Smacking Ban: Why It's Important For Child Protection
Smacking a child could amount to a charge of assault or child cruelty now in Ireland, writes Arlene Harris
In our grandparents' era, there was very much an attitude of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Adults, whether parents, teachers or even friends and neighbours, thought nothing of giving a child a clip around the ear or a smack on the bottom if they felt they were talking out of turn.
Thankfully these days are long behind us, and while the children of today are much more boisterous and opinionated than those of previous generations, they do not get punished physically for making their presence felt.
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Physical Punishment Ban
Many countries around the world have banned physical punishment against children, and out of the 28 member states of the EU, 24, including Ireland (as of 2016) have enacted laws to prevent corporal punishment.
This comes as welcome news because despite the majority of people instinctively refusing to raise their hand to a child, in November 2015 Europe’s top human rights body ruled that Ireland’s laws on corporal punishment were in fact in breach of the European Social Charter.
Legislation allowing parents to use their physical might against their children was repealed 17 years ago but the defence of "reasonable chastisement" was still legally permitted up until November 2015, when the Minister for Children, James Reilly and Senator Jillian Van Turnhout co-sponsored an amendment to the Children’s First Bill to remove this defence. And now that the Bill has been passed by the Dail and signed into law, slapping a child could amount to a charge of assault or child cruelty.
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Important For Child Protection
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) welcomed this development and said the legislation is integral to ensuring a robust and effective child protection system.
“The passage of the Children First legislation through the Dáil is a milestone for child protection in Ireland,” said Grainia Long, ISPCC Chief Executive. “As has been uncovered in recent years, far too many children were failed by a state that did not intervene to protect them from abuse. Long overdue, this legislation will ensure that all those who provide services to children are required to commit to their protection through systems and procedures for child protection and child safety.”
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A Personal Experience
Sarah Hanrahan is delighted with this move towards a more tolerant society for children. She spent a lot of her childhood in foster care and was at the receiving end of corporal punishment both from her biological mother and in various homes she lived in throughout her childhood.
“My mother was a very angry woman and had serious issues with alcohol,” she admits. “When I was little both my brother and I would get slapped several times a day – we learned to stay out of her way as much as possible.
“Then when we got a bit older, we were put into different foster homes for a while because my mother had to spend time in hospital, and I was often given a smack and was even pinched on a few occasions because I wasn’t sitting still at the table. Even now, the memories make me feel really sad – so I’m delighted this new ruling means other children won’t have to go through the same abuse.”
The Expert View
Dr David Carey, Director of Psychology at City Colleges and Dean of the College of Progressive Education says slapping is not the way to discipline children nor to help them develop. He has a list of reasons why it should be avoided:
- Slapping hurts; so a big person should never deliberately inflict pain on a little person. It is wrong.
- It does not teach children how to behave properly; it only stops them from doing something wrong temporarily.
- A child who is regularly slapped will grow up to be an adult who hurts others physically.
- A child who is regularly slapped will believe they are 'bad' and have lowered self-esteem and self-confidence.
- A child who is regularly slapped will not trust adults and believe that other people will eventually hurt them; this causes disturbance in all relationships.
Go to our Kids page where you'll find lots of information all aspects of children's physical and mental health.