I wonder how many of us are aware of laws that affect our everyday lives and could get us into serious trouble, bearing in mind that ignorance of the law is no defence.
As of today (21 March 2022) it has become illegal in Wales for parents (or anyone acting in loco parentis) to smack or otherwise physically assault their children.
I was quite surprised because I thought this had become law in the United Kingdom some years ago. It turns out that Scotland brought this law in two years ago but England and Northern Ireland still allow smacking if it is considered to be “reasonable punishment”.
Pictured above is the Facebook posting that brought the matter to my attention – and as I commented I was surprised because I thought it was a UK ruling.
When I checked up on it I discovered that it is just that Wales has adopted this stance as of today and that Scotland adopted it two years ago.
I was not only surprised – I was shocked. Shocked by the attitude of the person who posted it: “what nonsense!”
Now I may not have been the best dad in the world when I was in my 20s and there might have been a smack now and again, but I soon realised there are better ways to get children to behave.
The FB post was in a group aimed at people who grew up in the 1960s and I was expecting a lot of my peers would jump to defend the children and very speedily the responses came rolling in:
“never harmed me and we got the slipper at school”
“I was brought up with belt and birch . . . made us tough as nails”
“I got smacked and it made me learn respect”
“World gone mad!”
“A quick wrist slap or back of legs never did mine any harm!”
These are some of the milder comments. I was amazed to find out how many people in this country still believe that a child should be smacked or slapped for being naughty.
The most common response, and the one that really had me concerned about ongoing violence, was that old adage: “My parents did it to me and I learned respect. I taught my children in the same way.”
My father and mother were wonderful people and taught us to respect others and to keep an eye out for those in need of care and protection. Neither of them gave us even an admonitory tap on the hand let alone the *posterior.
The response when I mentioned this was: “Well aren’t you a goody two shoes.”
My answer? “No.”
I was then asked if I had a silver spoon and again my response was: “No.”
Technically that was a lie because we have three silver spoons but they came from my wife’s family and I knew what the question really mount – born, mouth, silver spoon.
There were also those who talked about having the cane or slipper or belt when they were at school. Here I was on firmer ground because I knew what that felt like.
As I have mentioned before I was caned by the headmaster of my school in the 1960s and my response to my FB interrogator was: “I was caned at school and it made me more rebellious. It did not give me respect for the headmaster – it just increased my belief that he was an arrogant sadist. Six thwacks is not appropriate for not having my uniform cap at school.”
Within four hours of the original posting there were about 300 responses and the vast majority were against the ban.
I was especially surprised at the number of women who trotted out the old adage about “spare the rod and spoil the child”. I wonder what their attitude would be to husbands being allowed to beat their wives. It was not forbidden by law until well into the 20th century.
In the late 1800s it was considered acceptable for a man to beat his wife provided the stick or rod used was no thicker than his thumb.
In the early 1900s new laws were brought into force stating that a man could not beat his wife except during the hours from 7 am to 10 pm. This was not to protect women, it was to ensure others had a peaceful night’s sleep without being kept awake by the cries of wives being beaten.
In fact it was not until the 1970s when women got together and started their campaign about domestic abuse and general abuse with their Reclaim the Night marches and the opening of the first women’s refuge.
Considering this I was amazed at the number of women supporting the physical punishment of children.
It is only in the last 20 years or so that we have realised what happens to children in their formative years can cause problems in later years. Not all victims of child abuse fall into the sexual abuse category.
If these people really believe physical punishment makes children respect their elders then they are much mistaken. It teaches them to fear their elders and eventually they may seek revenge.