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Why smacking your toddler should be against the law.

DOES slapping your child do any harm? I'd thought times had changed but it seems a surprising number of people don't think there's anything wrong with physical discipline.

As my son's peer group is entering into tantrum territory this issue has become a hot topic.

And I'm shocked by how many people think its ok to "give a little slap".

It's hard to know what to do with a screaming toddler. But one thing I'll never do is hit my son.

Even when he's screaming uncontrollably and lashing out at me.

Because if I hit him I'd feel I had as little control as a toddler and that'd be pathetic.

Apparently though a lot of parents don't agree with me.

Recently a study by the Children's Society showed less than one in seven adults think that slapping a child poses a very high risk to their welfare.

The survey, carried out among 2,047 adults, asked them to identify the biggest risks for youngsters aged six to 15 in six 'scenarios'.

Fourteen per cent think slapping a child on the legs as punishment is a very high risk to them, and 33% consider it a high risk.

Which leaves a lot who think it is acceptable.

The charity's chief executive Bob Reitemeyer commented: "Children are the only group of people in this country who can be legally hit on a regular basis by others with little protection in law."

I fully support The Children's Society stand on the topic. It was one of the charities that joined political campaigners in pressing the government to outlaw smacking.

The result was the 2004 Children's Act, which preserves the right to smack but makes it a crime to inflict any injury, physical or mental, on a child in doing so.

But I don't think it went far enough. I think smacking should be made illegal.

While I wouldn't like to criminalise those of my friends and acquaintances who do use physical punishment I'd prefer to live in a society like Sweden's where smacking is outlawed, and there is a very low incidence of child deaths due to mistreatment at the hands of their carers - unlike Britain where we have the Baby P and Victoria Climbi cases, and a significantly higher number of child maltreatment deaths.

I'm not being sensationalist here. At the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbi, the NSPCC submitted evidence saying Victoria's brutal treatment at the hands of Marie-Thrse Kouao and Karl Manning had started with a few 'slaps' to instill discipline.

Of course most people who slap do not abuse.

But the cycle of abuse would be less likely to begin if physical punishments were outlawed.

My own parents never meted out any physical punishments on me.

And as I'm a woman I grew up without the playground fights the boys seemed to have.

I'm lucky, my experience of any physical pain meted out by someone else is pretty much zero.

In fact I can remember the two times I've been hit, neither causing anything more than a slightly red cheek, with absolute clarity.

So to me the idea of inflicting physical pain on someone as a punishment is totally alien.

And I'm at a loss as to how it can help them to improve their behaviour. If someone lashes out then surely a child's immediate response would be to want to lash out right back at them? I understand the need to create boundaries of behaviour for a child but there are surely better ways of doing it than hitting them? Giving a hitting response to a child means they learn it is an acceptable way to communicate frustration or anger. And there is the very problematic issue that while most parents will use "gentle slapping", if there is such a thing, some parents will be unable to control their own anger and their hitting crosses the line into abuse.

I don't see why there is any need at all to approach the line.

Children simply don't need physical punishment. A parent who is consistent with their response to a child's behaviour will get a far better response than someone who uses physical punishment.

I applaud the use of the naughty step, and parents who make themselves calm down before enforcing boundaries with their children.

It is a fact that families who normalise physical punishments are more likely to bring up children who think it is acceptable to issue these types of punishment themselves.

I know there are parents out there who use smacking or slapping as a rare physical punishment successfully, but personally I think it is a dangerous parenting tool.

I won't hit my son and I don't want him to hit other people.

I want him to see physical punishments, and all sorts of violence, as wrong, and to be shocked by it. I certainly don't ever want him to see violence as a normal response.

Many people might disagree with me but personally I'd rather see us living in a system where violence against children has a zero tolerance response than one where children are subjected to violence.

If you hit someone over the age of 18 you can face prison. If you hit someone under 18 then that's fine? Where's the sense in that? FIVE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR FAMILY THIS WEEK The much loved children's book Guess How Much I Love You comes to the stage at Playhouse Whitley Bay. Running from tomorrow until Saturday, tickets cost pounds 12.50 adults, pounds 9.50 children and a family ticket is available for pounds 39, go to www.playhousewhitleybay.co.uk 0844 2772771.

Dinosaurs: This weekend visit Old Fulling Mill between 11am and 4pm and enjoy making a fossil footprint and a scary T-Rex.

Children under five go free, adults pounds 1.50, children and over 60s pay 75p, www.dur.ac.uk/fulling.mill/, 0191 3341823.

Mischief and Mayhem Week at Seven Stories: Horrid Henry is back to wreak havoc with messy craft activities including gruesome glop recipes and making mischievous motor cars to race on the Seven Stories track.

Running from Saturday through the week, there will be gross storytimes at 11.30am and 2pm with appearances from Horrid Henry himself!

Go to www.sevenstories.org.uk, 0845 271 0777.

Tyneside Cinema's Bringing in Baby is a programme of screenings for the parents and carers of young babies with the lights up a touch and the sound down a little, j ust for the comfort of your youngster. Screenings are every Wednesday and Sunday at 11am so all the family can come along, www.tynesidecinema.co.uk, 0845 217 9909.

Fort to Fort Walk 2010: Are your ready to walk the walk!? The Fort to Fort Walk is a free guided tour from Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields to Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum in Wallsend. Parents and children can take in the sites and stop for lunch amongst beautiful scenery, www.twmuseums.org.uk/arbeia, 0191 236 9347.

CAPTION(S):

LOTS TO DO FOR KIDS Mischief and Mayhem Week at Seven Stories SMACKING IS WRONG A young child holding an anti-smacking placard on a march to Downing Street
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2010
Words:1200
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