MY CHILDREN are now grown women in their early twenties. I never hit them when they were little, though I would be a liar to say I wasn’t tempted. I recall two occasions when I drew back my hand and then stopped myself. I’m still ashamed today of even teetering on the edge of committing an act of violence against a child.

The first instance happened when my oldest daughter was three and her little sister less than two years old. Daughter A decided to bite Daughter B, hard. Daughter B’s screams were awful. I was utterly outraged. I remember crossing the room and lifting my hand to smack Daughter A. I stopped myself, calmed down, and comforted Daughter B. Then 
I gave Daughter A one hell of a rollicking and sent her snivelling to her room. She never did it again.

The second occasion came when Daughter B was three and we were on holiday in Cornwall. We were sitting on some cliffs, watching the sunset and Daughter B just upped and ran towards the edge – God knows what was in her mind. I raced after her and rugby-tackled her to the ground. I caught up with her on the edge of a 200ft foot drop to the sea. One second later and she would have been dead. I was shaking with fear – for her, for what could have happened, for how I would have been destroyed if I had seen her die. I was so panicked I almost hit her, but again, I stopped myself. I hugged her instead. Thank God.

Throughout my daughters’ teenager years, there were, of course, times when the idea of a smack crossed my mind. But I couldn’t do it. I had to use my brain, not my hands, if I wanted to look myself in the mirror as a parent. To me, resorting to violence isn’t just a moral and intellectual failure – a failure of constructive parenting – it’s also a grotesque invasion of another human being’s liberty. If I love someone why would I beat them? I consider myself – and any adult worth the name – quite capable of raising children without having to beat them. And I consider those who resort to beating children beneath contempt.

In truth, the only time I really feel drawn towards violence is when I see some brutish parent in a supermarket slapping their child for some silly or irritating behaviour. I would quite like to go over and slap those parents just to show them what I think of their actions.
I tasted plenty of physical violence growing up – and it did me no good whatsoever. In fact, it did more harm than good. So why would I wish to visit similar, pointless cruelty on my own children, or be content with a society that allows violence to be visited on other children?

Schools delighted in violence when I was a child – and I got more than my fair share of beatings. I feel no guilt in saying I still – more than 30 years later – detest every teacher who ever laid hands on me. Back then parents weren’t slow off the mark either when it came to physical violence. My mother never hit me, but my father did, and though, by the standards of the time, it wasn’t overly cruel or brutal, it still damaged our relationship for years. I recall friends – boys and girls – coming to school with bruises from the beatings they had received from mothers or fathers. 

Corporal punishment was banned in schools not long before I left. That remains a great day for human rights in my view. Soon, Scotland will ban smacking. From next month, it’s illegal to hit your child. Thank God. Civilisation at last.

I have zero time for those campaigning against the ban. Some religious figures have come forward, banging on about their biblical rights and family values. 

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I couldn’t care less what they believe. If “family values” means beating children then that concept of family is sick in the head. The only churches I want to hear on the issue of hitting children are those like the Kirk, which say such violence is utterly against the spirit of Jesus Christ. That I applaud as truly Christian. You don’t beat someone because you love them. 

Nor do I buy for a moment the libertarian argument the ban somehow invades the rights of parents. It isn’t inhibiting anyone’s freedom to prevent them beating another person. The only rights being inhibited when it comes to parents beating their children is the right of a child to be treated humanely.

Arguments about parents needing to resort to violence to stop children harming themselves or others is nonsense too. Restraint is far different from hitting. Parenting isn’t meant to leave marks on the body.

The Scottish Government has got a little shaky though as the new law approaches. In the face of such tired, brutish opposition, the Government has dialled down guidance advising people to call the police if they see a child being beaten. How cowardly. If you pass a law, enforce the law. No child will be protected by flimsy legislation that nobody takes seriously.

It’s ironic, given the legislation under discussion, that it’s the Government that is acting like a child. Take a position and stick to it – especially when it comes to child protection. Rowing back on the smacking ban will satisfy nobody – not folk like me who want it, nor opponents who demand its repeal.

In another stroke of irony, at the same time as the SNP was pulling back on the smacking ban, it decided to take a pop at the Scouts. The party’s approach to children really is quite confused.

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An SNP political broadcast featured a Scout – which annoyed the Scouts, understandably, as the organisation is apolitical. Instead of apologising to the Scouts, the party decided to have a go at the organisation saying it found its position “disappointing”. You just want 
to tell whatever buffoon thought that statement a good idea to shut the hell up.

So the SNP decided to row back on the right issue, and then pushed back on the wrong one. Here’s some advice: stick to your guns when it’s morally right, and just say sorry when you are morally wrong.