Like smoking tobacco when aware of the health risks, smacking children is illogical when the effects are considered. It is established that physical punishment can harm a child’s health and well-being, doesn’t work, and strains the relationship between parent and child. Meanwhile, smoking tobacco can cause lung disease, and can damage the heart and circulation.
So why do we do it? That’s easier to answer for smoking, because the act of inhaling nicotine which can be an enjoyable experience, to the extent that a smoker will become addicted. But when it comes to smacking, the only “positive” appears to be that it instantly stops unacceptable behaviour, and even then not always. Is it worth it? All the evidence suggests it is not.
For parents at the end of their tether, administering punishment with a smack may seem like the only place left to go, after everything else has failed. And if we are being honest, the number of parents who can say, hand on heart, that they have never smacked their child will be a small minority. Frustration can get the better of the most mild-mannered parent who has never laid a finger on another person – apart from their own offspring.
The statistics also show that we are out of step with the rest of Europe over smacking. Considering Scotland’s progressive outlook on rights, this should be cause for concern.
Once more, a comparison with smoking may be necessary if change is to be achieved. The ban on smoking in public places was initially controversial, but was quickly accepted, the benefits enjoyed by the majority, and a return to the way we were is unthinkable. It appears that the same sort of path will have to be followed to move on from smacking – corporal punishment in schools also required a ban – if attitudes are to change.
The Scottish Government may be hesitant to interfere in what will be described as a family matter. It will take courage, and a leap of faith, to break with the past. But if not now, then when? It is time now.