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To mark its annual Children's Day the NSPCC today reveals that hitting children leaves most parents feeling bad and apologetic. More than three quarters of parents who physically punish their children (79%) feel upset afterwards. Seven in ten feel sad (73%), regretful (67%) and guilty (65%

Four in ten even admit to feeling tearful (37%). More than two thirds of parents who have physically punished their children

(69%) said "sorry" for their behaviour afterwards.The NSPCC commissioned the survey of nearly 1600 UK parents with dependent children as part of its new 'Hitting children must stop. FULL STOP'campaign, the UK's first ever large-scale public education campaign on this issue, which started last week with powerful billboard posters in the style of children's books. MORI Telephone Surveys Ltd conducted the interviews in April 2002.

To help parents discipline their children without hitting them, the NSPCC is also launching a new 28-page booklet entitled 'Encouraging better behaviour: a practical guide to positive parenting'.

The survey findings show that the NSPCC's new campaign, which aims to challenge the idea that punishing children by hitting them is 'common sense', is timely. A majority of parents (57%) say that physical punishment is the wrong way to discipline children. Almost half (44%) of those who physically punish their children say that it is wrong. Parents who were not physically punished as a child are much more likely to say that physical punishment is the wrong way to discipline children (77%). However, parents who were physically punished as a child are much more likely to repeat the behaviour with their own children (70%) than those who were not themselves physically punished (20%).

The survey also found that most hitting was a result of anger or frustration. Half of parents who physically punish their children report doing so for these reasons (49% frustrated that their child did not obey them and 56% angry that their child did something wrong).

The survey shows that these are not all one-off instances of parents 'losing it'. Two thirds of parents who physically punish their children (67%) report doing so more than twice. Two in ten (22%) report doing it more than ten times.

NSPCC Director Mary Marsh said: "Our research shows that a majority of parents do not believe that punishing children by hitting them is the right thing to do. But many parents are still hitting, mainly lashing out in anger or frustration. Parents need advice on how to cope with these feelings without hitting out at their children.

"Parents feel terrible after hitting their children. They clearly need and want alternatives. We must do everything possible to help parents take the pain out of parenting, for their sake and that of their children.

"The Government has a responsibility to take a lead and to learn from other countries, where big strides are being made to make hitting children a thing of the past. Hitting children is not a solution and the Government should promote this message.

"The NSPCC believes that hitting children is wrong, ineffective, sets a bad example and can be emotionally and physically harmful. Our research shows that parents feel emotional pain too and need help to discipline their children without hitting out.

"We must promote practical alternatives to help people stop smacking. This must be underpinned by changing the law to protect children from being hit, not to land ordinary parents in the courts, but to drive forward changes in attitudes."

The NSPCC believes that the survey findings underline the need for the Government to act to support parents and protect children. The children's charity is calling for:

PUBLIC EDUCATION - A sustained multi-million pound public education campaign to help parents discipline their children without resorting to hitting.

FAMILY SUPPORT - Greater investment in parenting programmes and family support services to help parents who are under pressure.

EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW - Law reform to give children the same protection from being hit as adults, no more, no less.

  • A House of Commons motion (EDM) led by NSPCC Parliamentary Ambassador Hilton Dawson MP will add pressure on the Government to take the physical punishment of children seriously.

  • Hilton Dawson said: "I believe there is growing support in the House for reform to protect children and support parents more effectively. The Government should learn from other government initiatives in Europe and take the lead, rather than leaving it to children's campaigners to stand up and say what needs to be said."

  • Author of the new 'Encouraging better behaviour' guide, NSPCC Parenting Advisor Eileen Hayes said: "Being a parent isn't always easy, but hitting children is not a solution. It teaches children a lesson in bad behaviour and sometimes it can be dangerous.

  • "Physical punishment may fix the problem in the very short-term, but it will make it much harder to achieve lasting child discipline. There are better, safer and more effective ways forward for parent and child.

  • "The key is 'positive parenting', which relies on positive, not negative, discipline. In other words, talking, listening, explaining, negotiating and setting limits are always better than hitting. The new NSPCC booklet tries to give parents helpful hints and advice in this direction."

The NSPCC 'Hitting children must stop. FULL STOP' campaign is supported by a broad range of organisations and individuals including agony aunt Claire Rayner, psychologist Oliver James, trade union leader John Edmonds, legalexpert Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, leading paediatrician Dr Camile SanLazzaro, politicians such as David Hinchliffe MP, Lord Dholakia and Lord Puttnam, celebrity figures such as Jerry Hall, Vanessa Feltz and Fiona Phillips, and organisations such as Barnardo's, the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.


For further information contact:

NSPCC media office on 0207 825 2711/2/3/4

NSPCC media office contacts for regional media:

North of England: Lizzie Emmett or Nicola Holland on 0113 229 2307 or 2200.

Midlands: Rebecca Lewins on 01823 346350.

South/London: Tracy Cadman or Helen Chown on 01293 449238.

Wales: Belinda Thomas on 02920 267002.

Northern Ireland: Brian Kennedy on 02890 355757

Notes to editors

The survey was conducted between 15 April and 1May 2002 by MORI Telephone

Surveys Ltd with 1572 parents with dependent children, of which 860 (55% of

the total sample) reported physically punishing their children. A summary of survey findings is available from the NSPCC media office on 0207 825 2714.

NATIONAL PHOTO-OPPORTUNITY: 10am on Wednesday 8 May in central London.

Contact Vicki Fox 0207 465 7760.

VIDEO NEWS RELEASE: contact APTN on 0207 482 7454.

The 'Encouraging better behaviour' booklet is available at

or send a stamped addressed A5 envelope to NSPCC publications, Weston House,

42 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3NH.

Pictures: visuals of the new NSPCC posters are available as j-pegs and can be emailed to the media. Contact the NSPCC media office on 0207 825 2714 or

NSPCC spokespeople are available for interview. The NSPCC media office also has contact details for parents who are prepared to speak about their experiences.

The NSPCC is part of the Children Are Unbeatable! Alliance, which brings together more than 350 organisations to campaign for an end to the physical punishment of children.

NSPCC MEDIA INFORMATION Hitting children must stop.



Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said: "As a society we are currently deeply disturbed by the levels of violence. Yet the nursery of that violence is the home. If conflict is resolved with a whack or a cuff around the head he lesson is recycled in ways that are damaging to everyone. That is why we have to say it's time for Full Stop."

Sir William Utting said: "Hitting children teaches them that violence is the best way of resolving disagreements."

Fiona Phillips said: "Smacking is just another word for hitting, and hitting anyone is wrong. It is a popular euphemism to make us feel better about hurting our children in the name of punishment. I want my children to grow up knowing right from wrong. Hitting them would simply be a lesson in bad behaviour - that bigger, stronger and more powerful people should always get their own way, when clearly they should not."

Professor Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association's head of science and ethics, said: "The BMA believes that physical punishment is ineffective, inefficient and harmful in modifying children's behaviour. Parents should be encouraged and assisted in developing other methods of child discipline."

Baroness Walmsley said: "We do not own our children. They are not our property to do with as we wish. If we accept that we do not have a right to indulge in physical violence against other adults, how much less of a right do we have to inflict it on younger, smaller and more vulnerable individuals, especially those who look to us for love and protection and for an example of how to live? Indeed, one might say we have a duty not to treat children in that way, especially in view of the mass of evidence that physical punishment is not a very good way of instilling discipline."

Dr Chris Hobbs, consultant paediatrician at Leeds University Hospital, said:"When I taught student doctors 15 years ago, it was unusual to find one who didn't think hitting children was the right thing to do. Now its unusual to find one who doesn't think its wrong".

Lord Puttnam said: "If you hit your child you know you've failed."

Lord Dholakia said: "Children all over the world are inquisitive, curious and will often stretch your patience. The joy is to resist the temptation to hurt them physically or emotionally. They in turn will learn how importan is to be kind and loving."

Vanessa Feltz said: "Being a parent has its ups and its downs. But hitting children must stop. If hitting adults is not a normal thing to do, then hitting children should be even less acceptable. Children are smaller and less powerful."

John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB trade union, said: "Hitting a child doesn't work. You end up hitting harder - and that doesn't work either. So avoid the pain and the guilt and stop before the spiral starts."

David Hinchliffe MP, chair of the House of Commons select committee on health, said: "When I was a social work professional before I entered Parliament, I saw numerous cases where children were not protected by the law because of the archaic defence of 'reasonable chastisement'. Today the law still does not protect children from being hit, which leaves a large number of children wide open to abuse."

Natalie Imbruglia said: "Children are people too - they are not our property, they should have rights just like you and me. We should love and cherish our children, but we should also treat them with respect. So hitting children must stop."

Allan Levy QC said: "I entirely support the NSPCC's campaign. Children must have the same complete protection from being hit as adults. It is one of their fundamental rights."

Dr Penelope Leach, research psychologist, said: "Children start out assuming their parents are perfect and learn what's right and wrong more from their example. So don't smack unless you want your child to learn that hitting solves problems. If you'd rather your child learned to express him or herself in words, try talking instead."

Jerry Hall said: "In the twenty-first century, the 'it never did me any harm' argument is a hollow one. We know much more about child development now and we know the negative effects of smacking. Aside from the physical hurt, which can be dangerous, especially for babies and toddlers, the most compelling reason to stop hitting is the emotional hurt children feel."

Obi Amadi of the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association said: "We strongly support the NSPCC in its campaign against the physical punishment of children. The CPHVA has had a very firm anti-smacking policy for a number of years. It is vital that the necessary support and resources are available to help educate parents that there are alternative - and more effective - ways of demonstrating to a child that their behaviour is not acceptable. Encouraging children to take responsibility for their own behaviour from an early age is important. This can be achieved by simplemeasures such as withholding privileges until the desired behaviour is reached. Children should learn self-discipline through respectful communication and a caring environment. However, parents need help in looking at better ways of disciplining children, including both individual support from health visitors and to have easy access to parenting programmes.

Hilton Dawson MP, joint chair of the all party parliamentary group on children, said: "Hitting children is a denial of their fundamental rights to be protected. It undermines every message we would ever want to give them against bullying and domestic violence and makes it more difficult for those working in child protection to do their job. It's an outdated idea and it plainly doesn't work."

Mike Leadbetter, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said: "The physical punishment of children is a child protection issue. Hitting and shaking children can be dangerous, especially for babies,toddlers and young children. Many parents hit their children when they are angry or frustrated, which is the worst time to do it. And sometimes thingscan get out of hand. We urge parents to take the NSPCC's advice and not lash out in anger. There are better, safer and more effective ways to discipline children."

Dr Alison Maddocks, consultant paediatrician at Swansea NHS Trust, said: "Children's rights come first. Smacking doesn't achieve anything so we must give greater support to parents so that they don't have to resort to unnecessary and ineffective punishment."Carolyne Willow, joint national co-ordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance for England, said: "As the smallest and weakest members of our society, babies and children need the best care and protection we can give them. Yet they are the only people the law allows to be hit. Smacking children hurts and humiliates them, and parents usually regret doing it.

Without a change in the law, parents will understandably continue to underestimate the harm it causes."

Gill Haynes, chief executive of the National Childminding Association, said:"We are delighted to support the NSPCC's new campaign. Parents and carersare role models for our children and everyone needs to give out the samemessage: that hitting doesn't work. We hope the campaign helps to persuade the government to get rid of the ridiculous anomaly that childminders in England are the only professional daycarers that can use physical punishment by law with parents consent."

Claire Rayner said: "Smacking means hitting, and hitting is wrong in all situations. Being a parent can be tough and challenging. But hitting children must stop. Physically punishing children doesn't work. There are better, safer and more effective ways to discipline children."

Phillip Hodson, psychotherapist and broadcaster, said: "Hitting children is a confusing lesson in bad behaviour. On the one hand we ask children not to be violent, with the other we hit them. Hitting children hurts - physically and emotionally. It's wrong and it really doesn't work in achieving lasting child discipline."

Oliver James, psychologist and author of 'Britain on the Couch', said: "We really should think about the emotional impact on the child. Even a so-called 'loving smack' could humiliate a child and make it more difficult for parent and child to get on well together in the future."

Dr Camille San Lazaro, consultant paediatrician and senior lecturer in paediatric forensic medicine at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, said:"Smacking is harmful, both to the child and the parent, and it doesn't work.Parenting is stressful and there are no easy answers, so we need to encourage people to use alternatives to hitting."

Nigel Bennett, Barnardo's director of policy, said: "Barnardo's believes that being a parent can be tough at times, but we know that physically punishing children doesn't work. There are many other positive ways of disciplining children."

Debbie Cowley of the Parenting Education and Support Forum said: "The Parenting Education & Support Forum supports the NSPCC's FULL STOP campaign.

Most parents want the best for their children and don't like hitting them.Parents want to find alternatives and good parenting education and supportservices offer a way forward."

Professor David Hall, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health believes that physical punishment is undesirable and often ineffective. Parents need to be equipped with other ways of teaching their children appropriate and desirable social behaviour, empathy and consideration for others."