Parents today know more about responding to their children in a loving, calm and secure way, and the benefits for children’s brain development and long-term wellbeing.
We also know more about the negative effects of physical punishment on children, family relationships and society than we did, even five years ago.
The overwhelming published, international evidence shows that physical punishment:
- is an ineffective way to improve children’s behaviour
- is likely to be emotionally and/or physically damaging to children.
Find out more about the evidence:
- Equally Protected report.
Children 1st believes it is not enough to say that attitudes are changing and that many children no longer experience physical punishment. This perpetuates a legal muddle. What is ‘reasonable’ and ‘justifiable’? A smack, a slap, a hit?
Most people don’t like physical punishment and doubt it works. But legal reform needs to accompany attitude change. We need to take active steps to protect the minority of children affected – and apply the same, #EqualProtection in law to everybody in society.
Supporting children, supporting parents
Most parents in Scotland no longer use physical punishment. But where it remains most prevalent is with two to three year olds who are still developing their responses to the world. Tantrums and other challenging behaviour can be exhausting for a parent of a toddler or pre-schooler. However, our increased understanding of children’s brain development shows that children are unable to associate physical punishment with their previous behaviour.
It’s a parent/carer’s role to decide how to support their child’s development. Legal reform will support children and support parents by removing an outdated defence that can give a mistaken impression that physical punishment works.
Legal reform won’t mean the creation of a new law. The law that already protects adults from assault will apply to children. Police and prosecutors will use the same careful considerations including the vital ‘public interest’ test, to determine whether to take forward any case of assault.
In 34 countries where children are equally protected, there has been no rise in criminal proceedings and the law has helped to further reduce the use of physical punishment. Where countries have already reformed the law parents have discovered different, more effective ways to manage their children’s behaviour.
It's time for change
Our law is out of step with Scotland’s values and ambitions for children, the vast majority of our European neighbours and international human rights standards. It’s time for change.