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Domestic CP - September 2006

Corpun file 18394

The Times, London, 20 September 2006

Majority of parents admit to smacking children

By Rosemary Bennett
Social Affairs Correspondent

SEVEN out of ten parents smack their children and would strongly resist any move to ban corporal punishment in the home, according to a poll.

And in the population at large, the survey uncovered even greater support for parents' right to smack. Eighty per cent said that they believed in smacking, while 73 per cent said that they believed a ban would lead to a sharp deterioration in children's behaviour.

The picture of Britain as a nation of enthusiastic smackers will alarm children's charities. Barnardo's, Save the Children and other charities are campaigning for a total ban. Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, said that he intended to make a ban on smacking a priority of his post.

The experts argue that children are the only group who can be assaulted legally. However, the poll suggests that they are out of step with parents. The findings will be seized on by ministers who have said that they will not legislate to ban smacking.

The poll was commissioned for an ITV1 documentary, I Smack and I'm Proud, to be broadcast tomorrow. Although some of the parents featured said that they would prefer not to smack and felt guilty afterwards, others said that it was essential to show who was in charge.

The law on smacking in England and Wales was changed during the last Parliament, making it illegal to leave any mark or bruise on a child. However, the new law maintained the legality of parents hitting children, saying that it was justified on the ground of "reasonable chastisement".

The poll found considerable confusion of the legal status of smacking. Only 43 per cent of parents understood the new law, with the rest thinking that smacking was either illegal or that there were no restrictions.

  • TARA MACMILLAN, 36, smacks all three of her children and is not ashamed of it. Smacking for her and husband, Bryn, was a last resort after all the other methods of disciplining children recommended by experts had failed.

    "With all of them I have tried everything else the warnings, the naughty step, withdrawing certain toys or treats. But it just didn't work for my children," she says. A former police special constable who now works as a training co-ordinator for a charity in Leeds, Mrs Macmillan believes that it has helped her to improve the behaviour of her three children. She has not smacked her 14-year-old daughter Jaime for some time, "although I would if I thought she needed it".

    But Ross, 8, got a smack last Friday for the first time in two weeks when he refused to get ready for school. "It worked. It is the shock of the smack that makes him behave, and he got ready," she said. "For him, smacking has a lot more impact than a naughty step or taking away his Gameboy for an evening or turning off the TV. Each child is different. Some children would be mortified if they couldn't watch TV but Ross just goes off and does something else. You have to find the method of discipline that works for your child."

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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