Nannies prove resistant to Bible's view on the virtues of smacking: Rhys Williams asked people whose work is looking after children for their views on the issue of punishment

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The Independent Online
THE BIBLE is pretty clear on smacking. 'He that spareth his rod, hateth his son,' says Proverbs xiii,24.

It would seem that Victoria Williams, who lives in Trelogan, north Wales, and who has worked as a nanny for two and a half years, is not an avid Bible student. 'I don't believe in smacking,' she said emphatically yesterday.

'You should always try to talk to a child. When they misbehave or get too much, I stick them in their playpen, walk out of the room and count to 10. When I worked in a nursery and 30 children would scream at once, I'd go out and make myself a cup of tea.'

Vanessa Addenbrooke, of Greenwich, south-east London, has never smacked a child in her four years as a nanny: 'I used to look after a little baby who went through a phase of screaming all day long. In the end I put her in her cot, shut the door and left her for half an hour until she quietened down.

'It gets to the point when you can't take anymore,' she said.

Both these nannies felt a need for personal release, which, according to Liz Rowland, who owns the Cinderella nanny agency in south-east London, is often the force behind most 'attacks'.

'The only person smacking helps is you. It's a way to dissipate your own anxiety and adrenalin. Hurting children does them no good. It just makes them resentful,' she said.

'If violence is met with violence you get violent children. You hit animals because they have no language. But with children you have language and you should use that to make them understand that they have done wrong. Children will sense your fear by your voice and your reaction just as much as by hitting them.

'Where is the fine line between hitting a child and abusing them? People who smack have always been smacked themselves - that's guaranteed. You have to break the chain of violence somewhere because of the harm it can do to children in later life.'

Miranda Dunne, a teacher at the Learning Base, a nursery in west London, appreciated that there were pressures that might occasionally drive even the calmest parent to strike out. But added that as a teacher she could not afford to succumb.

'If you cannot cope without violence, then you shouldn't be a teacher. Sometimes I have to stop myself in my tracks and put my hands in my pockets. But there is a big difference between hitting and smacking. I was brought up being smacked and it never did me any harm. Hitting a child to hurt them, though, is appalling.'

Camilla Desparde, who runs Cotswolds Nannies in Stroud, Gloucestershire, said that it was a question of common sense: 'No one will ever say it is good to hit a child, but there are circumstances when speaking is not enough.'

When Ms Addenbrooke's charges reached for the burning hotplate or the live socket in spite of the umpteenth warning, the natural reaction, she said, was 'the slap on the hand'.

There cannot be many hotplates at Hackney Care for Kids, a day nursery in north London. 'We have a strict no-smacking policy,' a woman said.