The deputy head of the Council of Europe has urged Britain to outlaw spanking — or what she calls “smacking.” In the U.K., as in the U.S., corporal punishment is banned in schools, but not at home.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said that parents banning physical punishment is the “definite push” that the country needs in order to shift to “more efficient” forms of discipline for children.
Her comments come amid heated debate in England over which is worse — for parents to hit young children or for the government to mandate how parents can discipline their kids.
Under an amendment to the Children’s Act of 2004, in England, parents can hit their kids as long as they do not leave a mark. A recent attempt to introduce an all-out ban failed.
Recently, a Government review closed a loophole that previously allowed smacking in part-time education settings such as religious schools, but concluded it woul be “largely impractical” to prevent mild spanking by adult acting in loco parentis (grandparents, babysitters, etc.).The majority of parents in Britain oppose a ban, according to recent surveys.
However the Council of Europe is keeping up the pressure on Britain to introduce a total ban, saying that it is one of only a handful of countries to hold out after 20 formally outlawed smacking in the past three years.
Sweden banned corporal punishment 30 years ago, becoming the first country to forbid all forms of violence against children, including at home. The U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptible.”
In an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph, Judith Woods opposed state interference in family life:
I’m not suggesting we beat our children, ever. But there is a wealth of difference between a smack across the legs after a wilful six-year-old runs out on to a busy road, and a sustained assault, and we already have laws to safeguard our children and everyone else in society.
But de Boer-Buquicchio insisted that “a legal ban doesn’t neither erode parental authority nor questions the need of discipline. It just challenges the use of violence.”
Although de Boer-Buquicchio conceded that majority of parents who spank their children are loving, she said:
When it comes to the protection of the physical and psychological integrity of women and children at home, I can but be grateful that the State takes its responsibilities when people don’t.
Banning corporal punishment is the model that the Council of Europe would like countries to follow. You can call it ‘pressure’ if you like, but we are not about to shove anything down your throats. It is a matter of time and understanding, and we think that time will prove that we are on the right side of the debate on whether to ban corporal punishment of children.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., spanking seems to be losing popularity as a method of discpline. The latest C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health in the U.S. found that 1 in 5 parents say they use spanking as a form of discipline, but most prefer a less hands-on strategy.
A recent study from the University of Tulane in New Orleans suggested that three-year-olds disciplined with spanking were more likely to be aggressive by the age of five. Other emotional problems have been linked to spanking.
A 2007 attempt to ban corporal punishment in California got nowhere.
How would you respond to a proposal for a ban on spanking in the U.S.?