The Debate About Hitting Children

Photo by Average Joe via Flickr

Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland discuss a difficult issue for many parents - is it good to punish children by hitting them?

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

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And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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What do you do when a child misbehaves? What if he does not listen? What if she breaks your house rules? What did your parents do when you did not behave well?

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All parents face these questions. All parents teach their children right and wrong. But what is the best way to do this? There are many ways to punish children when they do wrong.

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But in some places, there is a big debate about one kind of punishment - hitting. In different parts of the world this is called either spanking or smacking. It usually involves hitting a child on the bottom. But it could be hitting children anywhere on the body. Should parents use hitting as a form of punishment? Or are there better ways to punish children? Today’s Spotlight is on the question of hitting children as a way to teach them.

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In 2005, there was a big debate about smacking in the country of New Zealand. Rose Berge is a social worker. She was part of Family Works. This group works to stop violence against children. She said that New Zealand was one of the worst places to raise children. She told BBC News,

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“New Zealand’s home violence rates are horrible. Our child abuse rates are horrible. If we are going to stop child abuse in this country, I believe it has to start with the way we raise our children.”

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However, there were many people in New Zealand who believed it is sometimes necessary to smack their children. They do not feel that they can be good parents without this kind of punishment. This is also true for many parents in other places in the world. Many parents do not believe that hitting a child in this way is violence. They believe they are teaching the child with a method called negative reinforcement. For example, when a child does not obey a rule, a negative thing happens to them. In this case, it is being hit on their bottom.

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But many experts say it is never good to use any kind of violence on children. They say children who grow up in violent homes often become violent adults. Because of this, in 2007 the government of New Zealand made it illegal to smack a child. But the new law did not end debate about smacking. There have been several efforts through the years to change the law. Tracey Martin is a New Zealand politician. She has worked to change the law. She told the radio program Checkpoint with John Campbell about her own parenting.

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"I would give my children a smack on the hand or a smack on the leg. Normally it was when one of my children would decide they were not going to listen to me. I would explain myself for a number of minutes. Then we were in a situation where I was saying 'you need to do as you are told'. If the answer was still 'no' then it was a smack on your leg. I would send them to their room. I would tell them: ‘We can talk about it later when you understand that I am the parent and you are the child.’"

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Martin’s efforts to change the law worked. But there are still people in New Zealand working to educate parents. Rob Beckett worked to create a program that educates parents in ways to teach without smacking. He understands that change will take many years. He told the BBC,

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“We know there are people out there who still hit their children now. But we see people coming through our program that will never have to hit their children because they have learned good parenting skills.”

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This is not just an issue in New Zealand. There are now 52 countries that have banned smacking. These countries are all over the world. They include Iceland, Greece, Brazil, and France. There seems to be a movement toward less smacking.

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And yet, in almost every country there is a serious debate on this issue. In 2016, there was debate in the country of Canada. Dr. Gerald Robert Farthing teaches child development at the University of Saskatchewan. He does not think that teachers should be permitted to smack children. But some parents should be permitted. He told the Global News,

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“For me I think the situation is very important. If we have a loving parent relationship then along with it comes the teaching or the training or the talking. Then smacking as a resource can be a very good method.”

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The country of Sweden was the first country to ban smacking. This happened in 1979. Almost all people in Sweden agree with the law. There are still people who argue against making parents into criminals. Mali Nilsson works for Save the Children. She told the Christian Science Monitor;

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“If you get angry with me about something, you do not have the right to hit me, do you? Then why should children not enjoy the same rights? The law does not give any legal punishment for smacking. It just requires social workers to support families in problem situations. There has been no increase in parents pulled into the criminal justice system. No children have been taken away from their families.”

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Raising children is very important work. At a young age children learn if the world is a safe or a dangerous place. They learn about power and how to get what they need. Raising children is also very personal. Some people were smacked as children and decide never to smack or spank their own children. Other people think about how wild they were as children and think it was a good thing that they got a good smack from time to time.

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What do you think about hitting children? Do you think it is always wrong? Or do you think it is necessary to be a good parent? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

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The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘The Debate About Hitting Children’.

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Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


What did your parents do when you did not behave well as a child? Do you think it was a good method?


Avatar Spotlight
said on May 01, 2018

When I was a child, I remember to be spanking and smacking often, but I deserved it. And this did not make me a violent adult. Instead, I hate violence both verbal and physical. For me, it’s a silly argument that children hitting on the bottom will become a violent adult. However, there are parents who don’t know the difference between an education hit and a violent hit just to discharge their fury, and this is really dangerous.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 01, 2018

Is Mrs. Rose Berge married? Does she have children? I worry about people who, without any practical experience, are willing to give advice on how to proceed in this or that situation. I never liked punishing my children with violence, but I recognize that there are times when a good spanking is needed.
For me, every case is a case and no government has the right to interfere in the way parents educate their children.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 02, 2018

When I was a child, I was sometimes spanked by my parents and of course I didn’t feel happy with that at all although I knew I had mistakes. However, I realize that hitting for education purposes is needed when I grow up day by day. It’s very good if a child listens to their parents but sometimes spanking works better. I don’t think that good hitting will make children become violent adults because if parents truly love their children, they will know how to control their actions so as to bring good education results.

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said on May 03, 2018

We live to be good persons in life. We live to be good children of family. We live to be good parents of family. We complete our responsibilities and duties with all our effort in life. No parent does not love their children. Parents care for, teach and correct their children. Children are future of family and community. Good children are beautiful good future of family and community. We live to be good persons in life. We complete our responsibilities and duties with all our effort in life. We are good children of family. We are good parents of family.

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Vuong Huu Dinh
said on May 13, 2018

Punish child.

Most parent want their child is well and know obeying.
Sometime the child cannot recognize that is a wrong thing, adult always want they stop working, or punish them. but how you choose the best way to punish. That is a art too.

In the world, many countries have had a ban to treat the children in violent, so, to avoid the illegal parent should choose a way how it is useful.

I think, when you angry, you cannot choose the best way, but you calm down you will choose better way, do not use the hand hit them or wood plate hit them, that action is very easy to broke bone or exist the bruising in the skin or face. but that is a violent.

Or you use the talking, where you should do that, at home or in crowdid, or when at the midday, after lunch etc.

If you use the talking place and time wrong, it will be become the negative thing.

It is important, you talk to them, how do not broken their heart, do not make you become their enemy, In your talking will have benefit and education.

To recognize bad behaviour is a difficulty, but change it, that is a more difficult working.

Hope that parents on the world have a right choosing.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 06, 2018

When i was a child. I often to spanking and smacking by my mother. Really i was not a good child and when i saw my mother cry, i changed my behave.

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said on September 05, 2019

When I was a Child, our parents have a mind what, the word learn with blood, traditional method they used to teach the children.Be parents is dificult and a lot responsability, there are situation when the children do not behaves, cry anything reason, i talk with him, explain that is wrong.
Rarely I smack him with the belt, however e know this is for the good. is good smack from time to time,

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 08, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the questions below
Location São Paulo city São Paulo Brazil
Friday 08, November 2019

Dear Adam Navis, Michio Ozaki, Liz Waid, and Bruce Gulland

I thank you for producing and writing more one great article for us brazilian people and others around the World.
Question 1 - What did your parents do when you did not behave well as a child?
Answer 1 -  My mother smacked me so much on my whole body and stepped on my hand. My body used to be in red color of my blood. After that, my mother used to take me a shower of water together with salt.
Question 2 - Do you think it was a good method?
Answer 2 - No, I do not think so.
Child is a child.
Children are children.
However, parents should not smack a child. We should teach good behaviours to the children,
we have to talk to the children and we have to understand them.
Children have not notions what is wrong or right. So parents should love their children because they did not ask to their parents to come to the World. They did not ask to their parents to give birth to them.
Finally, I perdon my mother. She is so sorry about it, we have already talked to each other about that violence with me when I was a child.
God bless you
Severino Ramos