Spanking damages trust and violates a child’s innate right to a safe upbringing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 9:37pm

I refer to the letter from Ray Patton (“Looking back with gratitude on being spanked as a child”, February 4) in reply to my letter (“Corporal punishment can lead to children losing their self-esteem”, January 24).

His acknowledgment of my lifelong battle against child abuse is much appreciated and most encouraging. Mr Patton and I share the common vision of raising a child into a responsible person who stands tall against hardship and is able to differentiate between right and wrong. However, our belief in how these can be achieved differs.

Mr Patton thinks that spankings raise the value of one’s character, and make good, strong and determined people.

He implies that abolishing spanking contributes to a “snowflake” generation.

He further argues that a young child is not ready for reasoning and spankings get the message across.

We think that spanking is not a reasonable chastisement, as it is a violation of the child’s innate right to a safe and dignified upbringing.

Children are capable of reasoning sooner than many adults realise, and harm can be done at the tender and critical age of up to two years. Spankings could teach behaviour that parents may not be looking for. Even used mildly, they often evolve into uncontrollable emotions, causing children to be badly hurt. They damage trust between parents and children, and can lead to increased aggression.

More importantly, banning corporal punishment does not mean indulging a child or depriving the parent of the authority to guide and discipline.

On the contrary, it affects child-rearing patterns and beliefs and it leaves parents to strive for more proactive means of parenting. The law, even if it does not criminalise, sets the baseline of acceptable child rearing. This law must go hand in hand with parent support and education.

Of the 52 countries which have banned corporal punishment, Sweden was the pioneer. Before it introduced the anti-spanking law in 1979, as many as 50 per cent of parents spanked their children – and now it is only a few per cent.

Sweden has spent the last 38 years acquiring approaches to enable children to grow up in a non-violent environment, and a new generation so brought up are now parents who will continue with this new culture of child-rearing and the respect of a child’s innate rights.

Fine characters are not built with spankings and humiliation.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairperson, Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights