The Smacking Debate.

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A recent study by a Harriet Hiscock, a pediatrician from Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital researched the impact of parent methods on children’s sleeping behaviour.

Hiscock was quoted in The Age (10/04/08) saying:

children were nearly twice as likely to have sleep problems that persisted through the toddler years if their mother’s parenting style was “hostile” – characterised by yelling or physical punishment such as smacking – rather than “warm”.

In the article titled Smacking toddlers affects sleep it stated that

her research has opened a chicken-and-egg debate because it is not clear whether the sleep problems are caused by the mothers’ parenting, or if the frazzled mothers have resorted to shouting at their sleep-deprived, cranky children.

“It’s always a cause-and-effect argument and you can’t really conclude from this which one occurs first,” Dr Hiscock said.

Chicken or egg, regardless of which came first, to me this is another reason to add to the list of reasons why I shouldn’t smack my kids. Mr Infrastructure and I agreed very early on in our parenting that we would not smack our children.

This philosophy was further cemented after reading Louise Porter’s introduction to her book Children are People Too, where Porter explains the events that reinforced her choice of title for this book.

The second event occurs when I ask participants in training sessions on behaviour management to consider what carers should do when they are feeding someone who appears deliberately to spit food back on them. There are always some people in the group who say it’s okay for the carer to smack the child. But then I complicate the situation by saying that I was thinking not of a three year old but of an 80 year old who had Alzheimer’s disease. Now is it okay to smack the elderly person? We agree as a group that it is not. But why the difference? It can’t be that you can reason with one and not the other as Alzheimer’s disables individual’s reasoning skills. After some discussion, those who were willing to smack a child but not willing to smack an elderly person realise that, deep down, they were thinking that children weren’t people yet and so it was okay to hit them. The underlying belief in this book, in contrast, is that age is no barrier to human rights.

Megan at Imaginif has a great reading list on this topic on her post To Smack or Not To Smack.

What’s your view on the smacking debate?


  1. says

    Oooh, hot topic – people seem to be so divided on this issue, and I can’t really work out why. We are an absolutely no question smack-free house and there are so many reasons for this decision. First and foremost is that my husband and I feel that if we use physical means to discipline our kids, we’re basically just teaching them that the way to solve problems is physically; with violence. He who hits the hardest wins! What a great lesson that would be. I admit there have been times when I have felt like smacking but I realise that this is ALWAYS about me and never about the behaviour I would supposedly be punishing. It would be because I was angry, not necessarily because the punishment was warranted or because the punishment would be effective. I don’t think I’ve seen smacking work as an effective punishment anyway. Sure the kid might stop what they are doing immediately after being smacked, but would it stop them doing it again. I can only imagine it working if the child was seriously frightened of being whacked by their parent, which is a pretty sad state of affairs.
    You may have guessed I feel strongly about this issue! Thanks for the quotes – that Porter book sounds like a good read. I’m sure a lot of people see the wisdom of her argument when she explains it so clearly. I think part of the problem is that a lot of people don’t actually sit back and examine their parenting (or life) choices to see whether they actually want to or should be taking a particular path.

    Guera’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Mine!

  2. says

    Guera – such a well articulated and logical response to the smacking debate. These are the same reasons why I don’t smack my kids.

    BTW the Louise Porter book is great and I could highly recommend it.

  3. says

    I tend to think that it matters more whether or not we are ANGRY than what kind of punishment we use. But then again, letting go of anger has great potential to put us in a space to use more creative ways to train our children. So for me, the issue is about how I am being, not what I am doing.

    I like your blog!


  4. says

    Great to see this issue being debated. I can’t see how anyone thinks smacking is OK in this day and age … how you can expect children, who learn almost solely by imitation, to behave better because you behave badly. I’m so proud of little old NZ for crimininalising smacking, but horrified by the debate it caused here – there are still a lot of people who need convincing.

    Gypsy’s last blog post..Cheap at what cost