herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Gerry O'Carroll: I still feel ashamed and mortified about the one time I smacked my child

An angry father strikes his child. (Pic posed)
An angry father strikes his child. (Pic posed)

It's a good idea to abandon the defence of 'reasonable chastisement' when it comes to smacking children.

It is now 15 years since legislation that allowed parents to physically chastise their children was repealed. However the defence of 'reasonable chastisement' still exists and Children's Minister James Reilly is now drafting legislation to remove it.

This is a contentious issue. A sizeable proportion of the population believes that corporal punishment should not be illegal.

But the 'reasonable chastisement' defence, as it stands, places Ireland at odds with a European Social Charter. As a parent of five children I recognise the fundamental right of parents to discipline their kids. However I disagree with the barbaric practice of inflicting physical violence on helpless children.

shock

However I didn't always practice what I preach. On one, and only one, occasion many years ago I smacked my four-year-old son across the legs.

I remember the look of shock and bewilderment on his face and I swore to myself, there and then, that I would never again strike one of my children. My actions made me feel ashamed and mortified.

Like many of my generation I was subjected to often brutal beatings as a child by sadistic teachers with canes. I still carry the psychological and emotional scars of those public humiliations.

The notorious policy of 'spare the rod and spoil the child' is, in my opinion, an outdated and dangerous load of bunkum.

No adult, parent or teacher should, in any civilised society, be allowed to inflict physical violence on a child.

That's why the laws must be changed and changed quickly.

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