Thirteen reasons not to smack


I find it astonishing that smacking children is still being debated in some countries. I live in a country where violence against children has been illegal to for many years – as illegal as it is to hurt your dog or beat your spouse.

It’s astonishing as all the evidence points to the fact that smacking is ineffectual, leads to seriously poor long term consequences for the child such as higher rates of delinquency and depression AND that it is technically illegal, according to international law.

It is ineffective as a behaviour management tool

The most recent study on whether smacking even results in a child’s compliance is concludes it doesn’t even work.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”  Gershoff & Grogan-taylor 2016

There are a huge number of long-term detrimental effects

In even the most basic child development text book, The Developing Child by D.Boyd and H.Bee, the text book administered to any students of child health, the evidence piles high against smacking. In a large review of the literature, they find that

Teenagers who were smacked as a form of discipline in childhood:

  • less popular
  • lower self esteem
  • more emotional instability
  • higher rates of depression
  • higher rates of delinquency
  • in late teens, higher rates of criminality

Adults who were smacked as a form of discipline in childhood:

  • higher rates of depression
  • higher rates of unemployment
  • higher rates of divorce
  • higher rates of domestic violence
  • higher rates of criminality

Let’s find ways of raising children that don’t undermine their long term well being, that don’t cause them mental health problems. Let’s choose parenting tools that nurture our children’s well being.

It is a human rights violation

Smacking children is a violation of their human rights. It contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which the UK has ratified. The UN, and several commissioners for children have warned us that we are breaking international law until we ban smacking.


Perhaps you don’t care so much about the rational reasons against smacking. Perhaps you do it simply because that’s how you were raised. It’s less of a choice and more of a “it seems to work” kind of feel you have.

If you do find smacking “works” – might you consider that you’ve simply crushed your child’s spirit? Caused them to give up on something that was important to them? Are you not concerned that you’ve betrayed the trust they have in you, the caregiver the universe chose for them?

Our role as parents is to stand by our kids, support them as they navigate this strange old world. They are small and new to all of this, we are big and experienced and are invited to be our child’s guide, the person they trust to help them. Choose the role of a Parent Ally instead.

Thirteen reasons not to smack


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