Wales

Smacking: Why I believe it is every parent's right

A photo of Dr Ashley Frawley Image copyright Swansea Unviersity
Image caption Studying marginalised groups has affected Dr Ashley Frawley's views on smacking

The smacking debate is increasingly hitting the headlines. Earlier this month, Scotland announced plans to make the practice illegal, and Wales is amid a consultation.

BBC Wales News has spoken to leading voices on the issue - one in favour of smacking and one against. Here, Dr Ashley Frawley, senior lecturer in social policy at Swansea University, explains why her experience of marginalised groups has led her to defend the right to smack.

Sometimes I wonder why I am sticking my head above the parapet to defend the right of parents to smack their children.

Since Scotland announced it was to introduce a ban on smacking, and Wales' decision to consult on the issue, I have become a vocal campaigner for the Be Reasonable campaign, which seeks to stop any ban and continue to give parents a choice.

It's an uphill struggle - more than 50 countries, including Ireland, have already banned smacking, with supporters describing the practice as "abuse" and saying the current defence of "reasonable chastisement" is outdated and wrong.

I have spoken on countless radio shows and been part of a large debate at Swansea University, but taking my position has come at a price.

I have been repeatedly trolled on Twitter, with some asking why I seek to defend "hitting some of the most vulnerable in our society".

I've been called an unfit parent to my 16-month-old.

Others have contacted my head of college, complaining that a university lecturer of my rank should not portray such bias - as if humans should not be allowed to think anymore or hold a political judgement.

Some people might have shirked this publicity, but I have a personal reason why I am fighting so hard to prevent the smacking ban from coming into force.

I grew up in Canada, in the city of Sudbury, Ontario, and am an Ojibwa woman, or what most might understand as "Native American" or aboriginal.

As such, I know first-hand how the children of some aboriginal families have been treated by the government and removed from their families.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Under Scottish law, parents can claim a defence of "justifiable assault" when punishing their child

Between the 1960s and 1980s, thousands of Canadian aboriginal children were taken from their homes by child-welfare service workers and placed mostly with non-aboriginal families.

It was a dark chapter in Canadian history known as the "Sixties Scoop".

Aboriginal scholar Dian Million has described this practice as the "moral policing" of aboriginal mothers, simply because they did not fit the mainstream idealisation of middle-class mothers in "pumps and pearls".

However, this chapter is still not closed; even today there are more aboriginal children in care than during the Sixties Scoop.

It's a similar story for the poorer and working classes in the UK and around the world.

Our contemporary UK parenting culture regards such parents with suspicion and as "morally suspect".

There's an implicit sense that only middle class people who've "consulted the literature" are really capable of the tough business of raising children.

In my view, this is the deliberate result of policies by a white, middle-class elite thinking they know best, and so too is this move to ban smacking.

People may think I am exaggerating, but I know exactly who a ban will disproportionately impact - and it is the migrant families, the poor and the working-classes who are already over-represented in numbers of children in care.

That is why I feel so passionately about it; it is unfair.

More than this, though, it is promoting the view that states know best - something I feel is very dangerous and difficult to stand up to.

Increasingly, it seems the democratic will of the people and parents counts for nothing.

Why is this? It used to be that parents, and particularly mothers, were sources of information on the raising of children, but now they are morally judged and pilloried for trying to do their best.

People simply do not realise that if this ban is enforced, it will criminalise parents for disciplining their own children.

Children will be taken away or put on an at-risk register, parents will be hauled to court, and it will not be the case of "innocent until proven guilty".

In fact, it will greatly damage the home life of those involved - and that damage will be much greater than the effect of any smack.

Image copyright monkeybusinessimages

Childhood is not perfect, and neither is parenting.

It is a messy and difficult business, but wedging the state and a host of self-styled "experts" between parents and their children sucks the joy out of it and transforms family life into a series of techniques.

It will make parents continually second-guess themselves.

Perhaps ironically, I myself have no plans on smacking my daughter as she grows.

So far, I have never felt the need, but as she reached for an electrical socket the other day, my husband instinctively slapped her hand away.

It was an act of love and protection. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, and there is nothing wrong with other parents doing the same.

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