Surveys show that Australians are evenly divided on whether to smack children as a form of discipline and punishment. However the expert advice is very clear – it is wrong, for three key reasons.

1) Smacking doesn’t work. Yes, every child needs discipline. But the research shows that smacking only achieves a desired behaviour in the short term.

Repeat and increasing smacking levels are needed in the long term to achieve the same result. In addition, rather than learning desired behaviour, children who are smacked just end up doing the undesired behaviour behind parents’ backs.

2) Smacking is associated with long term problems in childhood and adulthood including: aggressiveness, anti-social behaviour and mental health problems.

3) It’s illegal for adults to hit and hurt each other, so surely it’s not morally justified for parents to hit and hurt children.

What to do?

The most effective way to teach your child discipline requires, firstly, a close, loving and trusting relationship, and also to:

  • Be clear and consistent in what you expect from your child.
  • Reasonable, consistent, age-appropriate expectations and limits.
  • Let the little things go.
  • Ensure consequences relate logically to your child’s behaviour.
  • Provide ways of behaving differently in the future.
  • Take time to calm down or even walk away before you react.
  • Be clear that you disapprove of a behaviour, not your child.
  • Express pleasure and praise when your child does the desired behaviour.
  • Seek help and support if problems persist.

For more information, visit

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