It's Okay to Slap Your Child - The Pope Says So ......

Yes, it's true. The Chief Commander, the CEO of the Catholic church has spoken. He who is in charge of our spiritual well-being, of instilling our Christian beliefs with strains of  'treat others as you would have them treat you'  has had his say.

You would think they might want to pull away from statements like that,  given the recent history of the Catholic church.

But maybe it's okay to reprimand your child with a gentle tap on the hand, or a little smack on the bottom, for bad behaviour? Admittedly I felt similarly, before I had my child and when he was a tiny baby, way before any reprimanding was necessary.  And a lot of reprimanding was necessary, as things turned out. It does send a definite message and let's be honest most of us, particularly those of you from my generation, grew up with this parenting tenet being completely acceptable. I mean, we all turned out okay, right? Most of us are well-balanced .... and most definitely polite and  well behaved.

Yet such reprimanding has since been banned from our schools. Schools (in Ireland) that have been until very recently, sharing control with the Catholic church.

And exactly what message does a tap on the hand and a smack on the bottom send to a child anyway? It may stop them from repeating the considered unacceptable behaviour, simply because they don't want to be slapped, but it doesn't necessarily teach them why they shouldn't do it, does it?

Which is something I've been very strong on with my child. A slap solves nothing and as things evolved I became more interested in exploring other means of attaining the preferred behaviours. It's a never-ending and ongoing study it must be said, and one's patience is very much tested in these teenage years, believe me! Oh, how you feel at times that a good slap would sort them out, put manners on them....

It may have put manners on me in  my time, but it also instilled the feelings of fear, distrust and long-term dislike. Not the basis for a good child-parent relationship, and not a road I want to travel with my child.

There's a very fine line between a gentle tap or little smack becoming abuse.

I continue to find other ways to instill good behaviour and respect, and always with an explanation as to why the behaviour is unacceptable, accompanied with a suggestion of a more appropriate way for him to deal with his feelings. Besides, he's bigger than me now! 

This statement from our Pope may give parents, who believe that slapping their children is okay, a reason to 'slap' them a little more - 'it's okay, the Pope says so, besides I didn't slap him/her on the face'. 

Slapping a child on the face would 'humiliate' them, says the Pope.

I would consider that slapping a child regularly, anywhere, would be humiliating. One of the reasons it's banned from our schools.

In conclusion I really feel that this papal statement is ill-judged, particularly in these difficult economic times. When families are still suffering from lack of job security and financial difficulties, and are under extreme pressure. Some parents in these circumstances are driven to drinking.... and this can lead to a gentle tap and a little smack becoming way more than that.

And what about parents dealing with Special Needs children, who have extreme behavioural difficulties due to underlying diagnoses, and are at breaking point? What message does it send to them?

So, is this 'Papal Parental Advice' helpful? From a man of such high stature - a man who has no experience of parenting, it must be said. Is it not setting the clock back..... decades?

Or perhaps it's in vogue with biblical teachings, to quote the well known proverb: 'spare the rod and spoil the child'.  Explained as: 'If one does not discipline a child, he or she will never learn obedience and good manners' .

If disciplining means slapping - and there are other ways to discipline -  then I don't agree and in fact, would prefer to say ....

But that's just me.

I'm sure there are those of you who think differently?

Take care,


  1. Because I remember the feelings of anger and resentment when I was punished as a child, I was always of the view that slapping is pretty pointless, humiliating and just teaches them that violence is okay - saying that, I don't think parents should beat themselves up (so to speak) if they have done it by accident in the heat of the moment. And for the Pope to say it's okay? Well that's just completely wrong, and very disappointing xx

    1. @Looking for Blue Sky: yes, that is exactly where I'm coming from. I don't have pleasant memories of this either and have no wish to visit it on my son. I'Ve also no wish to judge others who use this parenting tool. It can be so easy to ramp up a small tap or little slap....
      I'm disappointed with the Pope's comments too although I do suspect he didn't intend it in the manner it was received. Irresponsible nonetheless... xx

  2. When I'm rational and calm, the thoughts of slapping a child is appalling...yet I've given my oldest son (now almost 18) a few slaps when he did something dangerous. In retrospect I did it out of terror (e.g. if he ran away) but I always regretted it, because it's a thoughtless act that teaches nothing. Sure, we can "train" a child to behave in a certain way but it explains nothing. Slapping makes you a bully, and that's not the kind of parent I want to be. XXX

  3. @Jean: Totally agree. Especially about the bully part. That's exactly how it felt to me as a child. And it's a very understandable thing to do in dangerous, and stressful, situations. But it really teaches nothing..... xx

  4. I was slapped. A 90's kid. Some pretty hard ones that left me bruised and marked.
    Do I want my child to grow up thinking it's okay to hit people if you get frustrated, angry or annoyed, never.
    It's wrong on so many levels IMP. His statement infuriates me!

    1. @Kellie Kearney: Another important point. I toyed with that approach when I was younger; I'd hit a pal - in the manner in which I'd been hit - when we had an argument or falling out. It only happened once or twice as thankfully I found I didn't like doing that. It wasn't nice. I was lucky..... others grow up with the belief that this is the way to handle things. With other adults - and with their own children.
      Violence - in any form - begets violence.

      Thanks for your comment :-) xx

  5. I agree with you 100%. Smacking doesn't solve anything and it only serves to put a barrier between you and your child. Although I have to be honest and say that I haven't been the most perfect mother. The odd smack has happened and the regret killed me.

    1. @Bright Side of Life: Oh I doubt any of us can claim to be the perfect parent! I certainly can't. And I do understand your regret. Hey, they SO know how to push our buttons!

      There was one day when my young son lashed out with such a slap across my face, it really hurt. I instinctively raised my hand to slap him back....... and stopped myself at the very last minute. It frightened the life out of me. How easy it is to hurt a child when in the moment? My guy's upset and frustration was born out of diminished communication skills (at the time) and confusion of the world around him. What would a slap or 'time-out' (which NEVER worked in this house, why would it when there was no understanding of what it was about?) have taught him? NOTHING.

      Far, far better to deal with the underlying reasons for the behaviour - which we did, over time. Teach him the proper way to deal with his frustrations - 'use your words... say,I feel cross .... I need ----' instead. Far more effective than slapping. xx

  6. We turned out ok but what about the millions who didn't?.. The people who attack physically because they never developed other means of dealing with frustration or making their point. People who think violence is a good tool in some circumstances - like when the other person won't do what you want them to do. Terrible message. I still resent being spanked by my father. He was not a violent man toward anyone else - just me and only when I 'deserved' it.

    1. @Midlife Singlemum: Exactly. I completely agree. It sends the wrong message entirely, and almost gives carte blanche to use slapping (which can easily morph into violence) to teach lessons and solve social issues. xx

  7. There is a very fine line and too many folks nowadays cross over it. It makes me uncomfortable to hear his pronouncement.


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