David Lammy’s comments today have re-ignited the debate around smacking. This debate is one that needs to be consigned to history for good; we will not accept that physical violence is an answer to dealing with children’s behaviour. We as adults have a moral responsibility to create a nurturing environment within which children can develop, physical violence has no part to play. In our view smacking should be outlawed.
We hear the counter argument that smacking serves a purpose in moderating behaviour, our question to those advocates of smacking is whose needs are you serving? The child’s? Certainly not. Smacking harks back to a different time where adults felt assured in saying to children ‘do as I say, not as I do’. These days should be gone.
The notion of children as active participants in their lives is enshrined in international legislation and national law, this necessitates different and more considered responses. Resorting to physical chastisement is a cop out and highlights an inconsistency in our responses that must be tackled. If it is illegal to strike an adult it should be illegal to strike a child. Imagine a situation where you stepped out of line or broke the rules at work; would you think it an appropriate response for your boss to hit you? No you wouldn’t. Why then do we tolerate adult on child violence? The model of behaviour smacking demonstrates is that violence is acceptable, in fact that in certain circumstances it is the right thing to do, this can not be part of any effective parenting strategy, we teach children by what we say and what we do.
Others make a distinction between a smack and a beating, for us the difference is a distraction, it appeals to those seeking to justify their actions. An adult response to stressful, frustrating or challenging situations cannot be to resort to violence; when a situation involves a child this must be doubly so. Smacking is simply not an appropriate parenting tool. The mantra ‘it never did me any harm’ is wheeled out on such occasions attempting to highlight a lack of overall impact, if the impact is negligible why engage in the activity? Other comments include ’I only got a smack when I deserved it’, this statement shifts responsibility from adult to child, in our view children never deserve a smack.
Let’s think about the types of children’s behaviour we’re discussing in relation to smacking, not listening, refusal to follow instructions, running into the road. Are all these behaviours, in fact, perfectly normal stages of a child’s development? Are we then smacking children because they are children and because we can? There is no other rationale. Smacking is about power, we don’t do it to adults because we might get smacked back or arrested.
We were also disturbed by the Lammy’s idea that ‘working class people should be allowed to smack their children’. It is quite remarkable that somehow, the class system has crept in to this debate, does this mean that middle or upper class children, who misbehave or are met with societal or familial disapproval do not warrant a smack because of their status? Does the method of chastisement depend on class, income or background? As Lammy was referring to his constituents in Tottenham and mentions links to rioting, it becomes even more alarming. This conjures up all sorts of negative images of unruly youth, who could have been kept in line, had their parents only had the opportunity to give them a clout.
We were very disappointed that many people jumped to defend of Lammy, seemingly not for the issue itself, but because he is a Labour MP. This for us is not about criticising Lammy because he is a Labour MP, we are critical of his position, it is his stance on the issue that is wrong. David Lammy has done some excellent work and has been a voice a of support and reason over the last year in relation to the riots. It makes this position regarding smacking all the more dissappointing. One particularly well known and much respected Labour blogger told us directly that he would not smack his own children (if he had any), but would defend a parent’s right to do so. It was something akin to a statement from the Judean Peoples Front. This response for us is misguided and way off track, it is a non-argument as far as we are concerned as there is little more to say after the assertion that violence against children is wrong.
We should outlaw smacking, the message this gives to children loud and clear is that they are worthy of the same protection adults are. A society that supports smacking does not support its children.
Thanks for reading.