I don't care what you say, I won't smack my children

When Little N was just ten months old, we were at a family gathering. He had only just starting learning how to use cutlery, and I was pretty proud of his efforts. I was eating my dessert when he toddled over to me, gave me a big grin, and took the spoon out of my bowl.

A relative immediately said, "you need to smack him."


I nearly choked on my cheesecake. 

For a start, Little N hadn't done anything wrong. He was learning how to use cutlery, and as all parents know children learn a lot from copying us adults, so I let him take my spoon. But even if he had done something wrong, what would smacking him have achieved? Especially a ten month old baby?

A debate ensued between us, because there was no way I was going to smack my son. Not then, not ever. And another relative who was in the room said, "well, I was smacked and it never did me any harm".

Now this second person doesn't have children yet, but he is always sharing videos and memes on Facebook on the topic of discipline. Videos that are pro "spanking", as our American friends call it. Memes that said things like "I was smacked and it left me with a condition called respect". A video of a girl having her hair shaved off by her mother for bullying another child, which he shared with a comment along the lines of "well done to this mum being a badass, I'd do the same to my child". 

What the...?

Out of all the things that we parents have to think about when we're bringing up children, out of all the things we wonder about for our children's future, the only thing he seems to be concerned about for his kids, is how he's going to punish them by hurting and humiliating them if they do something wrong.

I was smacked by my mother when I was a child. And all I learned was, don't get caught. It didn't teach me why I shouldn't have been doing what I was doing. Just that I had better make sure I didn't get caught next time. I was fearful of my mother, more so of my stepfather, and I have little respect for them even to this day.

My dad on the other hand, never smacked me. I only saw my dad on weekends, and there was rarely ever cause to discipline me. But whenever he did need to, he would sit me down and talk to me. He'd explain why I shouldn't have done what I did, and why it was wrong. He'd explain why I shouldn't do it again. And do you know what, I didn't do it again. 

My children are not angels - I doubt anyone's are - because it is normal for youngters to want to and try to push boundaries. I won't smack them though, as it doesn't teach them right from wrong. In fact it makes them more likely to develop aggressive behaviours themselves. If we discipline our children with physical harm, then the message we are sending is that when they are unhappy with a situation violence is the answer. After all, children learn from the examples we set. 

Often "pro-spankers" argue that by not physically punishing our children, we are raising generations of ill-mannered, badly behaved children who grow up to become ill-mannered, badly behaved adults. But actually, it seems the opposite is true. There is a growing body of data that shows a link between smacking and crime rates. The decrease in smacking correlates to a decrease in violent crime. 

I'm not a perfect mother, but I try to be a good role model and teach my children by example. I do my best to make sure that our rules and limits are clear. And if my children are behaving naughtily, which they inevitably do, then there are consequences to their actions. Most importantly, I talk to them so they understand why their behaviour was wrong. I simply do not want to hurt my kids. There is no need. So I don't care what you say, I won't smack my children.

What are your views? Have you experienced people conflicting with your parenting choices?


43 comments

  1. This is perfect and so well written Sian. It's old fashioned and stupid and yes just maybe not showing then violence as children could make them grow up non violent too = better world all round xxx

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    1. What a wonderful world that could be - just imagine!x

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  2. Great post.

    If I smack my child for doing something I don't want him/her to do, guess what he/she will do to anyone who doesn't follow their rules!?!?

    I don't smack my children but I do raise my voice and occasionally shout (I'm only human after all). Once they are older (my first two are 13 and 10) it becomes easier to have an actual conversation about why they shouldn't do certain things, whether they listen to you at that age is another matter... ��

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    1. Thanks Kate. Yes I'm sure they'll roll their eyes and shuffle off when they're older, but hopefully it will still all be going in! x

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  3. I could go on about this topic too. I am not a mother but I am strictly against discipling children with violence. It makes no sense to me. Attempting to teach children to respect others and not to solve conflicts with violence, yet raising them with violence at home?! I was on the receiving end throughout my childhood and even as a teenager. And I can guarantee that it was not violence that helped teach me "how to behave". The effects of it were that I simply came to lose respect for my parents, became normalized to violence, and feared them. There are several studies about the consequences and effectiveness (or lack thereof) of disciplining with violence. Children don't really learn or internalize their actions or behavior if you smack them every time they do something wrong. They stop engaging in certain behaviors because of pure fear of the punishment and violence (like classical conditioning). Basically children change their behavior out of fear and in order to avoid the aggression, not because they actually learned anything.

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    1. I'm sorry to read that you experienced this as a child :( It's really very sad when you think that children change their behaviour out of fear... Out of everyone in the world the last people a child should fear is their parents. Thanks so much for your comment x

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  4. LOVE this piece.
    I once read a meme that said
    Friend: My parents smacked me and I turned out okay
    Me: If you think that hitting children is fine, you didn't turn out okay

    When it comes to disciplining my son, I like to think "Would I do this to an adult?" It makes me stop and think about him as a person and someone who, even though he may only be one, deserves my respect. Thanks for bringing awareness to this topic! <3

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  5. I was at a baby shower last year and everyone talked about hitting their kids and it made me uncomfortable. I kid you not, one person said, "I am so glad you smack your kids".

    One of the women recounted tales of how good at lying she became and how she once lied about something that resulted in her sister LITERALLY not being able to sit down because she had been smacked so hard.

    I just dont understand how anyone can think it's a good form of discipline.

    Ps - just like you, my mum was a smacker and I have no respect for her. My brother and I often talk about the things we remember from childhood and her "discipline" is well remembered. I don't remember my dad ever hitting me though, I remember the nice things about my dad... As a result I have more respect for him and he has a better relationship with Oliver than my mum does (even though he lives in Spain!)

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  6. I hate it when other people feel the need to tell how you to deal with your children! And it's shocking that somebody told you to smack a 10 month old child! What would have happened if you did smack him? Your child would have screamed the place down, and then people would have still been judging you, and people would judge you FOR smacking! You can't please everyone and you don't have to either; I think that you did the right thing by doing it YOUR way. Parenting is a personal thing and as long as you have your children's best interests at hearts, that's what matters x #sharingthebloglove

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  7. I love this and I felt the same when I was growing up - I would just be a little more cunning so my mum didn't catch me. It didn't teach me anything! With my stepson, who is now 12 - he recently got into trouble at school and talking to him about it was far more effective. Good on you for sticking to your guns, in what must have been a pressurised situation with relatives - only you know your family and no-one should be able to tell you how you should parent x #sharingthebloglove

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  8. My counter to 'it never did me any harm' is always 'did it do you any good?' I don't believe that smacking teaches children anything. I would much rather that my child learns that hitting is never acceptable, and that talking issues through is the right way to behave. Thanks so much for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

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  9. I was smacked as a child and the fact that I remember it and the reasons why show that it has stuck with me for all the wrong reasons. I don't want that for my children, I don't want to see them try to protect themselves from the smack, like I did. It would break my heart to see my children scared of me. It doesn't teach them anything and they end up with mixed messages. Thank you for joining us for #SharingtheBlogLove Laura X

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  10. Fear doesn't teach a kid anything other than aggression. It's fairly easy to reprimand a kid without resorting to physical violence. I firmly believe in praise and rewarding good behaviour.

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  11. I can't believe this family member of yours has the nerve to be like this and argue it with you. I don't agree with smacking either and if there is a non violent solution then obviously it's the right course of action. Being able to chat and discuss things with your children clearly needs teaching to some parents! #sharethenloglove

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  12. To be honest Sian, not many things make me VERY frustrated and angry but this topic is one of them. How on earth can we expect our children not to resort to violence if they've been smacked themselves?? Violence is NOT the answer and never will be. Talking on a level is. End of. Anyone who smacks our little girl, even so much as a tap on the back of the legs or hand, would see a very different side of me.

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  13. I'm with you all the way on this one! I would never ever undermine my childrens' trust in me by smacking them, I feel bad enough when I lose my temper and shout! Fostering a positive and close relationship is what will ensure that the trust goes both ways between you and your children. #sharingthebloglove

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  14. I feel so strongly about this subject and this post is so well written. I agree with every word.
    How do you teach a child not to smack by smacking them?
    I could never physically harm my children it would only teach them to fear me and I never want any one I love to fear me.
    Thank you for this post.

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  15. I have three boys and would never spank them, we talk and they know right from wrong and we take things away if needed. But as you do I feel children must understand why it's wrong rather then just feeling pain. I want my children to feel they can talk to me not be scared of my reaction #sundaybest

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  16. This is a great post- I have to admit that before I had kids whenever the topic of smacking children came up I was always one of the ones with the answer of 'I was smacked as a child and it did me no harm'. But since having children I couldn't even imagine inflicting such pain on my them! I can sometimes lose my temper and shout, i'm only human after all, but I could never raise my hand to them, it achieves nothing. I remember crying myself to sleep after being smacked and the hatred I felt towards my parents, I would never want that for my babies. xx #SundayBest

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  17. Brilliant post I won't smack my children I have always believed it's medicine for parents thanks for hosting #mysundaybest

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  18. My little girl is 10 months old and I couldn't even imagine smacking her. I will not ever do it.

    #SundayBest

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  19. The world is changing so much and so are parenting practices. I'm always told by relatives that my eldest needs discipling, and he does, but I prefer to use methods that don't physically cause him any harm - I don't know why people have such a problem with this. Also, the story of the mother shaving her daughters head for bullying - WAY too far! How horrible. #SundayBest

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  20. Great post Sian. It's always good to hear other people's views on things like this.

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  21. Totally agree - aggression and violence only lead to more of the same, whether it's in the home or on the international stage. Children need to learn that actions have consequences, but you can do that without hitting them. x #sundaybest

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  22. It's a difficult one really. I have been smacked a couple of times but I think I deserved it at the time. I always said that if my kids were naughty, they will be smacked as well. Now, the situation you described doesn't need smacking! I think it depends of the circunstances really, but I am not saying 100% no to smacking. #SundayBest

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  23. Great to hear other people's opinions on this, great post! it's a tough one when you may have been hit as a child yourself but inflicting your children of pain is not something must parents would want to do! xx #sundaybest

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  24. Isn't having an opinion on this just yet another way of judging parents? I'm not for or against smacking persay as I think it depends on context, culture, background, circumstances etc. I personally wouldn't have hit a 10-month-old for taking my spoon though.

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    1. Not at all; it's a post about why *I* don't smack *my* children, not a post about smacking in general. But then again you always get people who get defensive if you say you do something differently, so I'm sure there will be some that take it as judgmental.

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  25. I totally agree with this! There are far more effective ways to discipline children, as much as they can push you sometimes. I have a very fiesty 2 year old who loves a tantrum, and the best way to deal with it is just to ignore it I find!

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  26. I often hear that saying "I was smacked as a child and it did me no harm" and it infuriates me. I guess I come from a slightly different perspective, let me explain. I was smacked as a child, not often and not beaten in any means. But what it taught me was that my parents smack me because "I DESERVED IT" and "THEY DO IT BECAUSE THEY LOVE ME". Truth be told they did it because they knew no better, because they were carrying forth what they had been taught and told. For me it blurred the lines, I thought someone who loved you could smack you. At 18 I ended up in an abusive relationship. Of course he didn't start out beating me, I fell in love (or what I thought was love) and believe d he was in love with me (it was more an obsession). Over time he grew more and more abusive, but I deserved it didn't I? He loved me right? NO!!!! But for me these lines were blurred. It got so bad, I was isolated from all friends and family, I won't go into the details any further, but I knew once I left him that I would never hit anyone, I would never ever do that. I vowed that if I ever had children they would never be smacked.
    When hubby and I were first dating we disused how one day we both wanted children. I made it clear right from then that I would never smack my children and whoever I chose to have my children with would have to agree to never smack them either.
    When I had Aspen I told my family how I would not be smacking her, my parents openly told me they were worried my kids would be 'naughty'!
    I now have 3 children aged 12, 9 and 6. Everyone comments on how well behaved they are! Years ago my mum came to me and said how wrong she had been, ow she wished she had known better when she was a young mum. I explain to my children when their behaviour is inappropriate and why, and they listen, they respect me and their father, and they never have to fear being hit!

    Sorry for going on, it's just a subject that really stirs up feelings in me. Great post!

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  27. Great read. It is so annoying when others try and tell you how to discipline your children, completely unnecessary x #sundaybest

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  28. 100% agree with you Sian, I get the "it did us no harm" argument from my family members all the time and the "they'll never learn otherwise..." but I completely disagree - no it may not have physically scarred me or even emotionally but I do remember the fear I felt of my parents and I don't want my kids to fear me, at all. Even if it's in the interest of making them "behave". #SundayBest

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  29. Fab post lovely! I totally agree with your thoughts 100% xx

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  30. This is a great post! I have to say I am shocked by your experience with your family member! It's very naive of me, but I didn't even think many people thought smacking was a 'thing' any more. It just seems so old fashioned and ill informed. There is so much research now, as you say, showing that positive parenting and empathy has a much greater impact on children than punishments of any kind. This was a good read - thank you! And good for you for not being intimidated about discussing it! x

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  31. I was never smacked as a child and therefore I will never smack my child. This was always apparent to me from the way I was disciplined, that you don't need to smack your children to be able to discipline them. It was made even more apparent to me when I first started my job, I work with children with challenging behaviours and obviously I can't physically hurt them and wouldn't want to. Despite this I have seen that it's possible to change their behaviour so why smack when there are alternatives? It baffles me that anyone would want to grunt their child.

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  32. I do believe interfering and passing comment on disciplining other peoples children is not something other people should offer their tuppence on. Of course if you witness excess violence etc. you should intervene but it is a minefield. I personally have smacked my child, and no I do not feel guilty about it. I do believe that at short sharp shock is a useful tool, I'm not talking a beating just a smack to the legs once and firmly not painfully. That said if you do not believe it to the right thing to do that is your right. I think the problems between the pros and nots arise when you have the extremes at both ends. Someone who states that they do not smack their children but then proceed to allow them to run riot and do not discipline them in any way are just as damaging as people who use excessive violence. But like I said to each their own and I find the 'it didn't do me any harm brigade' as irritating as everyone else, but mainly because they tend to think they have a right to comment on other peoples children. I was physically chastised as a child by both my parents, but like me it was not often. As for the situation you described with the spoon in what universe would that be a situation where you would smack a child?

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  33. I completely agree with you. It is so wrong. I, too, was smacked as a child and all it did was make me fear the person who was doing it. Whenever I was caught doing anything wrong, I would anticipate a smack and shake like a leaf, and the rare occasion when I wasn't smacked I was confused and didn't think I was being told off. I never want my children to fear me in that way. I also learnt violence. I grew up where I wasn't scared to have 'a fight' with anyone, and used to stick up for myself physically a lot, which meant I was always in trouble at school. All I had been taught is that if someone bullied me or hit me, I hit them back. I can't imagine Oscar going through his life like that. I would feel like I had failed him as a parent :(

    Keep doing what you're doing, violence is definitely not the answer, regardless of how many people 'it didn't harm' X

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  34. Thankyou for writing this! I am completely against smacking and come across this argument weekly due to people believing no smacking=no respect. It makes me sad that our society still behaves in this way- especially when there is scientific research and evidence to show the negative impact smacking has on children. And at what point does it stop being smacking and turn into domestic violence? It is a fine line that I know personally I will not be dancing on. Chloe

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  35. Great post Sian and beautifully written. It's not just a case of 'I was smacked and it didn't do me any harm.' When we were growing up, it was the norm, it wasn't right, but it was a normal and acceptable form of punishment. Nowadays, it isn't. Times have changed and smacking is no longer acceptable and rightly so. I agree, that whilst I was smacked as a child, it just made me scared of my mother, rather than teaching me what I'd done wrong and why. Your father's approach was by far the most effective and is exactly how I try to discipline my children. How can a child change their behaviour if they don't know what they did wrong in the first place x

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  36. Good for you for addressing such a controversial topic. I'm totally with you on this one. We don't smack here, there are other ways to deal with problems. Personally I think when you've gone to snacking, that's when you've lost control. Much better to take a minute and take stock. Just because you don't smack doesn't mean you are permissive.

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  37. Great post. I am also against hitting your children. There are plenty of other effective behaviour management techniques which doesn't involved hitting your child. I think it's lazy parenting!

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  38. I do not condone nor engage in any form of violence against children. I think it's archaic and doesn't make any sense. It appears that lots of people do think it's okay to smack children and that's up to them.

    There has to be another way to teach children right from wrong and the big contradiction that is smacking children isn't the way for me.

    Loved hearing your point of view!

    Cyran

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  39. We do have to be careful how we phrase it as well. Smacking and spanking sounds really bad. Nobody would do that to their children.
    I have little patience and just like any other mother lose it a lot and shout and they get time out. But there are other factors why they act the way they act. Tiredness, hungry etc. There's always a reason behind it. Siblings are always up to more mischief too. That's what I learnt from my two.

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