OPINION: Even the lightest smack still sends out wrong parenting message

It is never right to smack a child, says Rachel Moore.

It is never right to smack a child, says Rachel Moore. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Smacking a small child either indicates a temper lash-out, a loss of control or a nasty calculated infliction of violence on a vulnerable person.

How can any of the above ever be justified as an act of love?

How can we tolerate this as legal practice in a civilised society in 2022?

If a mother hits another woman, it is an attack, a crime, an assault. So why would she have a defence in law for hitting her three-year-old?

To hit a child as a punishment for stepping out of line can only teach that child to hit out if they witness some sort of wrongdoing.

Meting out physical punishment isn’t only fundamentally wrong; it is befuddling for small people trying to make sense of the world and right and wrong. Confusing children is harmful.

I remember witnessing a parent many years ago smacking her child because he had hit another boy at a playgroup. How is a pre-school age child supposed to understand why he was being hit as punishment for hitting someone else?

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How did his mother expect he could unravel that his hit was a wrong hit but his mother’s was a ‘good hit’ dealt out of love?

Any hit is abuse and violence and using the terminology ‘smack’ to try to diminish violent connotations doesn’t wash with savvy public opinion. ‘Physical chastisement’ is Victorian and has no place in 2022 society,

The dictionary definition of smack is a sharp slap or a blow – to strike someone, all wrong demanding zero tolerance and a government ban. There’s no grey area.

Children’s ‘tsar’ and former Norfolk head teacher and chief executive of the Inspiration Trust Rachel de Souza wants England to follow Scotland and Wales and ban it.

But education secretary Nadhim Zahwi says parents should be trusted to discipline their children.

He insists there is a “very big difference” between "child abuse where we have really strong protections and strong legislations.

He is missing the point. The "light smack on the arm for a child by parent" is still a blow. What’s the parenting message? Big person intimidates and hits small person.

Hardly a rational life lesson.

It is not about nannying families– it’s about protecting children who cannot protect themselves and teaching right from wrong. We all know parents cannot be trusted on many things. News headlines tell that day in day out.

Why would anyone want it to be is my question?

It can never be interpreted as just, reasonable, and defendable?

Dame Rachel is spot on when she speaks against any violence of any kind against children.

“Because children are more vulnerable than adults, I think we do need to ensure that their rights are supported.”

It’s long overdue that parents can hit children with a legal defence of “reasonable punishment” and does not leave a red mark or involve use of an “implement” like a cane or belt.

Yet, time and time again, ministers ignore public opinion and choose not to outlaw smacking, when hitting anyone else is illegal.

If it’s not designed to hurt a child, why choose it as a punishment in the first place? To humiliate? Is humiliation of children every right either?

To most people, deliberately hurting a child is against every bone and sinew of a parent.

More than 60 nations have legislated against physical punishment of children.

Increasingly a minority in Europe, England sits alongside Russia and Belarus to resist a smacking ban. in the last 15 years Colombia, Nepal and Mongolia have brought in bans.

Parenting demands innovation to bring children up to know right from wrong. It’s the hardest most demanding job in the world. Tempers can be tested daily, but it’s never a quick fix.

Childline offered 500 counselling sessions last year to children who had been smacked or hit by parents and carers

It is banned in children’s homes, schools, and childcare settings – so children must be protected by the law in their own homes.

The spare the rod, spoil and child mantra of people who claim beatings never did them any harm brigade is just piffle

Read the room, government, and give children the protection of the law they deserve.


Calorie count kills fun of eating out

Part of the fun of eating out is pushing the boat out, choosing something you don’t make at home and enjoying a treat.

It’s not always about ‘making the right choices’ for fewer calories. We try to do that at home every day.

So, adding the number of calories to every menu dish is like sitting down in a beautiful restaurant amid a nasty pong. It kills the vibe.

I totally get the need to educate people about what they eat – and who doesn’t enjoy pointing out that the previously imagined ‘healthy salad’ carries more fat and calories from the sauce drenching the lettuce than a pizza, or that opting for mashed potato instead of chips means consuming twice the calories. Always a conversation starter.

But it puts pressure on chefs to be more inventive with calorie smart food so diners can get the satisfaction and buzz for the least damage.

With the cost-of-living crisis limiting families’ ‘treats’ people are going to be far choosier about going out, but we need to address the obesity crisis.

I’d prefer the content of my restaurant meals to be an enticing lottery.