Should it be a crime to hit your child ?
There is a new law in the united kingdom which says that childminders can’t hit the children they are in charge of. Now they are even arguing if parents should lose the right to smack.
For example : A child is screaming in the aisle of a supermarket. He is four years old and his mother , laden with groceries and at the end of a long day at work , is struggling tot get to the check-out before the shop closes. She has tried to reason the boy and she has also used all the ‘positive alternatives’ but he won’t stop screaming. She doesn’t want to give the boy the chocolate he is demanding. She tries to threaten him by saying ‘You can’t watch television when you get home’ but even that doesn’t work. The boy carries on screaming, louder and louder. He is throwing food around. As his mother starts to queue ,the boy runs to the door and runs out into the busy street. His mother dashes out and grabs him just before he step into the road. ‘ Don’t you ever do that again’ , she shouts, delivering him a smack .The child whimpers but he finally stops crying. Similar scenes take place every day across the country, and we all react in different ways. When we see someone who hits a child ,whether you are a father of three children or a teenager , everyone has an opinion on smacking and even on corporal punishment. The question is now : ‘who has the right to hit a child? And who has the right to tell parents who that person should be ?
By autumn the Government plans to make smacking illegal for tens of thousands of childminders across England who look after young children below the age of eight. For the moment ,with the agreement of the parents ,childminders can smack children within the bounds of ‘reasonable chastisement ‘. This is part of an 140- year –old law and changing that law is one of the strongest signals the Government can give that it does not approve of smacking ,beyond banning it totally. This is an important change .
The government has been under a lot of pressure to ban smacking completely . There are a lot of child organisations who want to make smacking illegal. For example : the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has long argued that children should have the same legal rights as adults. When you hit someone over the age of 18 you could end up in court but when you hit a child nothing happens because it’s perfectly legal.
Smacking was already banned in comprehensive schools in the 1980s. Private schools followed a decade later. Anti-smacking groups found it illogical not to extend the ban to all those looking after children. There is also an advantage when you make smacking illegal for parents because sometimes they don’t know their own strength and they just slap their child to death. It has made a big difference in Sweden because since it banned smacking a decade ago there are no more child deaths at the hands of parents. A lot of studies say that smacking does not work , it merely gives children the sense that violence is an appropriate response to get what you want . Smacking could also leave psychological as well as physical scars. The relationships with children are private and therefore beyond the interference of the state . This was the reason that the Government had consistently refused to ban smacking for parents or childminders. As long as parents had signed agreements with childminders that smacking was allowed ,then it was not for the Secretary of State to tell people what to do. Banning childminders from smacking was the thin end of the wedge because we knew campaigners would then push to ban smacking completely so no one could hit a child anymore ,even not the parents. Even David Blunkett ,the previous Education Secretary ,admitted that he had smacked his children but only when he thought it was the only way of getting the message across. But he said it was a last resort and he didn’t believe anyone should smack their children on a regular basis . Smacking as a constant method of control isn’t effective in the end. Now childcare organisations are asking : why not bring the united kingdom into line with united nations demands and ban smacking completely. This is just another step towards getting the public to accept that children should not be smacked.
The Government didn’t do this because such a move raises all sorts of political risks and the Government isn’t willing to take those. An opinion poll revealed that 84 per cent of parents believed that they ,and not the state ,should choose how they and their childminders disciplined their children. Another research revealed that 50 per cent of parents wanted to reintroduce corporal punishment in schools to tackle the increasing classroom disorder. A lot of parents believe that it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child. Even Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury have admitted that they have smacked their children . It would just be too difficult to outlaw something which is such a common occurrence . Scotland attempted to ban smacking children under three years old but they didn’t go threw with it . With the elections just 12 months away ,no Member of the Scottish Parliament wanted to be rowing on the doorsteps over who could tell a parent what to do. However banning smacking isn’t popular ,whatever child development experts say. A few Christian schools want to reintroduce corporal punishment in schools on the grounds that such punishment is part of the Christian heritage. Also the Conservative leader ,Duncan Smith , has made it clear that he is in favour of corporal punishment.
A Whitehall official who is closely involved in the smacking policy already said that they won’t go as far as banning smacking for parents . The ban to parents isn’t the preserve of the Department for Education . As long as David Blunkett is in charge of the Home Office there will be no ban on smacking for parents.
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