Letea Cavander with her daughter Tallulah Stuart at Coolum Beach.
Letea Cavander with her daughter Tallulah Stuart at Coolum Beach. John McCutcheon

Is smacking a child ever the right thing?

A PERTH mother was convicted of common assault and fined $750 after she smacked her child with a wooden spoon, causing a bruise.

She said her nine-year-old daughter had been told not to eat old meat meant for the dog, which had also been filled with the animal's medication.

She found her daughter eating the meat and the smack followed. The 35-year-old mum said she hit her daughter out of fear and frustration. I know disciplining a nine-year-old is vastly different from working things out with a one-year-old. My daughter is only just starting to realise she has individual agency.

With that realisation, I am sure there will come a time when she starts to really press the boundaries. My partner and I have discussed this issue and we have decided not to use smacking as a punishment.

One reason, among others, is that my partner's father was violent and we do not want our child to experience even a smidge of that kind of life.

I also strongly feel that if we smacked our daughter, we would be sending her a message that violence towards her is acceptable. And I never want my child to think that. This is all extremely easy to say now, when our daughter is one.

As parents it feels sometimes like we have such little time, especially when we are working.

And the thing about disciplining without physical punishment is that we need a lot of energy and a lot of patience. And a lot of time.

Time to watch them lose it in shopping centres. Time to sit at home while conversations take place following bad behaviour.

Time to enforce 'time outs' or 'naughty corners' or whatever non-physical punishment we dream up. It is not the path for every family, and not every family has the same motivations as we do to keep smacking out of the home. The other thing about the Perth mother example is that her child was in danger. She was eating meat laced with a dog's worming tablets.

When a child is in danger, is a smack appropriate? I believe there are other ways of dealing with a situation, but I know many others who would say the Perth mother's reaction matched the danger her daughter was in by eating that meat.

What are your thoughts?

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