Another smack in the mouth for parents is the last thing they need

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Dr. Jon Stanley


We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. No dark sarcasm in the courtroom. Wales, leave those parents alone. 

Efforts by paternalists in Cardiff to ban smacking are as ironic as they absurd because they conclude that the threat of coercion and distressing punishment are preferable to reason and will result in no harm. This exactly the argument used by those believe in smacking children to discipline them. Both sides are wrong.

I confess that as a parent and a doctor I abhor violence against children. I really cannot stand it and seeing it and its consequences does distress me. I haven't done it nor will I. I have had the benefit of a medical education that has taught me a great deal about psychology, psychiatry, child development and ethics. Most parents out there haven't and being educated does not make you better than others over and above that. Some lefties would call that a "privilege". 

To not smack a child and still discipline them (by which I mean steer their development and not punish them) requires a skill set. It presumes patience, calm reason and the understanding of the impact of various forms of discipline and the trade-offs involved in them. It assumes parents are in the frame of mind to do all of this. That is an assumption borne of intolerance to reality and experts should admit it.

The argument, rightly, goes that it distresses a child to be hurt by their parents. Not every smack is calmly administered by parents after a clear explanation of reason. Many are retaliatory. Many more coercive to ensure convenient behaviour such as when children play loudly and interrupt adult conversation.

"Be quiet", smack. "Stop making so much noise, I'm talking," smack. "Don't hit your brother," smack. "Stop smacking people," smack. 

It never ends. It is clear that parents who smack are often distressed, as their children soon will be. It is easy to judge, to condemn and then to say to the parents:

"You have smacked your child and this is wrong so now we are going to assault you psychologically by fining you even if you're poor and we will threaten to take your children from you, creating havoc in your vulnerable mind because that havoc will teach you a lesson."

Such threat of financial deprivation and torture just doesn't make sense. We will soon live in a world where a six year old boy can report his parents to an Arts-graduated police officer for being smacked and have them punished by people they do not know without knowing the limits of acceptable behaviour laid out by their parents.

This is cultural Marxism writ large and any invitation to have politicians police us is wrong. It is even more wrong knowing it will likely not affect middle class university educated readers of this article but instead it will further police the other lot, in their estates and social housing, on their benefits with their ugly views as defined by the great and good.

This brutalising of the "less" educated needs to stop. Could it be any further removed from the ideal of social democracy where the professional skips hand in hand merrily with the humble worker to the beat of a rich man's taxes? It is cruel and it is ignorant and it helps no one, certainly not those advocating banning smacking. The same argument could be applied to ban sugar, smoking, driving a car, drinking, or indeed anything deemed harmful by experts.

If the evidence for a smacking ban is overwhelming, beyond doubt, and so easy to fathom then why can we not educate children and their parents about why it is preferable not to smack? Is it really less damaging to use intimidation, deprivation, passive aggression or humiliation than smacking to set limits?

And is it right to jail a mother or fine a father when that family has one parent or is poor? 

I genuinely don't know. For now being reasonable and firm without becoming irate seems to work for me. Each child and each parent is different and so too will be their interactions. If the evidence for some forms of discipline being superior is so strong we all deserve the right to hear it and debate it. Simply deciding one camp is right because they enjoy authority seems to be the lesson we are at pains to stop teaching children all the while seeking to exact that same righteous chastisement against their parents.

One thing can be sure of is that if parents have started smacking their children then suddenly stopping will mean different forms of discipline will be needed and how exactly are we to ensure these will be used? If they cannot reason with parents, then so called experts have no right to deny that parents cannot always reason with their children. 

So everyone go back to school, or there'll be trouble!

Dr. Jon Stanley is Health Research Fellow at the Bow Group, a Junior Doctor and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons