Annalisa Barbieri: A child will learn nothing from being hit

All smacking shows is that you've lost control when control is the very thing you want to teach

Share

Well, that David Lammy has caused a hoo-ha with his talk of smacking children. And a decade ago, I might have agreed with him. But what a lot of learning I've done in 10 years. Here's the thing with children. They aren't born bad. They're not born wanting to harm, or hurt or steal. Circumstances do that to them – adults do.

You want to teach a child about self-discipline, about caring about others, about "doing the right thing"? Smacking won't do it. All it shows them is that you've lost control, at the very point where you're trying to teach them about control. Sure they may do as you say in the short term, because they are afraid or cowed. But they won't stay like that for very long. Ultimately, the fear will turn to anger, then pity if you're lucky, resentment and dislike if you're not. Hope your smacked child will look after you when you're older? Good luck with that.

Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever to show that smacking a child makes them less likely to riot, such as Lammy seems to claim. Plenty to the contrary. Read up, David. A child who has good self-esteem (and cocky arrogance is not having good self-esteem), a child who feels loved and listened to does not riot or loot. Children are not monsters needing the "evil" smacked out of them; reverse that, you might get closer to the truth.

If you hit an adult, you can be charged with assault, even if you don't leave a red mark (a red mark elevates it to actual bodily harm), but if you hit a child and leave no mark, that's deemed OK as far as the law currently stands – unless you hit them above the neck, for which you can still be prosecuted, mark or no mark.

Yesterday, I heard this: "Wishy-washy liberals have ruined child discipline in this country, with their guilt-ridden belief that the rotten, spoilt little brats can do no wrong." Incorrect. It is detached parenting that has done that, and that can have any political or economic background. A detached parent might hit, or shout, or conversely shower the child with presents. But listen, respect, or teach by example? Nah. Yet how can you teach a child to be empathetic if you show that its feelings count for so little?

Many people hit their children because it's what they grew up with and it "didn't do me any harm". But scratch the surface and there's always damage. Not disciplining your children doesn't mean just allowing them to do what they want, either. There are many shades of grey: just look at a Farrow & Ball colour chart.

The way to get a child to grow up to be a responsible adult is to engage with them, be responsive, and love unconditionally. All of this takes time, and courage in today's climate. A smack? Easier, but it teaches the child nothing positive. Nothing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Teaching Assistants urgently r...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:We are looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the UK ...

KS1 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 Teacher - Gloucest...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, canvass returns and arguments. And Top 10 Tweets

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week