You can’t talk about parenting without talking about discipline. And you can’t talk about discipline without the great “To Smack or Not to Smack” debate. Now experts are calling on smacking to be made illegal. Oh, this is nothing new. Is any parenting debate ever over something “new”?
Most people have quite strong opinions and feelings about this topic, for one side or the other. I used to feel very strongly that I would smack my child/ren and that was that.
“It’s not abuse, it’s discipline.”
“If you do it once you shouldn’t have to do it again.”
“I was smacked and I am fine.”
“You have to teach them who’s boss.”
Now that I’m a parent, my opinion has completely shifted. There are two main reasons for this, and they’re simple.
I can’t tell him in one breath that it’s not ok to hit people, then turn around in the next second and hit him. And I wouldn’t like to be hit by anyone, but especially not by someone bigger than me who is supposed to love me. Can you imagine how frightening it must be for a child to have this adult, who towers over them, who they just want love from, to wind up and smack them?
There may be a line between smacking for discipline and “abuse” but I tell you what, that line is very fine.
Let’s de-bunk the excuses. It’s not abuse, it’s discipline. So is it ok for a husband to “discipline” his wife because she doesn’t do what he asks or expects of her? Is it ok for kids to discipline other kids in the playground because they’re misbehaving or not doing what that child wants them to?
If you do it once you shouldn’t have to do it again. So by hurting them, shaming them, and smacking them, they’ll now fall into line whenever you want them to? And what lesson has that taught them? And what if you do have to do it again?
I was smacked and I am fine. I’d every person who was smacked as a child and says they’ve turned out “just fine” to ask yourself, have you? Have you really turned out just fine? I thought I had, but I have suffered depression, severe anxiety, fears over completely irrational things. Who is to say some of that didn’t stem from being smacked* as a child?
You have to teach them who’s boss. Do you? Are you “the boss” of your children? What does that even mean? There are many things we, as parents, need to teach our children. “Who’s the boss” isn’t one of them, unless you’re fond of the 1990s Tony Danza series.
It’s our job as parents to protect our children. It’s our job to teach them respect, manners, right from wrong. It’s our job to teach them how to treat others. Most importantly, it’s our job to love our kids, and frankly, that shouldn’t even be a “job”.
I am not a perfect parent. I get frustrated when my son doesn’t listen, or doesn’t do what I ask him, when I ask him. I know the feeling of wanting to smack my child, and thinking that will “teach him.” But nothing hurts me more than seeing fear in his eyes. Nothing hurts me more than knowing that I am the one who has hurt him, whether it’s something I said, or because I’ve taken something away from him. I know that it is my job to discipline my son, but I also know that there are so many ways to discipline a child without resorting to smacking.
Instead of fighting bad behaviour with worse behaviour, try other methods. Take away TV or video game privileges. Send them to time-out. Or instead of punishing bad behaviour try re-enforcing good behaviour. A quick google search led me to this article on WebMD and I am sure you could find many more. Dr. Phil has a brief list of age-appropriate discipline.
Having said all of this, while I am against smacking and it’s not our preferred method of discipline, I don’t see how banning smacking could be effectively policed, and I also wonder how far the government is willing to go to dictate and enforce this, or other parenting duties. And what about the angsty kids who taunt their parents with “You can’t hit me, I’ll tell the cops” or worse, tell the cops you did it when you didn’t.
I know parents will continue to smack, regardless of what I or any expert says, and regardless of what the laws are. But I challenge you to find an alternative discipline method, and just give it a go. I promise you’ll feel far less guilty than you do when you smack them. And if smacking your child doesn’t make you feel guilty, then maybe it’s not purely for discipline.
*Smacked is the term being used, but I think if you were smacked, slapped, wooden-spooned, or hit with a belt it is all the same thing. Some people may say the wooden spoon and belt are worse, but I think in the end it’s the same result.
Linking up with Jess for IBOT