If you smack your children you won't want to read this.

Do you smack your child? Do you think it is child abuse?

This is a question that 69% of Australian parents will answer no because 69% of Australian parents do it.

Well, here is a statement bound to raise the hackles of more than half of you reading it and yet I stand by this statement.

Smacking your child is child abuse. Pure and simple. It is wrong.

In fact Australia is far, far behind the eight ball in our attitudes towards smacking – simply because the public do not want to be told how to discipline their children.

45 other countries around the world disagree. 45 other countries say that Australia is wrong. Because in 45 other countries corporal punishment, smacking your child is against the law.

The debate about smacking has re-entered the arena with Emeritus Professor Kim Oates, a former CEO of Westmead Children’s Hospital, a finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards, a paediatrician and author of 14 books asking for doctors to lead the way in taking a stand against smacking.

Call for doctors to lead the debate on smacking.

At The Royal Australian College of Physicians annual meeting in Cairns, Professor Oates said that GPs need to use their influence to change the public perception of smacking.

“We want to use our influence to change public opinion and, once it is changed, the Australian legislation might change,” Professor Oates said.

“There are still a lot of people with a very strong view that ‘I got hit as a child and nobody is going to take my ability to hit my child away’, which is a bit strange, really."

“We are not allowed to hit animals, we are not allowed to hit prisoners, we are not allowed to hit spouses, but we can hit kids.” reports The Herald Sun. 

I have screamed at my kids.

Yelled. Sworn under my breath and slammed doors when they aren't in earshot. I have clenched my fists in frustration digging my nails into the palms of my hands in anger.

I can imagine the pressure building which leads to someone smacking their child. I can also imagine the shock and fear that must run through a child.

The confusion.

The surprise.

I can imagine their tiny little bodies tensing as they sense their mother getting angry, their shoulders rising, their eyes alert.



I can imagine getting to the point where you smack your child. But I don’t condone it. Because what I believe is that part of being an adult is learning to keep your emotions in check, learning to regulate yourself, learning control and smacking a child is difficult to equate with being in control. Isn't it?

Instead, it looks all about trying to control.

Under Australian law parents are allowed to use “reasonable force” towards their children.

A Canadian study in 2001 found that smacking children can cause harm later on in life. For more watch this video. Post continues below.


Professor Oates says that this law places Australia in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which dictates all measures must be taken to protect children. He has called for the medical community to change parental attitudes with education.

It has always been an emotional debate. For many, the right to discipline their children the way they want should be paramount, they claim that outsiders should not interfere in how parents raise their children.

They claim they only hit them out of love.

These are the same hollow arguments we hear about a husband striking his wife.

There is no acceptable level of abuse on a child.

There is no reason parents should be allowed to wallop their two or three-year-old. No reason to twist their ear until it is left red and stinging.

There is no reason for parents to slap their 10-year-old. Nothing can justify beating a seven-year-old with a hand, a belt or a stick.

You can’t validate it through levels of abuse. A light tap being okay, a slap across the face being too much. A smack is a smack.

'I think it probably makes you feel ashamed inside'

A study in the UK reflected the voices of children who have been smacked. The confusion in the action shines clearly through their words.

CLICK THROUGH the gallery and the post continues after the gallery:

The words are difficult to read. And yet Australians don't believe smacking will harm their children, they don't want the government, doctors or anyone in authority telling them how to discipline their kids.

When the laws were first introduced to New Zealand in 2007 there were very real justified fears that good parents simply trying their best would end up being prosecuted.

It didn’t happen. Instead what happened was a general community attitude towards physical punishments being turned around. There have been eight prosecutions since the laws were introduced. Eight cases that needed to be stepped up to another level.

Those “good parents” who were investigated were simply that, investigated, educated, warned and referred on to services that could help them if they needed it.

For every one of us who was smacked as a kid and survived. For every one of us who insists “It did me no harm” I say this:

Lucky you. But what about those to whom it did do harm?

Where do you stand on the debate about smacking? Should doctors educate parents on the harm caused by corporal punishment? 

Want more? Try:

“I’m worried about being judged in public when I need to discipline my kids.”

The discipline tactic almost every parent uses causes harm to children.