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The PM reckons a "gentle smack" is okay for children. What do you think?

Tony Abbott thinks a “gentle smack” is okay.

This morning, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report about smacking children.

They have called for Australia to abolish the longstanding right of parents to use “reasonable chastisement” in smacking a child.

Yes, that’s right – they want to make smacking illegal. Just like it is in 34 other countries – including New Zealand, Sweden, Germany and Spain.

The report compared corporal punishment to domestic violence and assault, and demanded that Australian parents use “other forms of discipline”.

And now Tony Abbott has responded to the news. He reckons that a “gentle smack” is sometimes the best thing for a kid. Appearing on Sunrise on Channel Seven this morning, Abbott said that he’d previously disciplined his daughters with smacks.

“I was probably one of those guilty parents who did chastise the children – with pretty gentle smacks, I’ve got to say,” he said. “I think that we’ve got to treat our kids well, but I don’t think we ought to say that there’s no place ever for a smack.”

He did admit that the smack should never be something that hurts a child – but that “all parents know that occasionally the best thing that we can give a kid is a smack”.

Abbott put the UN report down to another example of “political correctness taken to extremes”.

Well. Smacking has been in the news quite a bit over the last couple of years; endless research has been released to show that it’s damaging to children. Last year, it was discovered that there is a link between being smacked as a child and mental illness as an adult.

And in July this year, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) joined the growing call for law reform regarding the use of physical punishment as a form of discipline for children.

In their media release, entitled, Child health experts call for change on how we discipline our children they stated:

Associate Professor Susan Moloney, President of the RACP’s Paediatrics & Child Health Division called for better support for parents and caregivers to educate them about the potential harmful effects of physical punishment and other violence on children.

“Research is increasingly showing that physical punishment may be harmful and children who receive physical punishment are at increased risk for a range of adverse outcomes both in childhood and as adults,” Associate Professor Moloney said.

“These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressive or antisocial behaviour, substance use problems and abuse of their own children or spouse.

“While many children will not experience negative outcomes as a result of moderate or reasonable physical punishment, why put your child’s future health and emotional wellbeing at risk?”

Professor Moloney also wrote for The Conversation at the time:

As a paediatrician, what I am most concerned about is the serious long-term effects of physical punishment on children’s well-being. This is not about parenting styles or punishing parents, it’s about protecting children.

Research shows that a child who experiences physical punishment is more likely to develop increased aggressive behaviour and mental health problems as a child and as an adult. There’s clear evidence that physical punishment may be harmful in the long term – so why take the risk?

…Countries that have banned the physical punishment of children have also seen other benefits including increased early identification of children at risk of abuse, and very low rates of mortality associated with child abuse.

In July this year, Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman wrote a piece about smacking – and told us the story of a time when she smacked her son, many years ago now. She wrote:

Mia Freedman

It was the first and last time I would ever hit any of my children.

And are you ready? Because I’m going to express an opinion that will no doubt provoke howls of protest from some.

I think it is a breach of your parental power to smack – or hit – your kids. An irresponsible breach of power. I think smacking is unilaterally wrong. I think it’s poor, lazy parenting. I think it’s bad for kids physically, mentally and emotionally. It harms them. That’s been proven.

And I find the reasons smackers give for hitting their kids to be utterly preposterous.

Those reasons are reasons like:

  • “I was smacked and I turned out OK”
  • “You can’t reason with kids”
  • “It’s the quickest and easiest form of discipline”
  • “My child doesn’t respond to time out….she needs a smack”
  • “Smacking teaches kids right from wrong”
  • “Children have too many rights these days”

Reasons just like the one that Tony Abbott has just given.

We published a post in 2011 called The 7 Reasons People Smack Children and Why They’re Wrong that comprehensively dismantled and discredited each one of those lame justifications. You can read it here.

What do you think about Tony Abbott’s smacking comments? Do you think a “gentle smack” is okay?

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