Sociology and Criminology lecturer Stuart Waiton and journalist Rebecca Wilcox, who is also Esther Rantzen’s daughter, joined Good Morning Britain hosts Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid to discuss a ban on parents smacking their children. During the discussion, Susanna became annoyed by a statement Stuart made, but he snapped back and shut down her opinions.
Introducing the topic, Susanna said: “Now from next month, it will be illegal to smack your child in Wales and parents could end up with a criminal record if they are reported to the police.”
Richard continued: “Now in Scotland, they introduced a very similar ban back in 2019, but it is still currently legal to hit your own child in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland provided you can make the case that it was reasonable punishment.
“But is it ever ok? Let’s start with you, Rebecca, I have a couple of mixed feelings about this, when I was a little boy, I was hit quite a lot by my dad, who I love very much and was a great father.
“It was typical of the day, we are talking about the 60s, reflecting on it now if it had been outlawed then I wouldn’t have been hit.
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“Is that one of the reasons that it would present to parents and make them stop and think?”
Rebecca explained: “Well, it has been proven that if you make it illegal, it is a form of education, it’s not criminalising parents to send them to prison.
“It is educating them, and actually smacking has a negative impact on mental health, all the way through childhood and all the way through adolescence.
“It is not that long ago that we criminalised domestic violence in the 70s, there was that awful phrase of ‘Rule of thumb’, and that was how long the stick could be for men to hit their wives.
“It feels like we are evolving out of violence, we need to evolve out of violence, we should not be smacking, that is not discipline, that is teaching, it is not punishment.”
Susanna went on to speak to Stuart and said: “If it is a crime to hit your husband, your wife or your partner, how is it ever justified to hit your child?”
Stuart explained: “I think that is a very curious argument that you think about children and adults in the same way.
“So I smack my children occasionally, whereas if you saw me smacking my four-year-old child because he had run across a busy road and then you saw me beating up my wife and you thought they were the same thing, I would think there is something wrong with you, I think there is something profound…”
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However, before he could finish his sentence, Susanna interrupted and slammed: “I think smacking either your wife or your child I would think there is something wrong!”
Stuart hit back: “Well, if you can’t make a distinction between a loving parent that is trying to discipline their children and a brute who is beating up his wife, then I think the problem is yours.”
The debate sparked conversations and comments on Twitter, with some people agreeing with what Stuart had said while others ruled out hitting their child altogether.
Agreeing with his point, Liam T wrote: “There is a difference between giving your child a light slap on the a**e for being naughty or putting themselves in danger, than giving your wife a black eye. Give over #GMB.”
Karen Jones added: “This Dr is right, he’s not saying that abusing your child is correct, but a small amount of discipline is acceptable. I had it when I was growing up and did it with my children, we still have a loving relationship!”
However, agreeing with Rebecca, Lesly Ferguson said: “I was smacked because it was normal 20+ years ago but would never dream of smacking Rory. For me, that would be a total loss of control of the situation as an adult.”
Jules fumed: “I come from an era where I was smacked. I’ve always said ‘it didn’t harm me,’ but we live and learn, and I totally disagree with Dr Waiton. “There is no need to hit anyone. You wouldn’t hit your husband/wife/employee if they did something wrong. Why hit a child? Just no! #gmb.” (sic)
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays from 6am on ITV.