Myth: Mild smacking is an effective parenting tool that never did anyone any harm

Many modern parents and parenting experts do not regard smacking as an effective disciplinary tool.

While the best evidence we can find indicates that mild physical discipline in a loving and otherwise non-violent home may not "damage" children, there is a considerable body of evidence to show that moderate or harsh physical discipline does damage children (The Discipline and Guidance of Children: A Summary of Research - Office of the Children's Commissioner and Children's Issues Centre 2004).

Physical discipline does not teach children self-discipline and may model violence.  Two recent New Zealand polls (Littlies Lobby and SKIP) found that among young parents more than 50% do not believe smacking is effective.  There are now a significant number of well behaved children and young adults in New Zealand who have never (or rarely) been smacked.

Research indicates that parents mostly hit their children out of anger and frustration.

The organisations and individuals who actually promote smacking are relatively few, often with strong religious convictions, and with some alarming beliefs about the innate nature of children.

Physical discipline is still the norm in many homes in New Zealand and in many homes its use cannot be described as trivial.  To change this norm we need a new standard - one where physical discipline is not excused or endorsed.

Recent research indicates that around half of New Zealand children experience discipline that can be described as "harsh" or not "reasonable" (Dobbs T, 2005, Insights: Children and Young People Speak Out About Family Discipline, Save the Children; and Millichamp, Martin and Langley, January 2006, "On the receiving end: young adults describe their parents' use of physical punishment and other disciplinary measures during childhood", New Zealand Medical Journal).