It seems this was surrounding me yesterday.
On the MamaMia site yesterday there was an article “The 7 reasons people smack their kids and why they’re all wrong” and whilst watching a repeat episode of Can of Worms last night, there was the topic of “is it ok to smack your child?” There was also the conversation at work as well as a conversation with two of my friends with kids of their own!
Two of the participants on Can of Worms, Jamie Dunn and Yumi Stynes both agreed that it was ok to smack your child whilst Josh Thomas said it wasn’t.
What i found really interesting about both the article and the conversation was that alot of advocates for not smacking your child seem to think that it doesn’t teach right from wrong. They claim that it teaches fear rather than responsibility whereas withdrawal of privileges teaches right from wrong.
But i just can’t agree.
Withdrawal of privileges doesn’t teach right from wrong. It teaches that there are consequences for undesired behaviour in life. Unless its consistent, it teaches that sometimes you will have a “punishment” and sometimes you won’t. Just like getting a smack, it teaches that getting caught will lead to punishment.
It is unfair to say that smacking just teaches fear. Because that is not the case for me and i bet alot of other people too. Personally i was smacked as a child. Not many times, and actually not just when i was a child. I remember one morning my mum was driving me to school when i was 13 and she wouldn’t let me do something with my friends after school. I called her a bitch and she smacked me right across the face. Wasn’t hard or anything, it was the shock of it that surprised me, and because my parents only used smacks as last resorts i knew that I’d gone to far. And you know what? I never called my mother a bitch again! And it wasn’t because of fear of getting smacked, it was because i knew what i did was really bad to deserve it.
Was i able to come to that conclusion because i was a teenager?
I’m sure as a child i wouldn’t have come to that conclusion but the few times i was smacked as a child, i actually remember thinking that i wasn’t going to do that anymore because it made mummy and daddy upset and angry. What got me was the reaction before the smack.
I think the sentiment of “behaviour in adult life is about consequences” is a good one to use. But again, i still can’t agree that it teaches right from wrong. If you speed or run red lights, and are caught, you will lose your demerit points, and if you lose enough you will lose your license or potentially go to jail. But the fact that you shouldn’t do these things because they might hurt someone else isn’t what stops most people from doing it. It’s the fear of getting caught, losing their licence or potentially going to jail that stops most people.
It’s the inconvenience that people fear.
And even that isn’t a deterrent for some people! So isn’t that punishment a method based on fear? And there are numerous things we learn not to do in life based on fear.
I learnt not to run out onto the road without looking when i was almost hit by a car. That scared the shit out of me when i was 7 and because of that fear, i never did it again.
I learnt at the age of 9 not to run near a pool because i fell, hit my head and almost drowned when i fell into the pool. The feeling of the water entering my lungs and being disorientated is one of the worst feelings i can remember. And i learnt not to do it again because of the fear of it happening.
I learnt not to ever take drugs at the age of 13 when i witnessed a friend seizure and OD. The gut wrenching fear of not knowing what to do or what was happening to my friend put me off drugs for life.
I learnt at the age of 16 not to ever get in the car with someone who is drinking because a friend of mine died after getting into a car with a drink driver. The fear of losing my life over something that i have complete control over stops me from doing that.
These were all lessons (and much more) that i learnt due to fear.
The other sentiment that i can’t stand is that smacking is lazy parenting.I think that statement is incredibility judgmental and simplistic.
I think if you’ve tried other methods and they have repeatedly failed, i don’t think a smack is uncalled for. If it’s the first method of punishment then yea, that to me is lazy parenting but you know what? Kids can give you the shits! I don’t know how more parents don’t smack their kids out of anger and frustration. I personally don’t really like kids and i can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to smack some of them myself because i know it’ll shut them up or stop them doing whatever it is they’re doing.
Ultimately there is no right or wrong method. I don’t think banning smacking is going to stop people who believe it works for their situation.
I don’t think it emotionally scars kids for life when its used only when everything else has failed. Obviously if its used every time then yes, it is going to be damaging and won’t ever have an effect.
I also think people should let parents be parents and choose what they think is the most appropriate response to their situation. There is no right and wrong. There is only right for you.