To smack or not to smack

WHEN it comes to discipline, mother-of-four Michele Hayward is a firm believer in having time out -- for herself, that is.

The Cudgen resident, who has two boys and two girls aged between 18 months and eight years, said she tried to put herself in her children's shoes before punishing them. "You are their world and the giant in their lives," Ms Hayward said. "Having them in fear is not good."

Staunchly against corporal punishment of any kind, the full-time mum chooses to remove herself when she feels her temper rising. "When I am cross I look really scary to the little guys," she said. "So I choose to move away."

However, Ms Hayward believes the current push to ban smacking in Australia is taking things too far. The move, by some Australian psychologists for smacking to be outlawed, comes after research revealed that a third of child homicides are caused by physical abuse. Ms Hayward said the idea that people could be jailed for smacking their children was "ridiculous".

""buse is not acceptable, but it is a parent's discretion to discipline their child," she said.

That is a viewpoint Eungella mum Sandra O'Brien would agree with completely.

The single mother-of-five said children needed to know their boundaries and understand the consequences of bad behaviour.

But merely sending them to their room was not always the answer.

"Grounding children these days is ridiculous; you might as well send them to Disneyland," Ms O'Brien said yesterday. "They have got a play station, DVD, television, dolls and puzzles in their rooms." Ms O'Brien said the community respected those parents who disciplined their children.

"Who wants to be in the shopping centre with kids running under trolleys or screaming," she said. Yet, it seems that when it comes to the issue of smacking kids, even the professionals are divided. Tweed Valley Early Childhood Intervention Service Educational secretary Sandy Rogers believes in the rights of parents to discipline their children.

But Ms Rogers, who has 93 children from new-borns to six-year-olds in her care, is against professionals such as teachers or carers using any form of corporal punishment. "There is a big difference between a controlled, caring spank to a parent lashing out in frustration or anger," Ms Rogers said. "Most children will respond to other forms of discipline like time out or taking away a toy. But as a parent, these methods may not always work, and I feel that a little spank is sometimes necessary to protect the child from harm." But Family Support Services manager John Asby said hitting children had negative consequences. "Kids will resent it and " Mr Asby said. "It teaches children violence is okay."

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