5 JUNE 2004, Page 32

Smacks are uncivilised

From Virginia Ironside Sir: Rachel Johnson's article ('Bum rap pinned on parents', 29 May) has exactly the same ring to it as the kind written not so many years ago arguing that husbands should have the right to hit their wives. Hitting people is wrong, whether it's hitting women or children. Only the law can draw this line and drive forward cultural change.

When a big child hits a small child we call him a bully. When a youth hits an old lady we call him a mugger. When a man hits his wife we call him an abuser. But when a parent hits a child — oh, that's fine; just a 'loving slap'.

I know I sound unbearably pious, but really the only way to teach a child to behave is by example. Polite, considerate parents breed polite, considerate children. There is absolutely no need for smacking to be part of the scenario.

Virginia Ironside

London W12