Smacking Children – Is Smacking Children Okay?

Please see our article: 11 Reasons Why Smacking Is Ineffective and Damaging

Smacking is defined as the act of striking the buttocks of another person with an open hand, with the intention of causing temporary pain without producing physical injury.

Historical records show that smacking was first practiced in Ancient Greece. At that time, it was a pagan practice for increasing fertility in women who were unable to conceive a child. Barren women were smacked by the priests. The practice of smacking was later on introduced by the Catholic Church as a means of adult women to have their sins removed. They were smacked by the priest after confession.

Other historical data show that smacking, as we know it, started in Victorian Europe. It was also around this time that Sigmund Freud first published what later became known as “Oedipus/Electra Theories.” These theories indicate that children were being sexually abused by their parents because of the very strict environment in homes during that period. This resulted to an outcry from the general public and Freud lost his funding. He later stated that children were creating these fantasies.

There are many periods in the history of the world where smacking was a “normal” part of life:

  • In the United States, slave-owners could whip their slaves. This was abolished in theory, at the end of the Civil War. But many slave-owners continued to hurt their slaves even after the war.
  • Husbands beat wives with little chance of being arrested. Unfortunately, this still happens today ” although not as widespread as years past.
  • Jail guards could whip or cane prisoners. In the US, this practice ended in the state of Delaware in 1952 and in Britain, the last flogging took place in 1967.
  • Boxers were expected to beat each other senseless up to the point where they can no longer function.
  • The public could commit violence against people found guilty and held captive in a pillory. By 1839 this was abolished in most US states.
  • Sailors could be flogged by ship officers. The US Senate abolished this practice in 1850 and Britain abolished it more recently ” in 1957.
  • School teachers were allowed to use corporal punishment on their students. However, in 1986, laws were passed to abolish smacking in state-run schools in Britain and in privately funded schools in 1998. Meanwhile, in 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada prohibited corporal punishment in Canadian schools. However, punishment in schools is still allowed in approximately 60% of the states.

Today, there are 29 countries around the world that make it illegal for parents, teachers or anyone else to spank a child. There are 113 countries that prohibit corporal punishment in schools. However, in North America, physical punishment, especially done by a parent, for as long as it is not severe is still seen as necessary discipline.

According to Pinky McKay, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Parenting Author, Infant Massage instructor and mum of five, “…research showed that up to 90% of Australian mothers believed that smacking was acceptable. Younger mothers were more in favour of smacking than older mothers.”

Smacking Is Not Effective In Behaviour Management

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that smacking your children is not effective in managing their behaviour. In fact, smacking may negatively impact on your child’s development.

In a study published in Pediatrics, researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence that smacking may make children act out more in the long run. Nearly 2,500 children were involved in the study and those who were smacked more frequently at the age of 3 were much more aggressive by age 5.

According to Dr. Catherine Taylor, community-health-sciences professor at Tulane, “The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50% if he had been smacked more than twice in the month before the study began.”

Why should parents stop smacking children?

1. Smacking teaches kids that hitting others is okay.

As stated above, studies show that there is a direct link between corporal punishment in childhood and aggressive or violent behaviour in the teenage and adult years.

2. Smacking makes a child preoccupied with feelings of anger and revenge

Instead of learning more effective and humane methods of solving a problem, he/she becomes preoccupied with feeling of anger and fantasies of revenge.

3. Often, children who are smacked because of “bad behaviour” only want to get their parents’ attention

Parents these days have so many responsibilities that they often have little or no time to give attention to their children. Sometimes, children act out to get their parents’ attention.

4. Smacking may make a child resent his/her parents

Any human being will find it hard to feel loving towards a person who hits them. While it may make a child obey a parent, this is not because the child wants to obey. Children who are constantly smacked by their parents tend to do what their parents want for fear of being hit again.

5. Smacking can cause injury to a child

Blows delivered to the lower end of the spinal column send shock waves along the length of the spine which may cause injury.

Dr. John Irvine, a child psychologist believes in training and not taming. He says, “Smacking is meant to hurt. I’m about where you try to heal the child, not hurt the child. Kids who get hit a lot often grow up to become hitters, you don’t get good kids if you belt them.”

Ms. McKay emphasised, “I strongly believe that good discipline is about maintaining our own dignity and our child’s dignity, and smacking does neither. I am bewildered by the logic that if an older child lashes out at a younger one, this is bullying or how, at a certain age, hitting another person becomes assault, and we certainly wouldn’t condone being slapped by our partners, yet we can accept adults smacking little children.”

Ms. McKay adds that each parent should do an inventory of his/her “parenting toolboxes.” She invites parents to ask themselves what they have learnt and absorbed, growing up. Each parent should ask himself or herself what he/she has learnt from his/her parents and from his/her culture.

Dr. William Sears, MD, a practicing paediatrician for 30 years and Martha Sears, RN, parents of 8, say it directly ” smacking does not work. Dr. Sears stressed that smacking does not work for the child, the parents or society. It does not promote good behaviour and creates distance between a parent and child. Smacking contributes to a violent society.

In addition, a study made by the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of New Hampshire led by Murray Straus, results show that spanking actually decreases IQ to a significant degree. After conducting research across 32 countries around the world, results showed a lower national IQ in countries where corporal punishment is common.

A child needs gentle instruction that is supported by a strong foundation of love and respect. Children should be loved and nurtured and not hurt in any way. By doing this, your children, in turn, will learn to love and respect others. They will pass this on to their children when the time comes. Instead of passing on violence from one generation to the next, generations of families filled with love, respect and high self-esteem will flourish.

Member Thoughts & Experiences With Smacking

Below are some stories from BellyBelly Members which I have added in anonymously. There is also a discussion in our Forums including a poll to see what percent of parents are smacking and what percent are not. To read the poll and discussion, click HERE.

Smacking Experiences #1

“As a child, I was smacked if I had done something wrong. I quite often remember my step-father getting the belt and threatening with that. I never copped the belt but am sure my older brothers did at some stage. I have a vivid memory of being smacked several times across the head as a teenager (12/13), by my mother when I refused to going to school after feeling “sick” again. I did bring this up with my mother a few years ago as we now have a close bond, and she has no recollection of ever doing it.

As a mother now myself, even though I don’t like to publicly admit it cause of the looks I get, I do at times smack my children. It is usually after they have frustrated me to no end and I end up lashing out. I have never smacked them around the head (thanks mum), but they have copped either a smack on their bottoms, back of legs, and occasionally on upper torso. I don’t feel better for smacking my children cause the guilt is instant, and nor do they really learn from it but once they hit that button that is it, and I loose control. I can confidently say that I don’t repeatedly smack they are just smacked the once.”

Smacking Experiences #2

“I always swore I would never smack my children; as a child I was sometimes smacked with things that left marks on my body. The resent, anger and sadness that it created, I didn’t want my children to experience. My husband was smacked as a child too, more forcefully that I was it seems. I wouldn’t dare smack my partner if he did something wrong, so why would I smack my children? Why should these little, vulnerable people get the harsher deal, both physically and emotionally?

As it is, I have actually smacked one of my children long ago, despite previously having gone off my tree for the one time I saw my husband smack one of our children – the anger it created in me was huge. I know he did it out of frustration, it had been a very difficult day where our child had been going nuts non-stop for hours and were not listening to anyone – we’d never seen behaviour that bad before. But the time when I did it, I was a mess emotionally, it was just before I went onto anti-depressants and was not coping. I had no patience, no support… I lost my cool. I had instant guilt for making my child cry, I reget it and I don’t want to ever do it again. It makes me sad thinking about it. I am working hard at taking a deep breath at times when I am feeling that pressure build up so I can deal with my frustration better and give myself time out before trying to deal with it again.”

Smacking Experiences #3

“I was smacked once, aged about 2 because my brother, aged nearly 6, had messed with the volume control on Dad’s posh new stereo. He didn’t believe that my brother didn’t know which way was “down” when he turned it up and we both got a smack on the bum. I don’t actually remember being smacked, I remember mum finding a red handprint on my behind in the bath (about 15 minutes after) and shouting and shouting at my dad.

From that moment on I was never smacked. The one other time my brother was smacked my mother told my dad she’d already left one violent man and she was happy to do so again. Her first husband had beaten her and their 4 kids, my half siblings and it had turned her completely off violence. I had a lot of respect for my parents, my mother could look at me and I’d behave, my dad’s tone of voice can STILL give me a cold feeling behind my ears. Their approval and love and praise was bountiful when earned and I sought it.

I do not smack my daughter. It would be great if I could raise her to have the respect for me I have for my parents, and I don’t believe it is respectful to hit people. I think it will be easier for me to teach her self worth if i do not smack too as I think violence is dismissive and undermines confidence. Though I intend and hope never to smack, I still find, in moments of high frustration, that I am tempted to hand-smack, and i have to stop myself and walk away.”

Smacking Experiences #4

“I was smacked occasionally as a child, however being one of the youngest of my siblings I did not have to endure what my elder siblings did. My father had a bamboo cane, and I remember he used to take it out on the eldest especially… she would have red welts over her legs – and this was not even for being very naughty. As time went on something must have changed, or maybe my Mum put her foot down, because he no longer used the cane. On the few instances I was smacked by him, I still remember clearly to this day – nearly 20 years later. My mother occasionally smacked us, or threatened us with a wooden spoon, but it never bothered me as much as my father smacking.

The fact that I remember some of these instances from childhood so clearly, gives me all the more motivation to prevent my children from having the same fearful memories of their parents. I am not perfect however, and in moments of extreme frustration I have given a smack on the hand or a light smack on the bottom – something I felt terrible for afterwards, and do not wish to repeat in the future.”

Smacking Experiences #5

“I have a memory of my Dad smacking me once. Just once. And the memory of it stays with me and makes we wince, even though it was not a hard smack. It was probably justified…I was about 8 years old and had been incredibly disobedient, and I know that it was at the same time as my Grandpa was very ill, so no doubt my Dad was under a huge amount of strain.

My Mum never smacked any of us, although she did threaten with the wooden spoon occasionally.

When I am at the end of my tether with my 3 little ones, I have nearly smacked. I ended up smacking the bed near my 3 year olds legs, but it really frightened me that I nearly smacked her.

If I feel that melt down oh my god I am so frustrated I am gonna smack her feeling I lock myself in the loo for a few minutes to calm myself down. I hate the feeling. But my husband and I have talked about it, and have chosen to never smack. He was never smacked as a child. So we have talked it over, and we will stick to being a family that doesn’t smack.”

Smacking Experiences #6

“I was smacked when I was a child and it was always by Mum. If I was disobedient with Dad he would get Mum to smack me later. It was never very hard and we always had to wait until an hour or so had passed before we got smacked. I think the anticipation was usually worse than the smack. To be honest what I really hated about smacking was the humiliation of it rather than the pain (especially since Mum’s special wooden spoon broke after about 10 years use on my older siblings and she could never find a suitable replacement – she was forever lamenting the inferior quality of Australian wooden spoons!).

I always swore that I would never smack my children but to my horror I gave my son’s hand a smack about a month ago after asking him not to touch something (a pile of folded washing) about 100 times. Even though it wasn’t hard enough to make him cry I felt awful afterwards and I hope to never repeat the performance. It was pure frustration and the stupid thing was that my thinking was so clouded by frustration that other solutions just didn’t occur to me. I could have moved him to a different room or put the washing in a different place or put a DVD on but I didn’t do any of those things.

I think that the lesson I should have learnt is that when I’m really frustrated I need to walk away so that I can think clearly and find a better solution. I just hope I remember it next time I get really, really, really, very annoyed.”

Kelly Winder (BellyBelly’s Creator)

“I believe that there’s a fair bit of smacking going on out there (even closet smacking) as a result of frustration – according to a BellyBelly poll, currently around 32% of respondents said that this is the case for them.

It really does take a village to raise a child, yet who has a village these days? Who has support or family closely around them to prevent smacking from even getting close by offering some form of distraction or re-enforcement to the child, in order for the mother to feel backed up and supported? It’s sad, for both children and their parents, that we end up parenting in ways we don’t want, and in more stressful situations than ever before, resulting in different choices and decisions. Dads are working longer hours than ever before and it’s often mum left at home to cope on her own to deal with it all, only to feel like a monster afterwards – since she is the one dishing out the discipline. So she thinks she has problems firstly dealing with her anger or frustration, then guilt from getting angry in the first place!

There are people out there who smack and are borderline abusive or are abusive, and they need to get help. There is no excuse for that. But I really feel that there is so much underlying frustration, stress and exhaustion going on that parents are having trouble preventing themselves from flying off the hook. I think this is important to do, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think smacking out of frustration is appropriate and I am not excusing it. I for one know that it is a tough task as a very busy, over-extended mummy. I think if we were smacked or not as children also plays some part in it, but I also think changing society plays a big part in this too.

Perhaps we should see more courses or advice out there on keeping your cool with kids when they wind you up, as well as some techniques on conflict resolution and help building support networks – I think that would be very helpful. It’s probably not going to work as a once-off course or session – families need to keep talking about this honestly with one another to keep themselves in touch with each other and to help vent their frustrations, encourage one another and realise that they are not the only ones out there. One course I do recommend to parents is Parent Effectiveness Training, which I have done myself and was very impressed with it. Either way, its important for parents to learn new tools for dealing with problems in the family and seek solutions to their own frustrations as best they can.”




  1. I got smacked as a child quite often. We also had corporal punishment in our schools. I feel that it is positive if it is done as an option of last resort. It definitely has the ability of modifying one’s behaviour. However, if physical punishment is over-used, then it loses its effectiveness and becomes hitting for the sake of hitting. Frankly punishments like Friday afternoon detention at school were more of a joke, and we used to while our time in detention away by trying to find ways to annoy the teacher on duty.

  2. What a steaming pile of PC hogwash. Both our children have received the occasional smack on the bum for dangerous or obnoxious behaviour and they are becoming fine little people. Happy, well-adjusted and respectful of their peers.By contrast, our neighbours, who proudly take the Dr Spock approach to parenting, are constantly imploring their little darlings ( with huge amounts of reason and compassion) to desist from whatever destructive behaviour they’re engaged in. The ‘little darlings’ choose to ignore this insipid approach of course, and continue to make life a misery for anyone who visits the household. They bite, smack and pull other children’s hair, and scream hysterically for the pleasure of it. All the while, their vapid, new-age, idiotic parents sit their smiling out of some misplaced sense of moral superiority in sparing them the rod.

    1. I think you missed the point. Smacking out of frustration was the Key. If your child was told to stay away from the local river and you found them by the waters edge, there is a smack, because their is danger. Whether it be drowning or crocs. (depending on where you live.) I believe when given information like this we should adapt our behaviours rather then justify or excuse them.

      1. “I think you missed the point. Smacking out of frustration was the Key.”

        There, full stop! I get smacked when I was young and was never out of frustration (at least from memory). I turned out to be good and are doing better than average. Every single point this article makes does not apply to me, in fact, I turn out to be quite the opposite.

  3. I cannot believe that a parent has been charged with smacking a child.
    We all received smacks as children to stop us doing things which were wrong OR dangerous for us.
    Where are these ” Do-gooders ” coming from?
    No wonder that we are seeing children ignoring the law and committing crimes in which they believe they are being protected.
    Bring back Parental Power and recognition of Law and Order/

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