Smacking study hits raw nerve with Observer readers

ALTERNATIVES: GAPDL'S Communities for Children teaches programs that promote alternatives to smacking.
ALTERNATIVES: GAPDL'S Communities for Children teaches programs that promote alternatives to smacking. Andrew Thorpe

A NEW study has shown parents smacking their children as a means of discipline is not as effective as you might think.

A team at the University of Texas in Austin has concluded smacking makes children "more aggressive and more antisocial".

Conducting controlled experiments to determine the effect of smacking on children is seen as unethical, as it would involve telling parents to smack their children - so the team divided 12,112 participating children into smacked and non-smacked groups to achieve a similar effect.

The findings showed there was a clear difference in how children in the two groups behaved, with an increase in behavioural problems in the smacked group between the ages of five and eight.

Despite the study's size - and similar results produced in previous efforts - many of The Observer's readers were quick to dismiss the findings, with most belonging to the school of thought that they were smacked as a child and they turned out okay.

"Abuse is not parenting. Let's stop confusing the two," Patricia Morrison said.

"People think they can judge each other and new studies encourage this ... Discipline is essential and different to abuse."

Debbie Charman was one of many in agreement with Patricia's views.

"There is smacking and then there is aggressive smacking," she said.

"I grew up with smacking and I am still here and I love my parents for the way they brought us up."

Shaunnish Dearden said alternatives like putting kids in a naughty corner did nothing, while Donna Wongung said she deserved "every smack (she) got".

"The generation these days is out of control, kids having more rights than parents," Ms Wongung said.

But the study's findings have found support from at least one prominent local parenting organisation.

Wendy Morris, executive officer of GAPDL's Comm- unities for Children, said it was understandable so many people saw smacking as a useful parenting tool.

"Children don't come with a rule book or a manual ... sometimes they are challenging no matter the circumstances," she said.

"Little people have big emotions, but they don't necessarily have the brain power yet to control those emotions ... what we talk about during some of the programs we facilitate is the four sections of the brain.

"The frontal section that deals with reasoning is not developed in girls until their early 20s, and in boys some- times until their late 20s."

Ms Morris said parents looking to discipline their children for poor behaviour should be trying their best to help them build neural pathways that help them to make the right decisions.

"If you're trying to teach a child to behave respectfully, but you're smacking them - they are going to follow your behaviour," she said.

"A child who experiences physical punishment (is likely to) instigate physical punishment down the track."

Ms Morris said there was a wide range of programs and support groups available for parents in Gladstone, including 1-2-3 Magic and Emotion Coaching, Engaging Adolescents and the Positive Parenting Program.

Visit Communities for Children's website at for an events calendar of available programs.

Topics:  children discipline education parenting smacking

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