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All types of physical punishment, such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, will be illegal. The new law will apply to everybody in Wales, including visitors. More than 60 other nation states across the world already ban the physical punishment of children, in line with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

There is a big difference between discipline and physical punishment. Every child needs discipline – it’s about providing boundaries, guidance and support as they grow up and learn appropriate behaviour. But physical punishment should not be a feature of discipline. 

Physical punishment can have a lasting negative impact on a child, leading to fear, anger, sadness and confusion. The use of physical punishment also teaches children that violence is acceptable and is an appropriate response to strong feelings.

Nadia and Sy Joshua from the Vale of Glamorgan have two young girls, aged nine and six. Both have a background in youth and social work and have seen for themselves the potentially disruptive long-term impact physical punishment has on children, parents and carers.

Sy said:

I come from a West Indian background, and a culture where physical punishment was often used in the home. The older generations would favour physical punishment – they believed ‘spare the rod; spoil the child’. I was never actually physically punished and I do not physically punish my own children; the cycle has been broken.

The idea of using my physicality, my size, my masculinity to intimidate someone who is smaller than me to bend them to my will and even going further and putting my hands on them is something I find disgusting personally.

Nadia added:

When we make decisions about our parenting, I think of my children as future adults and parents. How does what I say today influence them for the future and what they will say to their children?

Dr Bethan McMinn, a consultant paediatrician, said:

Unfortunately, as part of my work I see bruises and marks caused by smacking. While some parents smack their child because they think it will improve behaviour, a recent large-scale study found this not to be the case. It found that physically punishing children is not effective and increases behavioural problems.

No physical punishment is completely “safe”, as there is a risk that incidents can escalate or get out of hand unintentionally.

I often hear, “smacking never did me any harm” – but it doesn’t make it right. Smacking children is never reasonable nor defensible and is not a necessary way to discipline a child.

We should be leading by example. Hitting someone is not ok, regardless of age. I’m pleased the law is changing in Wales as it gives children equal protection from violence as adults.”

Parenting. Give it time offers positive parenting support and practical hints, tips and expert advice to encourage good behaviour from children and young people as alternatives to physical punishment. The parenting support page offers links to further support and helplines. Visit gov.wales/giveittime

Fact box

Did you know?

  • Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) gives children the right to be protected from harm and being hurt. This includes physical punishment.
  • In 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to end the physical punishment of children. More than 60 countries have now done the same.
  • Wales will become the third part of the British Isles, after Jersey and Scotland in 2020, to make physical punishment illegal.
  • Physical punishment of children is not effective in improving children's behaviour and instead increases behavioural difficulties, according to a review led by UCL.
  • Physical punishment will be illegal in Wales from 21 March 2022. Find out more at  gov.wales/endphysicalpunishment
  • Parenting. Give it time offers alternatives to physical punishment. Visit gov.wales/giveittime
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