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Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has revealed that his wife has smacked his nine-year-old daughter as he rejected calls for a smacking ban in England.
Children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza signalled her support for changing the law to give children the same protection from assault as adults.
But Zahawi said he did not believe the state should be “nannying” parents about the way they bring up their children – and revealed that while he had not smacked his daughter, her mother had “on occasion” when the child was being naughty.
He told Times Radio: “My very strong view is that actually we have got to trust parents on this and parents being able to discipline their children is something that they should be entitled to do.
“I’ve got a young child, I’ve got a nine-year-old… and I don’t think I’ve ever smacked her but I think her mother on occasion has felt a need for a light smack on the arm if she’s being completely naughty and misbehaving.
“But even when that happens, it has to be on a very, very sort of rare occasion, and not something that we would certainly as parents want to do very often.
“In fact it’s much better to sit down and communicate with your child and discuss behaviour and discuss what positive behaviour looks like – and that’s how we choose to do this in the Zahawi household.”
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The calls for a ban comes after research from University College London published in January suggested that smacking could have a long-lasting impact on a child’s mental health and behaviour.
The research found that physical punishment and harsh parenting were strongly associated with worse mental health outcomes from childhood through to adolescence, particularly with issues like temper tantrums.
Dame Rachel said said it was important that children’s rights are protected as she voiced her support for a smacking ban in England.
“I absolutely abhor, and I’m against, violence of any kind against children,” she told Times Radio.
“Because children are more vulnerable than adults, I think we do need to ensure that their rights are supported.”
Wales last month made any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, illegal in the country.
Critics of the law change have said it will criminalise parents, but the Welsh government insisted the move was about protecting children’s rights.
Scotland introduced a ban in November 2020.
Previously, and as is still the case in England and Northern Ireland, smacking a child was unlawful, but such an assault was allowed as long as it constituted “reasonable punishment”.
A survey commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found more than two-thirds of adults in England believe it is wrong for parents or carers to physically punish their child, with 58% thinking it was already illegal.
More than 60 nations worldwide have legislated against the physical punishment of children.