'Smacking doesn't get you anywhere': Mother and paediatric nurse supports smacking ban

Credit: PA Images

A paediatric nurse has spoken out in support of the 'smacking ban' after seeing first-hand, children admitted to hospital suffering from the impact of assault. 

Rhiannon Hazelwood, from Ebbw Vale, said "smacking doesn't get you anywhere" and teaches children that it is ok to hit others.

She has been speaking as part of a campaign highlighting the importance of maintaining discipline without physically punishing children.

A change in legislation is due to come into force in Wales in March 2022, removing the defence of reasonable punishment. That means parents will no longer be able to defend using physical force - like smacking, hitting or slapping - to punish a child.

Ms Hazelwood, who is also a mother herself, said her parents would sometimes use smacking as a form of discipline when she was a child.

"Sometimes it was a slipper from my grandfather," she said.

"We became fearful of the slipper. My dad was the main disciplinarian in the household and my mother would always say 'wait until your father gets home'.

"We would say: 'Please don't tell dad', but if he came home and we'd been naughty we would get a smack. I'm not sure if it's done me any real harm, but now I've got my own children my perspective has changed."

She believes smacking is not an effective form of discipline and it is much better to explain to a child what they did wrong.

She said: "Smacking doesn't get you anywhere. I've hit my six-year-old in the past and he would just turn around and hit me back. For me it's basically telling them it's acceptable to hit.

"I get further with him now if I just sit him down and talk and discuss the consequences of his behaviour and what he did wrong. I tell him 'Mummy is really disappointed in your behaviour' as he then knows he's hurt my feelings.

"He gets upset as he doesn't want his mum to be disappointed in him.

"As a nurse I get to see the complex issues, which may go on in households when it comes to discipline and when children are seemingly out of control or parents, grandparents are at the end of their tether. I've also suffered from post-natal depression and I can see how things can come about when parents are exhausted and not thinking clearly."

Ms Hazelwood supports the change in the law in Wales as she thinks it will make things "clearer for everybody".

Children playing in school playground. Credit: PA Images

From 21 March 2022, the defence of reasonable punishment will no longer be available in Wales where behaviour like hitting, shaking or slapping has been used on a child. Similar action has already been taken in Jersey and Scotland and more than 60 other nation states across the world.

The 'Discipline takes Discipline' campaign will run alongside with the Welsh Government's parenting support programme, 'Parenting. Give it time', which offers parenting support and practical alternatives to physical punishment. It hopes to teach parents that discipline should be about providing a child with boundaries, guidance and support as they learn appropriate behaviour.

Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Social Services, said: "Physical punishment should not be an accepted part of any childhood.

"Discipline and physical punishment are two very different things - the first guides, supports and provides boundaries, whilst the other causes emotional hurt and physical pain. 

"Children and their rights are at the forefront of this new law. Physical punishment doesn't change short-term behaviour and in the longer term it can be potentially harmful to children. There are so many alternatives to physical punishment as a way to manage behaviour and our Parenting. Give it time programme offers some great advice."

Credit: Barnardo's Cymru

Sarah Crawley, director of Barnardo's Cymru, said there is mounting evidence that physical punishment is not effective in the long term and does more damage than good.

She said: "Clear and consistent boundaries are crucial in childhood and we believe that positive, non-violent parenting encourages better behaviour.

"Smacking children teaches them that violence is acceptable and although it may initially stop a child misbehaving, research has shown that it does not make them behave better in the longer term.

"In addition, there is evidence that for a minority of young people, it has a hugely negative impact."

Simon Calvert, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, claimed the smacking ban is not supported by the public.

He said: "We all want children to be safe and well cared for, but criminalising loving parents, as we see from New Zealand will have the opposite effect.

"As well as wrecking good families, investigating complaints of mums tapping their tots on the bum will be a dangerous distraction to overstretched police officers and social workers, while those who work in the NHS, in schools or in caring professions face suspension from their jobs.

"Even if found to be completely innocent, they could still have the complaint recorded on state databases impacting their future careers."

In Wales, physical punishment has already been outlawed in schools, children's homes, local authority foster care homes and childcare settings.

More information on positive parenting including resources to help parents, is available on the Welsh Government's 'Parenting. Give it time.' web page.