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Smacking laws are unworkable products of Left-wing middle class diktat

Smacking is not abuse and parents should not be penalised for it

By on Monday, 6 February 2012

David Lammy: working-class parents feel powerless to discipline their children Photo: Johnny Green/PA

David Lammy: working-class parents feel powerless to discipline their children Photo: Johnny Green/PA

To smack or not to smack, that is the current question. It is not a question that Shakespeare would have put into the mouth of a character, obviously; it is simply too fatuous a query to have entered the mind of any God-fearing Elizabethan. Young Will would certainly have had his share of cuffs, slaps and smacks from his parents as he loitered about the house, day-dreaming and dawdling at the tasks he was set. In those days you didn’t spare the rod and you didn’t spoil the child.

Actually, this way of rearing children lasted until after the last War – indeed, until the 60s when everything seemed to change. As a child of the 50s, my parents did not question their right to physically check us if we stepped out of line. My father did it very rarely, mainly because spending his spare time on the golf course was pleasanter than disciplining his noisy, argumentative children. I have one vivid recollection of him putting a younger sister over his knee and spanking her, saying emphatically, “I hate lies.” I doubt if my sister even remembers this incident and I only recall it because it was so rare.

My mother, it must be said, often tended in the impatience of the moment to ‘lay about her’, sometimes with a wooden spoon on the palm of the hand. This was painful and I don’t recommend it; nor would I say, as people sometimes aver, that “it did me no harm”. Smacking a naughty child who is below the age of reason but not above the age of dangerous exploits like running into the road is one thing; deliberately using an implement of chastisement is quite another. I made a conscious decision never to do this with my own children – though I have smacked occasionally.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, made the important point (and the headlines) when he remarked recently that working-class parents, who traditionally would have corrected their offspring by physical punishment, feel powerless to discipline them now that smacking has been redefined as physical violence, and outlawed. This came about through Left-wing middle class diktat and it is as patronising and unworkable as you would expect from such a source. Parents hell-bent on abusing their children physically will continue to do so, laws or no laws. How can they be stopped? Other parents, well-meaning and caring, but unconfident and inexperienced, cease to use any discipline at all. Factor in fatherless families and other social problems and you see Lammy’s point: it is all very well legislating from the vantage point of self-confidence, good education and established authority figures – but what of large swathes of the population lacking these features?

My sister-in-law told me that when she and my brother were considering adoption, an officious social worker asked them if they intended to smack a child they might receive. Being honest, she replied that she wouldn’t rule it out completely, but only if it was appropriate to the child and the circumstances etc. This response did not go down at all well.
I have just been reading Great Expectations. Mrs Joe Gargery brings up Pip “by hand” as she often harshly reminds him, meaning frequently knocking him about. Dickens, who loathed all violence to children, gives her a savage come-uppance for her cruelty. Social workers and legislators of the Left-wing consensus need to be reminded that most parents are not like Mrs Joe; they love their children, are occasionally driven to distraction by their behaviour and sometimes administer a smack, just hard enough to stop the miscreant in his tracks. This is not abuse and parents should not be penalised for it.

  • Margaret

    In Communist strategies of the Stalin era, priority was set for: eliminating parental and religious rights, and mandating public school only education. Their purpose was to weaken the family and the church and strengthen the state. Sounds a lot like secular progressives in Britain  to me.

  • Anonymous

    At one time a man could beat his slave, his wife or his child and receive praise for his actions from the Catholic Church.

    Since that time the Church has changed its doctrine on slaves, and we are no longer supposed to beat our wives, even with a stick less than a man’s thumb in thickness.

    As usual the Church is way behind liberal opinion when it comes to condemning the physical punishment of children. It will eventually catch up, but will probably be the very last major institution to do so.

    How wonderful it would have been if one of the popes of the last century had been way ahead of his time and issued an encyclical on the bringing up of children, where as well as stressing the need to protect them from predators in clerical dress, he had announced that hitting a child was always gravely disorded.

  • Jorge Morais


  • Jorge Morais

    Let’s pray and vote against these laws.

  • Honeybadger

    In the animal kingdom, pups and cubs would be given a sharp paw if any of them misbehaved and, for sure, didn’t do it again.

    If you watched a recent episode of Coronation Street, there was a hell of an outcry when one of the child characters was physically chastised for pouring creosote into the garden fishpond killing all the fish.

    No outcry about rape, adultery, deception, self-centredness, godlessness and skulduggery then…

    A sharp slap should be sufficient punishment for wrongdoing. It’s when physical punishment is taken too far and becomes wrong.

    In the old days, the strap/cane was supposed to be a deterrant in schools, but somewhere along the line, abusive bullies took over with loss of self-control and an intoxicating power trip takes over like a dark cloud.

    And, in the home, there was the slipper or a tea towel… you know about it when you got on the wrong side of those!

  • beckycbr

     I think you may be confusing people (with souls), with animals, in your introduction!  Smacking shows the parent’s anger at the child’s behaviour, and is a loss of love for the child at that moment.  Does Jesus ever smack you when you grieviously sin?  No, and if you are sorry, you are forgiven.  That does not mean that you don’t discipline your child, but you teach and keep teaching that child how to behave, with love.  I am disappointed to find articles on this website debating smacking as a good thing! Perhaps I thought the Catholic Herald would support Christ’s teachings.  But I am still learning.

  • Anonymous

     Jesus is not your earthy father. Your argumentation is unbiblical.

  • Oconnord

    Thankfully society is unbiblical too. Otherwise we’d be killing our children for the sin of being children.

  • Oconnord

    Of course, a catholic view would be that punishing a child with pain is acceptable and anything else is a left wing plot. It is a basic premise of catholicism. That a “loving/father” will punish you and will inflict unimaginable eternal torture to you.

     But only if you don’t obey them without question and remember  “it’s for your own good!” Or the worst of all “I take no pleasure in this….” then proceed with the beating.

    Perhaps that’s why younger generations who didn’t suffer from the wooden spoon, belt or strap find it impossible to equate a loving god as the same being who invented infinite torment for finite wrongs.

  • Lee

    Very simple assertion to make and one that seems to miss the whole point of The LORD’s ‘agape’ and redemptive ‘agape’ in relation to punishing that which has brought about an evil !

  • John Jackson

    Paddling a child, or smacking as it is called in England, is not physical abuse.  Abuse is altogether different.  It is a necessary, though by design rarely and judiciously used option for parents.  The liberal myth that it is abuse is nonsense and those of us whose children are beneficial members of society, and who have done well and are well adjusted, though paddled when they were small, are testament to that.  If parents never use it unless what is involved is obstinate and stiff necked refusal to obey no matter what, and if it is never brought out unless one intends to use it and if it is only used when there is no other choice, children will benefit from it.  The proponents of the ridiculous arguments to the contrary are content to live with yobs and children who know they need not obey, who have little knowledge of manners and who have no understanding of consequences.  Shame this. 

  • Anonymous

    UNFORTUNATELY our society is unbiblical; that is why we murder unborn babies in industrial scale. And eugenics – do you know that 92% of Down Syndrome babies are killed in their mother’s wombs? That is what happens when Christianity is pushed aside and people are seen as objects.

    And look at the atheist paradises of China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam…