The Herald is running a week-long series on the smacking debate. On Saturday we looked at changing smacking habits, today we cover parents' stories. To tell us your stories, go to the Your Views discussion. Or you can follow the debate on our facebook page.

It was every parent's nightmare. Steve Boyd, 41, was wheeling his 4-year-old daughter Reikura in a trolley at Countdown in the Manukau City suburb of Botany.

"She was playing up, pulling things off the shelf and putting them in the trolley, and pulling things out of my trolley and putting them in other people's trolleys," Mr Boyd says. "I said, 'Reikura, you are not going to do that again!'

"She pulled out another thing. I slapped her hand.

"This lady went nuts. She told me I should have given her 'timeout' in the supermarket. She suggested I find a corner somewhere in the supermarket!"

The suggestion seemed so absurdly impractical that Mr Boyd just carried on with his shopping.

But he also knew that he could be formally guilty of assaulting Reikura by slapping her hand, breaching subsection 2 of the new section 59 of the Crimes Act which states: "Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction."

"I gave this lady a $2 coin to go and complain," he says.

Nothing came of it. The smack worked, and Reikura settled down.

"She knows what's right and wrong. She sat back in the trolley."

Mr Boyd is among 35.5 per cent of New Zealand parents of 4-year-olds who smack their children at least once a month, according to a DigiPoll survey in the Weekend Herald.

He's also among the 85.4 per cent of the DigiPoll sample planning to vote "No" in the referendum which starts at the end of this week asking, "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

The childcare centre at Aorere College in Papatoetoe began 30 years ago to care for the children of adult students going back to school. Today it draws children from the general South Auckland community and Mr Boyd describes it as "probably the best creche in the entire country".

Our sample of three parents who were willing to be interviewed in the school holidays is not typical. All three are teachers - Mr Boyd and Alena Tafau, 31, teach at high schools in Manukau, and Rachael Botica, 36, teaches at an Auckland intermediate.

But they represent wider New Zealand society in other ways. Ms Botica and Mrs Tafau are both among the 36 per cent of parents in the DigiPoll survey who never smack; Ms Botica is among the 10.8 per cent planning to vote "Yes" in the referendum, and Mrs Tafau is among the 3.8 per cent who are undecided.

Ms Botica and her partner have made a deliberate decision to use only non-physical punishments such as isolation with their two children aged 4 and 2.

Ms Botica doesn't like the wording of the referendum question because in her view a smack is not "part of good parental correction". But she's voting "Yes" because she supports the current law.

"I'd like to live in a country where it's illegal to use violence against kids," she says.

Mrs Tafau and her husband use a "naughty mat" and denial of privileges to discipline their children aged 9 and 4 - "because of that whole culture of the smacking law".

"I think that whole culture - especially for parents with kids going to early childhood centres, you are very aware of other ways of disciplining your kids without using force," she says.

But she feels the law is unclear and does not want to see friends who smack labelled as criminals.

"I don't think it should be an offence. You've done it for a reason," she says. "So I sit on the fence, because I have friends who tap their kids, and as a teacher I also have kids at school that are beaten even for small things.

"I can see they want to stop that culture, but I think when a law comes into place we always replace it with something else. Kids are abused verbally now."

* The law

New S.59 of the Crimes Act

Parental control

(1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:

(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or

(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or

(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or

(d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

(3) Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).

(4) To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.