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Prominent Australian and New Zealand Doctors Say Stop Smacking

By Yvette Vignando - 26th July 2013

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Today the Royal Australasian College of Physicians announced they are calling for law reform on the physical punishment of children - they are also urging parents and caregivers to consider alternatives to smacking. I say - good. And I hope the Children's Commissioner gets behind this initiative. We have asked the Commissioner for comments and hope to hear from her later today - I will update this post.*

Professor Susan Moloney, President of the RACP Paediatrics and Health Division pointed out that at the same time as making corporal punishment unlawful, we should be providing more support and information for parents about the potential harmful effects of physical punishment on children. Professor Kim Oates who has written here about smacking before said "Parents and caregivers want to do the right thing for their child and should be supported to use more positive methods for managing children's behaviour."

I can't express my views more clearly than those expressed by Professor Moloney 

“Research is increasingly showing that physical punishment may be harmful and children who receive physical punishment are at increased risk for a range of adverse outcomes both in childhood and as adults. These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressive or antisocial behaviour, substance use problems and abuse of their own children or spouse. While many children will not experience negative outcomes as a result of moderate or reasonable physical punishment, why put your child’s future health and emotional wellbeing at risk?”    

Yes, why would you? Is it because you do not have an alternative discipline or communication method that is effective for your child? And what are your views on more vulnerable children in our society such as those with an intellectual disability?

In my opinion, It's time to stop saying "it didn't harm me" and start learning alternative forms of discipline for your child. I have personally known of instances (not in my own family) of physical discipine harming a child emotionally - delivered with 'good intention' but also with ignorance as to its effects. I have written about smacking children here and here.

Please read this information from the Australian Psychological Society supporting the view that disciplining children is best without a smack - there is a link to other useful information on that page.

We ran a poll on smacking on this website. In the poll, we asked: "Do You Think Physical Punishment of Children Should be Illegal in Australia".  Results from over 600 responses were (28%, 34%, 38%). It seems to me that the majority of us don't like smacking but we don't want to be accountable for it:

* A spokesperson for The Children's Commissioner has let us know that the Comissioner has no comments to offer at present on the issue of smacking.

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