Apr 5, 2011

Is it OK to smack you children?

Category: Boundaries and Discipline
Posted By: Maureen
picture of hand There has been a lot of talk in the media about whether it is okay to smack your children. I wondered what a child psychotherapist had to say about it?


There has been a some important research done on the psychological effects of smacking children with rather interesting findings. Generally there are two kinds of smacking; heated, that which is done in the heat of the moment when the child does something that makes the parent so angry that they hit the child, and controlled; smacking that is meted out after the event by a calm parent as a punishment for something. What is surprising to know is that it is the latter of these, controlled smacking that causes the most psychological damage to children. Apparently our children will forgive us if we lash out in temper and are able see and understand the feelings involved. However, children of any age are more disturbed by controlled smacking. Young children may not be able to make the link to the original behaviour and cannot understand why they are being hit and older children feel it to be unfair and sadistic, something which they often go on to act out on others later in life.

I know it seems trite but I do think that children are our responsibility, we made the decision to bring them up and I don't believe that includes a right to hit them. They may test the very limits of our control and drive us to within an inch of insanity but at their core they are small, vulnerable and utterly dependent human beings whom it is our job to protect.

However, we are also not perfect and it is good to know that if we do loose our control and hit out, studies show that our children will understand. But hitting out in the heat of the moment does not really model the kind of behaviour which you might be wanting to pass on to your children. We are often trying to help our children to manage their feelings, to contain them and not act out irrationally. If we are to have any success at this we will have to be make some attempts to do the same ourselves. Controlled hitting on the other hand is likely to have very counter-productive results and give your child a rather punitive, sadistic model for human relationships.

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