Why in the world are we STILL smacking children?

Why in the world are we STILL smacking children? 150 150 Jane Evans
Time to embrace change?

It’s the 21st century. A time when we have created science and technology to preserve and prolong life. This has been of real benefit to the human race. Being able to keep a premature baby alive so they are able to develop and thrive is wonderful. Likewise, having treatments and surgery to enable people to live beyond previously life-shortening diagnosis is a relief and something to celebrate. All in all, we can give the human race a collective high-five!

However, whilst there is much to celebrate, not all areas of human development have kept up with scientific research and findings.  Worryingly, this is particularly true when it comes to how we raise children. Arguably the most important responsibility and task our society shares. In fact, this is what we depend upon, now and in the future.

Why do we persist in doing things to children that cause them harm?

Sadly, smacking or spanking children is near the top of this uncomfortable leaderboard of behaviours no one should be using in the 21st century. It has to stop. Why have we failed to do to get global agreement to stop hitting children?

UNICEF tells us,

  • Only 60 countries have adopted legislation that fully prohibits the use of corporal punishment against children at home, leaving more than 600 million children under age 5 without full legal protection.
  • Globally, around 1.1 billion (slightly more than 1 in 4) caregivers say that physical punishment is necessary to properly raise or educate children.

From my work with parents and professionals, and in regular discussions I have during media interviews, these are commonly given defences of smacking:

  • I was smacked when I was a child and it didn’t harm me
  • I deserved a good slap, I was a pain
  • If they’ve been warned then it’s their choice
  • It’s a last resort
Is it such an ingrained practice and belief will it ever change?

I believe that if parents consistently had simple access to knowledge about brain development and attachment during pregnancy. And throughout the first 2 years of life, it would eradicate the hitting of children.

Parents love their children. If they were able to engage with the science that shows what the terror of being hit does to a child’s brain and body, I’m sure they’d want to embrace alternatives, ASAP.

Children are totally dependent on the adults who surround them and are wired to get along with them. After all, they need the adults to feed, clothe, clean, keep them warm or cool, teach and keep them emotionally and physically safe. Being close to them should feel relaxing and reassuring for a child. However, if the same adults sometimes threaten, or do, physically harm them, the child’s alarm system becomes hyperactive and won’t easily switch off. A range of behaviours are linked to this:

  • People pleasing
  • Avoidance
  • Lashing out
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Hurting themselves or others
  • Hyperactivity
  • Low mood
  • Shutting down

And so much more.

Where’s the evidence?

Good grief! How can anyone suggest there needs to be evidence that smacking causes harm? If a bigger, more intellectually developed person physically and emotionally hurts a smaller, emotionally and physically dependent, frail, less developed person, it scares them. A child can’t escape this unpredictability, which doesn’t allow for the natural fight or flight response. In time, this causes trauma.

A glance at two questions from the American Adverse Childhood Experiences Study reveals what is harmful to a developing child:

While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often …

Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?


Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often …

Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?


Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

Yes No If yes enter 1 _______

The ACE Study links such early experiences to a multitude of negative health and life outcomes. Ongoing fear creates stress. If this is not switched off, makes us sick, less intelligent, driven to self-medicate, more withdrawn or aggressive and much less trusting of ourselves and of others. Quite a legacy.

Join the discussion April 9th

I am glad to be supporting the NEYTCO Early Years Campaign to bring an end to the smacking of children across the UK. Currently, Scotland and Wales are leading the way.

I hope that it will soon become a UK wide initiative to support parents and carers at every turn to find alternatives.

April 9th I will be part of Podcast with Sue Atkins. We will be discussing smacking children with Swati Popat Vats who is running the #Iwillnot Anti-Spanking campaign in India, and Robbyn Peters Bennett of the American organisation StopSpanking.org Join us as part of the NEYTCO week and let us see what we can do when we all come together for the children.

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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