Sweden was the first country in the world to ban all forms of corporal punishment of children, and while it hasn't solved everything, most children have benefited. Ireland is under pressure to follow suit, now that the European Committee of Social Rights has found that we have violated a European charter by not banning all corporal punishment.
I am fully in support of this, especially as being chased up the stairs and walloped - more than once - is the only miserable memory from an otherwise glorious childhood. It didn't teach me anything, it just left me feeling angry, resentful and unloved. I don't blame my parents: I now suspect that I was quite a challenging child to rear and they knew no other way to discipline me. But I vowed not to slap or hit my own children.
If slapping is banned, what are parents to do instead? There is a bewildering range of advice, but how much research is done into all the other techniques that are suggested? I tried using the 'naughty step' with no useful results at all. Consequences? Well they are supposed to be immediate and relevant, but you have to be feeling both clever and calm to implement them effectively. For many exhausted mums, strategies like that are beyond them in the moment when something needs to be done. Mostly I suspect that we'll all muddle through, trying to be as consistent as we can. But maybe there will be other negative effects for our children's mental health, who knows?
As a nation, we also need to think about all the reasons why we want to ban smacking. Surely it's not just to protect children from hurt. It must also be about the lesson that violence is not the way to solve problems. Yet our children get the opposite message from media and films that show that might is right and wins the day.
And parents hitting their children isn't the only violence that goes on in families. What about parent on parent violence? Or children and teenagers who are violent, sometimes towards their parents, sometimes towards their siblings. These problems need to be addressed too.
In some schools, the alternatives to corporate punishment can be very unpleasant, such as the face-down restraints and seclusion that are reportedly used on some special needs pupils. How do techniques like that fit with the policies of the EU?
If we ban slapping, let's do it properly and introduce a policy to eliminate all violence from families - as well as schools, residential homes and other places that care for the vulnerable. What's needed is a comprehensive package of sanctions, education, a change of culture and support. Of course that would involve a huge effort and cost money, so I'm not betting that it will happen any time soon.