Peter Inson: A considered smack is a parent's right

Moves to outlaw smacking will further confuse and discourage parents

Share
Related Topics

There is an irony in the calls for MPs to be allowed a free vote in Parliament on the proposed total ban on smacking. MPs, it is claimed, should be allowed to vote according to their consciences. Is that not what we have to allow parents – the freedom to decide what is best for their children and for their families, according to their consciences?

Smacking is not corporal punishment, or violence, or assault. It lies somewhere between insisting on changing the nappy of a resentful infant and the shrugging of one's shoulders when adult offspring embark upon some youthful folly.

When plain words, the tone of one's voice, a change of expression, the adjustment of one's posture or the wagging of a finger have all failed then we sometimes have to decide whether to walk away and leave time to demonstrate the truth with which we have been concerned, or to apply physical restraint to avoid an immediate harm.

With the latter there comes the possibility of resistance and, possibly the need to act swiftly. Used appropriately, a smack can prevent immediate harm or injury and can reinforce important lessons that some children will ignore if they can.

Used correctly, it causes no more than fleeting pain, discomfort or simply embarrassment and is done out of a concern for the child's best interests, rather than in frustration or anger.

We should also consider the effect on the child if they continue to strike matches, or to land blows on a victim. Do we want them to endanger themselves or others as soon as our backs are turned?

Smacking usually occurs within a home and within a family. These are private areas where public control and evidence gathering are difficult and where all sorts of other, far more subtle forms of neglect and abuse are possible. Events in recent months in Dewsbury provide reminders of that sad truth.

Moves to outlaw smacking are ill-considered and will further confuse and discourage parents, whose role becomes ever-more demanding. Politicians and others who seek to interfere in this way are never expected to pick up the pieces when things go wrong and the very rights that are claimed for a child are denied that child if their parents do not teach respect for others' rights sooner rather than later.

A claim by The NSPCC suggests that some 160,000 teenagers over the age of 15 have recently been beaten by parents trying to assert discipline. Yes, this suggests a woeful lack of judgement, discipline too late and in haste. But we have to allow parents freedom to make bad judgements as well as good ones, unless we want to take over their children altogether.

Unless a particular judgement has immediate and harmful effects then one interferes at the family's peril, for if our judgement is unsound then the effects for the children, those for whom we are most concerned, can be dreadful beyond our imagining.

If we are to remain free to bring children into the world, and then effectively to bring them up, the most important job in the world, we must be trusted until there are good grounds for withdrawing that trust. Otherwise, we will have to license parents or abolish the family.

The writer, a former head teacher, is the author of Dunno, The Story of a Disaffected Teenage Boy

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea