Mum: ‘Smacking wasn’t for me but banning it is wrong’
Smacking bans are “authoritarian” and needlessly intrusive, a mother and writer for the Mail Online has said.
Kathryn Knight described the new anti-smacking law in Jersey, which took effect this month, as ‘irritating and discomfiting’, adding that it “raises uncomfortable questions about the extent to which we let the state tell us how to be parents”.
Knight argued strongly against anti-smacking legislation despite the fact she only smacked her daughter once and decided never to do so again.
The mother pointed out that laws already exist to “prosecute parents who harm their children” and said legislation to ban smacking would be unlikely to deter such people.
Her arguments mirror the case against smacking legislation in Scotland and Wales put forward by Be Reasonable over the last two years.
Be Reasonable cautioned politicians that the legislation would not bolster support for children who are most at risk, and may conversely result in good parents being targeted by the authorities for light physical discipline.
Knight also touched on alternatives to smacking legislation. She wrote:
“There’s a vast gulf between not condoning smacking, which encourages parents to think twice about it, and making it illegal. We all want to raise good citizens. But where we can, we must avoid legislating on it.”
Scottish and Welsh politicians could have deterred smacking through awareness-raising campaigns – avoiding the, often blunt, instrument of the criminal law. Instead, they removed a legal defence of reasonable chastisement altogether, leaving parents open to prosecution.
The vast majority of parents in Jersey, and in the rest of the British Isles, are loving, caring and protective. They would never do anything to harm their children. Yet it is these same parents who will be caught by the new laws.
There’s still time for politicians to see sense.
Read Kathryn Knight’s comments in the Mail Online below.
On an infamous family holiday in Croatia, my then three-year-old girl, Connie, had the mother of all tantrums.
They were not unfamiliar, but on this occasion it was unfolding half a mile from shore in a small dingy my husband and I had hired for the afternoon — and Connie’s hysterical foot-stomping was in danger of capsizing the boat.
We all had life-jackets, but I didn’t relish the prospect of flailing in 10 ft of the Adriatic while trying to haul ourselves back into the vessel.
So, with all the usual threats in my armoury exhausted, I resorted to something I had never done before: I smacked my daughter’s bottom. Just once and not hard, but it worked. Connie was stunned into silence, replaced by tearful wailing.
The whole incident — which she, thankfully, doesn’t remember directly — has passed into family folklore. But what isn’t mentioned is how ropey I felt, long afterwards, about effectively losing control. I never smacked her again.
So you might assume I would be in favour of Jersey’s decision to outlaw smacking. On the contrary, I’m both irritated and discomfited by it; the former because it feels like unnecessary authoritarian grandstanding, and the latter because it shows worrying interference in the way parents raise their children.
The new law comes wrapped in the language of child safety, and it’s always hard to mount an argument against that. But the key question here is: is it necessary? Laws already exist to prosecute parents who harm their children, and the kind who do are unlikely to be deterred by this latest legislation. What this does instead is potentially criminalise a vast number of loving parents who use a smack as a well-managed final reprimand when all else has failed — among them my own parents, who were not averse to giving me a sharp tap on the back of the legs (worse in the anticipation than the delivery) when I had put myself at risk.
Even if you robustly disagree — and I understand the argument that it normalises violence, although by that reckoning ten minutes watching cartoons does much the same — it raises uncomfortable questions about the extent to which we let the state tell us how to be parents.
There’s a vast gulf between not condoning smacking, which encourages parents to think twice about it, and making it illegal. We all want to raise good citizens. But where we can, we must avoid legislating on it.
What next? Outlawing giving our kids junk food?