Today I was in "The Square", a large shopping centre in Dublin. A young mother wheeled her trolley past me, and a small child was sitting in it. He was about 18 months old, and mum had let him play with a plastic bottle of milk that she was going to buy. As tiny curious people do, he threw it out of the trolley to see what would happen.
Unsurprisingly, milk exploded all over the floor. Mum was very embarrassed. So, what was the first thing she did? Put the trolley over the spill to stop people slipping in it? Go and get a staff member to tell them?
She slapped this tiny child across the face.
I saw red. I was so angry. If she did that tme, a large male, she wold be arrested and charged. But it's OK to do it to a small toddler.
I wanted to ring the police and tell the security guard. But there was no point. This behaviour is COMPLETELY LEGAL in Ireland.
The baby looked stunned, and cried for a minute. But this obviously wasn't the first time it has happened to him. Will it stop him doing it again? No. He isn't old enough to know why he was hit. He isn't even old enough to know that it's wrong to throw a bottle of milk out of a trolley.
I've been a staunch opponent of corporal punishment for as long as I can remember. I've heard all the arguments. I'm sick of "A smack never did me any harm". Well, smoking didn't do my 90 year old neighbour any harm, but anecdote shouldn't form the basis of policy. Plus some of the people who say it hasn't done them any harm are the most maladjusted individuals I know.
I'm sick of the "I just tap him if he's bold" argument. Firstly a "tap" from a 20 stone man is probably quite painful to a child. And surely a "tap" that doesn't hurt won't have the desired effect.
Aside from the fact that it's wrong for be to be allowed to hit a lid, when it's illegal for me to hit an adult, it's also not effective.
Virtually all of the scientific studies and all of the paediatric bodies come to the conclusion that corporal punishent is the least effective form of punishment, and it can lead to problems in itself. I used to work in a paediatric behavioural clinic, and more problems are caused by smacking children than are solved by them. In fact, getting parents to stop hitting children is one of the first steps in improving behaviour.
Smacking a child tells them A) Violence is an acceptable way t0 solve a problem and B) That their parents are not in control of the situation.
A child who believes either of the above has the potential to be a disciplinary nightmare.
I respect no-one who hits children. I know it's harsh. But I lose all respect for someone when they tell me they hit their kids. It's always followed by a nonsense excuse. But it's still assault in my eyes.
The UK have gone some ways towards protecting their children. And special praise must go to New Zealand where they have banned the smacking of children in all settings.
Sadly, Australia and Ireland (as always) are lagging behind. The Irish in particular have most to be embarrassed about, considering it's still legal to slap kids in reidential settings (though virtually all of these institutions have guidlines for staff advising against it).
Both Ireland and Australia have a pretty shameful history of failing to protect the most vulnerable people in their societies. Outlawing corporal punishent would be a step in showing that we're beginning to take the welfare of our children seriously after all these years.