Why Smacking Is the Best Way to Punish Naughty Children

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

Smacking is out of fashion Ė considered to be somewhere between paedophilia and hatred of the EU on the Lineker-Allen Official Scale of Political Incorrectness.

Parents who read The Guardian, live in Islington and still have faith in the BBC, prefer to punish their children by depriving them of their Facebook and Twitter accounts for a week or by refusing to allow them access to the family guacamole dish for a month. A modest infraction of family rules will result in a week without television or a weekendís forced confinement to the home.

The truth is that punishments, by virtue of the fact that they tend to continue long after the cause of the punishment has been forgotten, are cruel and unusual and likely to do lasting damage to the punishee and to the child-parent relationship.

A gentle, smack on the bottom is, applied rarely and judiciously, is in fact, still the fairest and healthiest way to punish children.

It is, after all, what animals do with their young.

I once watched an older cat trying to teach a pair of kittens how to hunt. When the cat wasnít looking the kittens would fool around, not paying attention. Spotting this, the cat tutor bopped the kittens firmly but with love. The kittens, duly chastised, then paid attention to their lesson.

Punishments work best when they are over quickly Ė and when they are clearly related in time to the sin involved.

Stretching out a punishment over time is more likely to lead to anger and resentment.

The essence of the smack is the fact that it shows disapproval. It is a clear expression of parental criticism and dissatisfaction.

It definitely isnít about pain.

The advantage for all concerned is that a timely applied smack is over quickly.

Of course, there are now officious social workers, policemen and even doctors who will regard an occasional smack as something irredeemably wicked. Parents who dare to punish their children this way are likely to find themselves arrested, humiliated or demonised. Parents who smack in public are likely to find themselves starring on YouTube.

So, sadly, it canít be done.

Smacking, the best way to punish naughty children, is a definite no-no.

But, to balance the debate, I would just point out that we should all bear in mind that those individuals who prefer the long, drawn out punishment, the week-long ban from television or mobile phone use, and who may like to consider themselves to be on the high moral side of every equation, politically correct and beyond reproach, are deliberately extending the punishment they choose to give.

And that, let us all remember, is one of the definitive qualities of sadism.

Copyright Vernon Coleman

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