Smacking- No Way
This article might offend people. I used to worry about that. Now I think it better to ask – why are you offended? If your way is right, in the moral sense, why do you feel so uncomfortable? So indignant? Are you hiding from your real feelings? Ask yourself. Be honest. Be brutal in your assessments. Because hitting your kids erodes their love and faith in you, and I believe it erodes your basic humanity, your basic goodness and your basic truthfulness. It is damaging for everyone.
Why don’t I want to smack my kids? Essentially, because it just FEELS wrong to me. I can’t in all good conscience whack the people I am here to protect – especially not with a completely moronic, ironic and back to front comment like ‘Don’t hit your brother!’ It makes no sense at all to tell kids not to hit when we ourselves use violence to solve our problems. Applying any form of logical reasoning supports my resolution not to smack. Really, how is it ok to hit someone smaller than you and completely defenceless, whose entire self depends on your love and regard? Husbands hitting wives = abuse. Kids hitting kids = bullying. But parents hitting kids = discipline? I don’t buy it. Research is also overwhelmingly clear about the need to avoid physically punishing our kids – it has only negative consequences (actually, it has one positive – the behaviour kids were hit for usually stops for about ten minutes. But then they start again. Research shows this and my own observations support it).
So why do such a huge proportion of parents use this method of discipline? I think it is basically because that’s what they know. I also think it is a sanctioned form of tantrum for us overtired, stressed out, late, annoyed and harried parents. It is bloody hard to corral even just one child, get him or her moving in the same direction as us with some pace, get him or her to eat what we want them to, keep him or her from behaving in ways we deem inappropriate. When we don’t get what we want, we clothe this form of discipline as consequences, we tell ourselves and others that we’ve given fair warning. But in essence I believe (and a study cited in the article below clearly shows) that we throw the equivalent of a tantrum. And when we hit our kids in a comparative way to them hitting their little brother or sister, there’s no one bigger than us to point out to us how badly we are behaving (and hopefully not hit us while pointing it out!).
Another reason parents continue down this path is one I understand well. If we take away brute force, how do we get our kids to do what we want? And therein lies a significant contributor to violence towards our kids – we are too tired, too busy, too engaged elsewhere to put our attention on strategies, methods and ways of guiding our kids (and there are many of these available to us – google ‘positive parenting’ to track some down). We’d rather go straight to hitting them. Simple, effective (or so we thought, until we read the last fifty years of research or even simply observe at the park) and requiring no real effort from us. On a bad day I want to hit my kids, just so they’ll do what I want. It is wrong.
What about the argument that what someone else does in their home is up to them? A recent article has made me rethink that view. In it, the writer drew interesting parallels between men hitting women, and its sanctioning until a recent time, and parents hitting children. I think it is true that as research makes it clearer and clearer that hitting doesn’t achieve the outcomes we want, and that it in fact undermines all of the positive outcomes we want for our kids, societal views will change. In 100 years I am certain we’ll look on smacking kids to discipline them in a similar light to hitting wives to discipline them. Abhorrent, misguided and hugely ineffective.
This is my view. I know how unpopular it is amongst many folk in my life, including my own family. A human being who wants to grow, change and develop will challenge themselves, question themselves, look closely at their choices and their views. I have changed my views from pro-smacking before I had kids to completely anti-smacking since. So I understand some of the feelings driving the pro-smacking camp. But in the end, my own logic and experiences, my feelings of wishing to connect with my kids, the Buddhist idea of non-violence and the weight of unrelenting research findings over fifty years* convinced me to be a parent who uses many other tools besides smacking to guide her kids.
May you find positive ways to connect with your child today.
*If you’d like to learn more about the research I’m referring to simply google ‘spanking research’ or check out http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/should-I-spank-my-child