Some parents may choose to punish their children by physically hitting them, either with the hand or with a cane, strap, or other implement. There is no evidence that such physical punishment has a positive effect on the child's behaviour. On the contrary, it is a form of assault from which adults are legally protected but children are not.
Traditionally, the physical punishment of children has been considered "reasonable chastisement" for the purpose of "lawful correction" of undesired behaviour. Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention prohibits degrading treatment or punishment of children by their parents or those acting for their parents.
A UK childminder was refused re-registration after resisting the professional guidelines which prohibit slapping, smacking or shaking of children in care.
A 1995 US survey of parents claimed that 65% had spanked their child. Half the parents agreed with the statement that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with 'a good hard spanking'.
Physical punishment is a form of child abuse, whichever way you look at it. A child can be raised successfully without reverting to smacking. Given this, physical punishment of children is an act and a symptom of irresponsible parenting behaviour. Physical punishment may not only lead to trauma or other detrimental psychological effects, but in turn teaches the child that physical violence is an acceptable strategy. Accordingly, the child may go on to delegate physical violence in his or her social interactions.
In the UK it is estimated that over 90% of children are smacked by their parents. Such a culturally universal practice would normally indicate that the parents are engaging in this practice out of common sense and experience indicating its merits. It is a simple form of correction that is quick, minimally painful emotionally and physically, and easily understood by the child, even at an early age. It is also a means whereby a child's aggressive instincts are trained by indicating clear limits to the pleasure and excitement of aggression. In smacking a child for bad behaviour, a parent is demonstrating the difference between legitimate parental violence, which is measured and done with moral intention, and illegitimate forms of aggression. Children who are never smacked frequently become spoilt, because their aggressive instincts have not been effectively educated.