Smacking is a hot topic – always has been. Actually, that’s not true. Fifty years ago, it was understood that parents smacked their children. Pretty nearly all parents did, was the impression. So what!!!

Then, at least in the UK, there was a change. Lots and lots of arguments and articles about why smacking a child was wrong, and pointing out a range of alternatives. What else could be done: well, clearly reasoning with the child could be a good idea.; using a naughty step or naughty chair could be an alternative; moving him from the room might work; not giving a treat – the list is endless. What nobody seemed to talk about much was how to clarify the limitations: is it acceptable to put a child on a naughty chair for a long time? or to lock him in the car for half an hour? Or to drag him along by his arm as you race along the road? Or not talking to him for an evening or not saying GoodNight?

I have heard of all these things – of the 4 year old left in a car overnight [hot country] to show him who was the boss; the child with a virtually dislocated shoulder socket; the one who constantly misses out on treats. And, of course, explaining why F should not push G is not necessarily going to work in the excitement of the moment.

I don’t believe in smacking – but maybe that is because I am not a smacker [I never even hit my sister!!!! And she was seriously annoying when we were small]. And I have had a lot of time to read about alternatives and to sort them out in my head.  And I only had two fairly pleasant children, and enough money, and a partner who could take the child when I couldn’t cope any more.

There are parents who smack because they are at the end of their tether and have no idea what else to do.  And I was delighted to find research that suggests it is not the end of the world if it happens. This is in no way to suggest that smacking is good – just to say it might happen. For all sorts of reasons. There are a million reasons why people deal with situations as they do; we don’t know them all. If your sister was electrocuted as a baby and your child ignores all warnings about going near a socket – you might smack the child. Your child goes to push the child who has to wear a helmet because of his epilepsy, and ignores you telling him not to – you might smack him. There are pretty nearly always better ways of dealing with things but sometimes this is an instinctual response, like when your child runs into the road and you are terrified.

Fewer and fewer people smack. Which is a good thing. But a parent who is at the end of his/her tether might need a break and some guidance rather than being shouted at for using inappropriate punishment.