To smack or not to smack?

To smack or not to smack, that is the question.

Bad puns aside, it is a regular discussion of modern parenting: whether giving your offspring a quick slap on the hand/leg/bottom should be allowable.

For this parent, it has been tried and tested with very different results.

My firstborn was a rare tantrumer, but when she did her turns were quite spectacular.

Once at the beach her tantrum escalated quickly, and I worried she would cause herself serious harm from thrashing about. As it was she already had a mouth full of sand. A quick smack to her leg stunned her into stopping, and I never needed the punishment again.

I felt truly awful: sobbing as soon as it happened, and vowing never to do it again.

Then came my second daughter, with her stubborn temper.

While I have never ventured down the path of a bottom or leg smack, I have tried several times to break her tantrums with a slap on the hand.

My attempts have been futile: if anything she has screamed louder, and harder.

But please don’t tell me you can reason with a one year old.

‘Time outs’ in her room simply did not work when she was so young. As she nears two, there is better comprehension about what is right or wrong and now I use ‘time outs’ for both children with a fairly decent success rate.

I have moved on from smacking, but that’s not to say I disagree with it in the right circumstances. But I know, I know: the ‘right circumstances’ are probably impossible to define.

My own experiences echo the issues with trying to ban smacking: there are so many shades of grey.

Most of my mummy friends have smacked their children at least once. None have lost control; none have abused their children. All of them are terrific parents.

Their children are generally lovely too: but when toddlers lose their cool (as they do, sometimes several times a day), sometimes-physical restraint is entirely necessary.

And here lies the problem: the Royal Australasian College of Physicians is asking for legislation that they claim will give children the same protection from assault as others in the community.

To accuse those who smack their children of assault is insulting. The difference between hitting and smacking is stark.

Smacking is not assault. It is not the perfect punishment either, but some sanity is needed in the debate. Trying to label parents as abusive when they are generally trying to restrain a toddler who is out of control is plain offensive.