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Quote of the Day: Beating Children Banned in Scotland

dennis the menance being spanked
Dennis being spanked by his Dad with a hairbrush

Many years ago, we at the Coalition for Equal Protection set out on a mission to give children the same protection from physical assault as adults. For a country that aspires to be the best place in the world for children to grow up, it seemed astounding that our most vulnerable members of society were the least protected from harm.

We called for an archaic defence, which allowed adults charged with assaulting a child to claim ‘reasonable chastisement’ or ‘justifiable assault’, to be removed from Scots law.

Children and families across Scotland and organisations from across civic society, including the Church of Scotland and Scottish Youth Parliament, joined together in a movement for change, to remedy what was a fundamental issue of children’s human rights.

So, when the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Green MSP John Finnie and then voted through overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament last year, we were both delighted and proud to see Scotland become the first UK country to commit to protecting children from all forms of physical violence.

This Saturday, when the new law comes into force, will mark a momentous day in our journey to making Scotland a country where children’s rights are recognised, respected and fulfilled.

The campaign has been a long and, at times, difficult one. Physical punishment is an emotive subject: it speaks to how we were parented; how we parent. But physical punishment isn’t an effective way to discipline children and, worse, carries with it a risk of harm.

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The report, produced by researchers at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, found that physical punishment did not work, damaged family relationships and there was growing evidence it increased aggression, anti-social behaviour and depression and anxiety in children, which may continue into their adult lives.

There is good evidence that in many countries, including Scotland and the rest of the UK, the prevalence of physical punishment is declining and public attitudes have shifted.

It is becoming less acceptable, and the vast majority of parents express highly ambivalent and negative feelings about its use. And there is evidence that legal change accompanied by public education campaigns accelerates this change in attitude.

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Furthermore, children say it doesn’t work and before the last Holyrood election a Scottish Youth Parliament survey showed that Scotland’s young people – the parents of tomorrow – were overwhelmingly in favour of bringing up their children without physical punishment. More than 80 per cent of over 72,000 young people, aged 12 to 25, agreed that “all physical assault against children should be illegal”.

However, for too many children, physical punishment is still part of their upbringing. And there is evidence for the risk of escalation from milder to harsher forms of physical punishment over time.

It is for these reasons that the Scottish Parliament passed the legislation and stated in clear terms that physical punishment should no longer be part of childhood in Scotland. And this message is even more important now.

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Young families are finding that positive parenting approaches which foster warmth and are supportive are better at helping children understand the difference between right and wrong while also making life easier for them and their children.

There is now a wealth of advice available on positive parenting techniques and setting clear and consistent boundaries in a caring and responsible way.

As three charities that have worked in child protection for many years, we know that the best way to help children is to provide support for them and their families. And support is out there to help parents manage stressful situations.

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Next week, when the new law comes into force, we will be joining more than 50 other countries around the world, including Germany, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland, to bring in such measures.

This legal reform is something for children, families and the whole of Scotland to embrace and celebrate as a hugely positive development which can improve family relationships and wider society.

In September, when the Scottish Government announced its intention to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, it made clear its vision was to transform Scotland into a country that values, respects and cherishes every child.

And giving children equal protection to adults from physical assault and ridding our laws of nonsensical and outdated loopholes is a fundamental place to start.

— Joanna Barrett, The Scotsman, Smacking ban rids Scotland of a nonsensical law that allowed adults to assault their children, November 3, 2020

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Kudos to Scotland for passing such a law. So many Americans believe the myth of American exceptionalism, but there are so many more forward thinking countries throughout the world that put our country to shame.

    I didn’t realize how abusive corporal punishment was to children until I read about it in a psychology course in college. My husband is a trained educator, and he also knew of the dangers of corporal punishment. His parents were pretty forward thinking for the 70s and 80s and also didn’t use corporal punishment on their kids (except one unfortunate incident where my father-in-law pinned one of his 14-year old sons against the wall for back talking his mom, and there was a lot of yelling in their house which is another form of abuse).

    There are so many ways of instructing kids that don’t require physical or verbal abuse. You just have to be much more creative. It’s easy and lazy to yell and hit.

  2. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Let us rejoice in our slavation, I mean salvation! Let us not spare the rod and ruin our kids! Let us take the rod to the evil heart that defies and says ‘No’ to a parent! Is God to be mocked and ignored? Are the consequences of mollycoddling kids and making them sissy children worth it? They can make all the laws they want but I answer to my father in heaven and he says that it is unwise to spare CORRECTION!
    My now dead dear dad was a Baptist preacher and did not like to hit his kids. My mom used to beg him to do it sometimes but he did not take to it. He never explained why to me but when my mom would cry out, “Rooooooooyyyyyy! You’re gonna have to hit those kids!”, he would not respond with the violence requested. Mom would chase us boys in desperation with wooden spoons and fly swatters but dad resisted. Steven Anderson would condemn my father for being beig-hearted this way and demand that he grow a set and take the whip to us kids. But my dad was a good man, in spite of his adoption of extreme belief.
    I have two grown children now, in their twenties and they have never been disrespected by being spanked, slapped, swatted.
    Thank-you, papa. In spite of the toxic verses, you rarely spanked your kids. My older brother, on the other hand, was a regular hitter, a three strikes and you get spanked guy, a black and white Christian believer. My dad’s resistance to violence didn’t work with my older brother. Go figger.

  3. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    My mother was extremely proud that I was such a good child, I never “needed” to be spanked. If I’d been a normal, non-depressed child, I would have gotten slapped regularly. She’d grown up in a household where striking children was the norm, often without reason, by a father who frequently drank himself into rages. She occasionally threatened to slap me, when I was less than extremely diplomatic in our engagement.

    No kid should have to learn diplomacy in that kind of environment.

    She did try to slap me only once, when I was in my mid-thirties. We were working in her kitchen together on some holiday, and I said something that she misinterpreted as a criticism. She went to slap my cheek, and I blocked the slap easily. She was shocked, and it finally dawned on her that I was an adult and beyond her reach for discipline. That incident improved our relationship.

  4. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Sean Connery would love this news here in this post ! I read somewhere about him having a rough, impoverished childhood. I don’t remember all the details, except that he came up the hard way. Yes, Scotland will have happier families that break the abuse cycle. Good for them ! I was thinking about Connery when I read this today.

  5. Avatar
    mary

    good for the scots. if only america could progress. but we are being held back by the evangelical beliefs. most people we know stopped spanking long ago. i would love to see this made law here the usa.

  6. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Thanks, Mary. Yes, we need a law like this– I grew up in many bad neighborhoods over the years, and the more the kids get clobbered, the worse the neighborhood !

  7. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Poor Dennis ! His parents never had much of a sense of humor. Often they were sticks in the mud, the adults in his life. I grew up in slummy neighborhoods. I can vouch for the fact that the poorer and rougher the area, the more kids got mistreated in all sorts of ways. Beatings, certainly . I think it would help the country a lot to have anti- spanking laws. The greatest danger is when the baby, if they are unwanted, goes home.

  8. Avatar
    Rachel

    Yulya, it’s ironic you mention Sean Connery. Read his comments about beating women, please: he thought it was totally okay. (Something along the lines of “If you don’t slap a woman now and then, she won’t respect you.”) He was a part of the abuse cycle! But we don’t hear about that very much because he was a glamorous male film star so somehow his contemptible attitudes towards women are something to be tolerated and excused. Large sections of the media can sound very moral and upstanding but when it comes to (largely male) violence within the home, they are silent.

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