still learning right from wrong. You say that you have managed to stop yourself from smacking them so far. It is really good that you have consciously made the effort to find other methods of dealing with their behaviour.

The law

According to the law under Section 58 of the Children Act 2004, it is unlawful for a parent to smack their child unless it is seen as ‘reasonable punishment’ – but this is not completely defined. Each circumstance is taken into consideration; the nature of the smack; the age of the child etc. It is considered ‘unreasonable’ if it leaves a mark on the child or if something was used to hit the child, such as a belt. There are many campaigns trying to change the law, being led by organisations such as the NSPCC who want a complete ban on ‘reasonable punishment’.

Although you wonder if a little smack would get them to behave better, do you think it would teach your children how you want them to behave?

Alternatives to smacking

You may have already tried some of these, but if not, try some of the suggestions below:

  • Always praise good behaviour – the children will know when they do things right
  • Give lots of love and warmth – reward good behaviour with hugs and kisses
  • Use humour to distract the children from whatever they are doing wrong
  • Be a good role model
  • Totally ignore bad behaviour
  • Criticise the behaviour NOT your child
  • Make sure rules and limits are clear and simple to understand
  • Time out – remove things that the children enjoy such as the TV
  • Let them be involved in decision making – like what should happen if they are being naughty

There are many reasons not to smack your children as it could lead to them hitting or bullying others. It could even make their behaviour worse and what could you do then? It could also encourage your child to lie to avoid being smacked or lead to them being resentful or angry.

So far you are doing really well looking for other ways of dealing with your children. If you need further help contact our helpline on the details below. Here are some links that may also be helpful to you.

If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.

The FamilyPoint Cymru Team


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