According to the report, more than two-thirds of Britons think it’s okay to give their children a slap now and again. On the other hand, one-third of those questioned view smacking as a ‘high-risk’ activity.
The Children’s Society is calling on the government to ban smacking, in line with other European countries.
Radio host Eddie Nestor put me on the spot. I said it’s a discussion we should be having but a complete ban seems over the top. In my view, it’s out of touch with reality.
My early childhood was in Nigeria where it’s the norm for authority figures to set kids straight with anything from pulling you by the ear to giving your cheek a sharp back-hander.
Smacking is seen as a necessary form of discipline, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’.
But in my generation, despite growing up under the shadow of the koboko (cane), many of us have a lighter-handed approach to raising our kids.
I can count the amount of times I’ve smacked both my kids on two fingers. Once was a finger on the palm, another a spank on the bum (in a more extreme situation). I have never, and never plan to, slapped my children across the face.
Fellow Nigerians have often laughed at my husband and I as we try to manage Ezra and Jed’s behaviour using words and reason. ‘You’re just blowing grammar!’ they say, like we’re wasting our breath.
Actually I don’t agree that parents should always negotiate with their teeny ones, especially when they’re at the age when direct action works better. We use the naughty step but even this has its limitations when dealing with a toddler who barely understands.
Most of the time, I try to use ‘positive distraction’ on Jed when he’s naughty, giving him something else he can focus on and receive praise for. For instance, if he hits his brother I’ll tell him, ‘That’s not nice Jed, can you show me something gentle?’ Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s amazing how often Jed will respond with a soft stroke instead of another wallop.
As I stated on the show, we need to have this conversation, as parents and as a society, because it’s a grey area. What starts with a light spank on a nappy-padded bum can lead to belts, whips and even worse as a child grows older.
But an outright ban? Parenting is hard enough without feeling like we’re being policed in our own homes. What we need is more support and tools to cope effectively under stress and to provide discipline that works.
Bottom line: I would never want to be the type of parent who resorts to smacking at the first sign of mischief. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be punished by law for using a light spank as a last resort.
Click on BBC iPlayer to hear me on BBC London Radio Drivetime with Eddie Nestor 94.9 FM (until Thur Jul 15)
Photos via The Children’s Society web site.