It would be unjust to penalise a parent who smacked their child

News Letter editorial on Friday April 22 2022:

By Editorial
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 12:45 am
Updated Friday, 22nd April 2022, 2:06 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The smacking of children is upsetting for everyone involved.

No child likes receiving it. Barely any parent likes dispensing it. And very few people derive any satisfaction if they oversee such a scene.

One easy response to such a method of discipline is to say that it is abhorrent and should be banned. That is what is happening rapidly across the UK and Ireland.

A ban on physical punishment of children already exists in Scotland and Wales. The Republic of Ireland has had a ban on slapping children since 2015. And groups such as the NSPCC want such a prohibition introduced in Northern Ireland.

However, while it is easy to explain the attractions of such a ban, it does not take much imagination to see the massive problems with it too.

Almost anyone who has lived in a society in which smacking is widespread (as it still is in these islands) will know that many conscientious parents resort to it from time to time.

Try, therefore, to envisage a scenario in which a stressed mother is dealing with an unruly child and, after a ban on smacking, she nonetheless spontaneously smacks the child for very bad behaviour.

Then think of how utterly inappropriate and unjust it would be to bring proceedings against such a mother, and to punish her through a public legal process.

Corporal punishment was banished from schools long ago. But it is another step entirely to remove that sanction from parents. Yet there is now a notable political reluctance to articulate such obvious points in defence of the rights of mothers and fathers to discipline their children physically.

Thus it is refreshing to hear England’s education secretary Nadhim Zahawi saying that parents should be trusted to make their own decision on whether or not to smack children. It is about time politicians at Stormont, who increasingly seem to fold in the face of woke opinions, outlined some of the same arguments in favour of a parent’s right to smack.