There has been much swirling debate in social media about spanking…whether or not it is okay to do it, if it makes good parenting sense, if good parents do it…and today I learned that there are get-along shirts that encapsulate upset and arguing or fighting children into a large shirt against their will as punishment.
It is truly difficult to take care of children, and many of us fall back on the parenting strategies we learned from our parents….even when or if that feels very wrong to us….because we are frustrated, have run out of ideas and we go for what we know from embedded memory.
This is an international question. As early as the 1920’s the international
http://www.un-documents.net/gdrc1924.htm community saw a need to address the treatment of children all over the world.
The UN Rights of the Child (full text here)
was born because people understood children are vulnerable and need our protection. In 1989 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Treaty was signed by every country in the world but the US and Somalia. Since then there has been slow yet determined work in the international community to end the abuse and mistreatment of children. Spanking has been made against the law in many countries. The work continues. Read more here:
This is what some children, aged 5-8, in the UK answered when interviewed about spanking. It is from the End Corporal Punishment website link above. In the UK, people don’t call it spanking, they call it smacking. This is what kids have to say about the issue. Please “get little” and listen to the kids.
What is smacking?
‘It’s like very hard hitting and it hurts you’ (6 year old girl)
‘something what hurts people’
‘grown ups hit you with their hand – it’s something hard’ (7 year old girl)
‘it really hurts’ (5 year old girl)
‘A smack is when people hit you and it stings and I cry’ (5 year-old girl)
‘it’s when someone is cross with you they hit you and it hurts’ (7 year old girl)
‘[a smack is] parents trying to hit you, [but] instead of calling [it] a hit they call it a smack’ (7 year-old girl)
Why do you think children get smacked?
‘When people have been naughty and they ‘re fighting they get smacked by [their] mum or dad’ (6 year-old boy)’
‘[Children get smacked] when you fight with other people, when you throw stones and things’ (7 year old boy)
‘maybe [you] do painting on the carpet [or] drawing on the settee [or] not tidying your room up — if you play with paint and get it on something. And if you knock your mum’s favourite glass over and it smashes’ (5 year-old girl)
‘well, if it was time to tidy up your room and you only had an hour and you wasted all the hour reading books, you could get smacked’ (6 year-old boy)
‘because their parents tell them not to do something and they do it’ (7 year old girl)
Who usually smacks children?
‘well, I think mostly family and sometimes friends who get quite cross with you like [your] mum and dad, grandma and granddad and friends that live quite near here, in the same street’ (6 year-old girl)
‘their parents or your mummy or your daddy or your granddad or your auntie or your grandma or people in your house – a big person has to hit a little person because they ‘re naughty’ (5 year-old girl)
‘sometimes your uncles and aunties are there and your mum and dads are there they can smack you really hard or they can smack you with a cane’ (5 year-old girl)
‘usually their parents and relations and occasionally you might get a teacher’ (7 year-old girl)
‘your parents usually smack you and if your auntie is annoyed with you she might smack – or [it can be] any of your family’ (6 year-old boy)
‘thieves, kidnappers, mums and dads [and] nasty men’ (5 year-old boy)
Where do children usually get smacked?
‘[children get smacked] in a corner because the parents wouldn’t want to do it so everyone could see cos then [the children] might call someone else and they might come and take the children so they’ll go in a corner and smack’ (6 year-old boy)
‘at home or normally where nobody else is’ (7 year-old boy)
‘if there were thousands of people looking, then [the] mum as well as the child will get very embarrassed probably it would be a bit rude to do it in front of everybody (7 year-old boy)
‘when you go shopping and take something and you go and ask your parents and your parents will hit you and embarrass you’ (5 year old girl)
‘on my bum, on my face, on my head and on my arm and on the belly and on the legs’ (5 year-old girl)
‘I think children usually get smacked on the side of their face or on their tummy. Sometimes it depends how they were. If they were really naughty, it would be on their bottom but sometimes it’s usually on their hands’ (7 year-old)
‘[they] hit you on the head where they’re not supposed to hit you’ (7 year-old boy)
What does it feel like to be smacked?
‘it feels like someone banged you with a hammer’ (5 year old girl)
‘it hurts and it’s painful inside – it’s like breaking your bones’ (7 year old girl)
‘it’s like when you ‘re in the sky and you ‘re falling to the ground and you just hurt yourself’ (7 year old boy)
[It feels] like someone’s punched you or kicked you or something’ (6 year old boy)
‘[Children feel] grumpy and sad and also really upset inside’ (5 year old girl)
‘[It] hurts your feelings inside’ (7 year old girl)
‘You feel you don’t like your parents anymore’ (7 year old girl)
‘it feels, you feel sort of as though you want to run away because they ‘re sort of like being mean to you and it hurts a lot’ (7 year old girl)
‘when you get smacked sometimes we get angry because sometimes when my mum smacks me you get angry’ (6 year old boy)
‘it feels like [they] shouldn’t have done that, it hurts. It feels embarrassed, it feels like you are really sorry and it hurts’ (7 year old girl)
‘I think it probably makes you feel ashamed inside’ (7 year old girl)
‘it hurts people and it doesn’t feel nice and people don’t like it when they are smacked’ (5 year old)
‘[It makes you] grumpy and sad and also really upset inside. And really hurt (5 year-old girl)
‘Sometimes may feel that inside like their tummy hurts’ (5 year-old boy)
‘You’re hurt and it makes you cry [and] drips come out of your eyes’ (5 year-old girl)
How do children act after they have been smacked?
‘Cry, and sometimes if they haven ‘t got a handle on their door in their bedrooms – like I haven’t – they lock themselves inside’ (5 year-old boy)
‘They cry, also they weep [and] they might think their parents are silly’ (5 year-old girl)
‘Sometimes they get sent to bed. They start crying. And sometimes I get sent to bed and I get no tea later’ (6 year-old boy)
‘They might cry, they might get upset and they might have to go to bed’ (6 year-old girl)
‘they act naughty and start to hurt people… they’re very angry and the adult thinks they can do as he wants (5 year-old girl)
‘Some of them if they’re really naughty they do the same mistake again and if they’re good they learn from their mistake’ (6 year-old boy)
‘Try and do their hardest to try and get it right or don’t do it again’ (7 year-old girl)
‘Sometimes they just keep quiet, because they feel really embarrassed and sometimes they just try to be good and try to do the best thing… it actually depends what you have been smacked for’ (7 year-old girl)
‘They get angry and grumpy and cross with their mummies’ (5 year-old girl)
‘I’ve thought of another answer — if they’re very little, they might think it’s right to smack and go off and smack somebody else’ (7 year-old girl)
How do adults act after they have given a smack?
‘they sort of walk around very fast’ (5 year-old)
‘get a grumpy face, like that [shows teeth]’ (4 year-old boy)
‘I think they feel a bit sort of sorry but they don ‘t want to say, but they do’ (7 year-old girl)
‘they wished they hadn’t done it but they know it’s because they just had to do it and they probably feel ashamed at their child’ (7 year-old girl)
‘they don’t feel like they wanted to smack in the first place’ (5 year-old girl)
‘if they’re outside the door talking to someone then they could just come in and smack you and then go out again’ (6 year-old boy)
‘well they usually are still quite cross and if you need them afterwards they don’t really reply. They just keep on doing what they do’ (6 year-old girl)
Why don’t children smack adults?
‘because if they smack adults the adults smack them back and it hurts’ (6 year-old girl)
‘adults are bigger and the adults can smack harder than children’ (7 year-old girl)
‘That’s simple! Because it’s very rude to smack your parents because they’re bigger and older and they might hurt you back and they might be silly when they’re drunk and they might hit you’ (7 year-old boy)
‘adults are bigger and stronger and people treat them more seriously’ (7 year-old girl)
Why don’t adults smack each other?
‘Grown ups grow out of the habit and if they still have the habit they don’t smack each other, instead they smack children’ (7 year-old girl)
‘because they must respect each other cos if they smacked each other they won ‘t like each other’ (5 year-old girl)
‘because they go to bed with each other and they need each other and they sleep together. They give a cuddle and they give a kiss and they shout at each other’ (5 year-old boy)
‘My mum and dad have smacked each other because daddy was doing hard things to mum. And I kicked him, and I smacked him and kicked him’ (5 year-old boy)
When you are big do you think you will smack children?
‘I would smack children when I’m at the age of 20 or an adult because if I’m a parent you have to smack children’ (6 year-old boy)
‘No, because I think smacking is not very nice and I when I grow up I hope my children will be nice. And I’m not gonna smack them because I don’t want to smack my children because say when they grow up and they can still remember that day when they got smacked… and then they’ll start a fight… and they’ll smack little children’ (7 year-old boy)
‘…I wouldn’t smack any of my children anyway because they will just start smacking other people and if I smack someone then they are going to start smacking other people, because they think grown ups do it and if the law didn’t allow smacking I would just send them out to their room and let them have a think about it’ (7 year-old girl)
Do you know anybody who doesn’t like smacking?
‘me, because it hurts very very much and you could just say to the children “go in your bedroom for a few hours and watch the tele and later I’ll have your tea ready”’ (7 year-old girl)
‘my friend — she’s six – cos when she bes naughty she always gets smacked and she doesn’t like it. And I don’t like getting smacked either because it hurts so much’ (7 year-old girl)
‘my mum doesn’t like smacking cos if she does she’ll just have to do it again and again and her hand will get sore and she won ‘t like it she won ‘t be able to cook with it and do stuff’ (5 year-old girl)
Who thinks it’s wrong to smack?
‘I think it’s right and wrong because if dogs are naughty you have to smack them’ (7 year-old boy)
‘I think it’s good and bad because when you’ve been naughty it teaches you not to do it again’ (7 year-old girl)
‘[Me] because they go in a sad face’ (4 year-old boy)
‘It’s painful and it sets a wrong example for other people’ (7 year-old girl)
‘it hurts and you could break a bone or something. If you did it hard enough, you could damage something’ (7 year-old girl)
‘Me, because probably you did it by accident and it looked like you did it on purpose and they smacked you and it was wrong to smack’ (7 year-old girl)
How can we stop children being smacked?
‘by being good for all your life’ (7 year-old girl)
‘if they [children] be good all week and all month… they won’t get smacked’ (5 year-old girl)
‘[adults could] try not to smack them’ (7 year-old girl)
‘if it is against the law and if people who are in special organisations have the right to put posters up in places saying… “please can you stop smacking children”’ (7 year-old girl)
‘I was just thinking that if they changed the law then a lot of people will realise what they had done to their child and they would probably be happy that the law was changed. If they don’t change the law they will think “oh well, the child doesn’t mind so we can keep on doing it”. But if they realise that children have been talking to adults about it then I think they will definitely realise that it hurts their child and they will be very upset with themselves’ (7 year-old girl)
‘Well you can say “well, how would you feel if somebody bigger came up to you and smacked you?” And say things like that and [say], “it doesn’t help at all because you’re just going to make it worse”‘ (7 year-old girl)
‘if there were only six – but I don ‘t think there is — then I don ‘t think he [Tony Blair] would change the law. If there is a lot of people like, I don’t know, 70 or something then I think he would definitely change the law’ (7 year-old girl)
This unique report offers adults and the UK Government a window through which they can clearly see the distress, pain and hurt caused to children by the continued social and legal acceptance of smacking. The National Children’s Bureau and Save the Children would like to see steps taken to ensure that our youngest citizens have the same legal rights to protection from any form of assault as older people. This will not only – over time – greatly reduce children’s suffering, it will also substantially improve relationships between parents and children.
To order a copy of the full report, contact
National Children’s Bureau,
8 Wakley Street,
Telephone +44 (0)20 7843 6000.
Interviews of Children In New Zealand
STATEMENTS BY CHILDREN AND THEIR ORGANISATIONS
Increasingly children themselves are speaking out against corporal punishment. This section includes extracts from statements made by children and children’s organisations.
The Global Initiative welcomes additions to this section: please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- International Save the Children report available at:http://www.rb.se/eng/Programme/Exploitationandabuse/Corporalpunishment/1415+Publications.htm
A Children’s Summit, held on June 13 2001 in Göteborg, Sweden urged the EU to ensure that all Member States and candidate countries ban all corporal punishment.
“In preparation for the EU Summit Meeting, we about 350 children and young persons aged 11-16 have gathered here today to have our own summit meeting in Göteborg — Our Children’s Summit Meeting.
“During the spring we, pupils from eleven schools in Göteborg, together with some people from Save the Children Sweden, have discussed what we think about and what we want. At the Children’s Summit Meeting today we have continued to discuss the things that are important to us. We would like to share our conclusions with others. We believe that what we have to say does not only apply to us, but that it also may apply for many children in Europe. Therefore, we have decided to forward these recommendations to the EU decision-makers…. Human rights apply not only to adults but also to children and young people. We children have our own rights. We consider that this is sometimes forgotten. All Member States of the EU and all candidate countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). We believe that every time the EU makes a decision that is of importance for children, EU politicians must remember to compare the proposal with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Politicians often refer to us children as being the future of Europe. But we are living right now. – Our childhood is happening now and not in the future. We do not think it is enough for decision-makers (for example politicians and public officials) to speak a lot about children and how important they are. – We want them to listen to us. We want to see action!
“Governments are responsible for living up to the rules in the CRC in their respective countries. We want the following to get through to the EU at the Children’s Summit Meeting:
“All children have the right…
1. Not to be hit
The EU should ensure that a total prohibition against corporal punishment of children is introduced in all Member States and candidate countries. Why should it be allowed to hit children when it is not allowed to hit adults? Adults must convince children to behave properly instead of hitting them….”
(The Children’s Summit Declaration includes seven other demands).
Smacking is Assault
As an organisation run by and for children and young people to actively promote the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child we see smacking and all other forms of physical punishment as totally disrespectful to our rights as human beings.
Physical punishment is the simplest violation of fundamental and basic human rights yet it’s a daily experience of most children who live in the UK and across the world.
Children are the only group of people who do not have a legal right to be protected from assault. Babies, toddlers and children by law can be assaulted. The law, our government and our society see it as acceptable to smack and use violence against children.
Despite experts in children’s rights and welfare condemning the UK Government for not outlawing smacking and all other forms of physical punishment, there seems to have been no positive action taken.
We as children and young people live in a society which takes away our social freedoms such as going out at night, the right to vote, being smacked and having to go to school and face bullying, social exclusion and exam failure. Its time for change – children and young people are a valuable part of society with lots to offer. Laws should be in place to protect us, not to give our parents the right to hit us.
Children are being treated like second-class citizens without the same rights adults take for granted. In all of the discussions about smacking the views of children aren’t event part of the picture.
Parents often say they smack their children to teach them respect. How can you expect children to respect people who don’t respect them? Violence is not something you use against someone you love and respect. Surely if you love someone and respect them you would take the time to explain things?
We believe that even a small organisation like Article 12 can change things for such a large proportion of British Society —children and young people. “We want to make a political statement to the whole world that children should not be smacked or hurt in any way by anyone”.
In April 2000 we held the hugely successful Stop Smacking Us! Day. About 150 children marched through central London to demand an end to smacking. This was our response to the Department of Health consultation document ‘Protecting Children, Supporting Parents’ — a document which makes depressing reading.
The view of our organisation is simply that smacking is not something that should happen to children whether their parents think it should not.
Click here to find out more about Article 12: http://www.article12.com
Research on the effects of corporal punishment
The evidence that corporal punishment is harmful to children, adults and societies is overwhelming. The more than 150 studies included in the Global Initiative’s review of research on the effects of corporal punishment show associations between corporal punishment and a wide range of negative outcomes, including:
direct physical harm
negative impacts on mental and physical health
poor moral internalisation
increased aggression in children
increased perpetration and experience of violence in adults
increased antisocial behaviour
poor cognitive development
damaged family relationships
Intended for use by advocates for prohibition, the review illuminates how corporal punishment violates not just children’s right to freedom from all violence, but also their rights to health, development and education. It is available in both full and summary forms.
Download the summary (Word/PDF) and review (Word/PDF).
* * * * * *
An Overview of the Evidence Against Spanking
From the American Psychological Association
“A growing body of research has shown that spanking and other forms of physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, but many parents aren’t hearing the message.”
What Can Parents Do Instead
Report from Time Magazine
Alfie Kohn has written much about children, schools and parenting. This book (link below) has been helpful to those who want to explore different ways to think about themselves as parents, and to change from traditional and harmful practice.
“Most parenting guides begin with the question “How can we get kids to do what they’re told?” and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking, “What do kids need — and how can we meet those needs?” What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.
“One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That’s precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it’s not the message most parents intend to send”