Psychologist questions push for national ban on smacking
A FORMER child development and behavioural management psychologist has questioned suggestions there should be a nation-wide ban placed on parents smacking their children.
Experts from The Royal Australasian College of Physicians yesterday urged parents to consider alternatives to physical punishment.
They claim there was increasing evidence physical punishment led to depression, anxiety and aggressive behaviour.
However, Dr Andrea Quinn from the University of Southern Queensland, said that although the intent was good, there were more complex issues to consider than simply placing a blanket ban on the practice.
"Parents should set boundaries and children should be educated as to what the limits are," Dr Quinn said.
"When you punish a child, they do not necessarily learn what they have been punished for.
"But they learn how to avoid punishment," she said.
Dr Quinn said more time and effort should be spent on education and not just making something illegal.
"When you suggest a blanket ban, it says all parents are equally equipped to handle discipline well," she said.
"Some are not.
"By making it illegal, it does not mean it will not happen."
Dr Quinn said some parents differed in their views on discipline.
"Discipline should be a balance of warmth, care and love with clear limits set in place," she said.
"Parents for a lot of reasons differ in their ability to deal with that.
"By having a blanket ban, you then will have responsible parents concerned about giving their child a single smack.
"Especially if the child's safety is compromised for example running out onto a road."
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Community attitudes to physical punishment for children remain divided and while studies have shown that the majority of Australian parents still smack their children, support for the practice is declining.
In 2002, 75 per cent of surveyed adults in Australia agreed with the statement that it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child - this decreased to 69 per cent four-years later.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians' Paediatrics and Child Health Division is planning to launch a brochure, put together by doctors and parents, on how to manage a child's behaviour without smacking.