Fifty years ago, children sat still in church for an entire hour.
Fifty years ago, primary school students didn’t smart-talk their teachers.
Fifty years ago, kids did not interrupt their parents while they were talking. They. Knew. The. Consequences.
Last week, my mum told me that she saw a toddler tantruming in the middle of a pedestrian crossing in busy Mosman, Sydney. The toddler was holding up traffic, screaming and refusing to move. What did the mother do? Pull him by the wrist and scold him on the other side of the street? Smack his bum? No. She bent down and she reasoned with him. You know, eye-to-eye “now Jimmy, you’re making mummy very sad. I know you’re feeling angry right now” kind of stuff.
My mother tells me this story and shakes her head. “In my day, we would have given that kid a bloody good smack”.
Nowadays the tantruming toddler can be seen everywhere (just come to my house at 7pm).
Children no longer sit still in cafes or restaurants, demanding iPads or else they will kick off. They’re even being banned in some establishments.
Teachers complain that they get no respect from kids at school anymore. Bullying is on the rise…
It makes me wonder…
When did the concept of smacking become so politically incorrect?
Has the trend towards rationalising with our children – instead of giving them a spanking – really led to calmer, happier, children who know right from wrong? Or has it led to spoiled brats, confident they can get their way?
When I was pregnant with my first I knew I would never smack my child. It was hypocritical after all; how can you expect to model good behaviour when you are using a soft degree of violence on your child? No, WE were going to have a zero tolerance policy to smacking.
And then, along came my strong willed, stubborn rock of a daughter. At first I tried every tactic other than smacking to discipline her. I was left exhausted and defeated. Sorry Supernanny, but time-outs and naughty corners only go so far when you’re faced with a girl who could stare down Stalin.
I now firmly believe that smacking is not necessary for ALL children. Some have a temperament that better tolerates vocal reasoning. But others only respond to a firmer form of discipline. They need to understand that someone else is the boss, and makes the right choices for them.
Smacking became un-PC sometime after my generation because I definitely got smacked. I got the belt and the wooden spoon. I knew I was in deeeep trouble when I was smacked bare-bum. But was it ever violent? No. In hindsight, do I feel like I wasn’t loved? God, no. Did I know who was boss? Sure as heck I did! I had a very healthy dose of respect for my parents that has now flourished into friendship.
I really do question whether this next generation will understand who is in charge? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all “Kids should be seen and not heard” or anything. I don’t smack my daughter unless she has had warnings. I always explain why I smacked her afterwards and we eventually hug-it-out. I certainly don’t believe smacking should be done willy-nilly. Kids need to understand it is a serious form of discipline for when they seriously need disciplining.
I think of smacking like I think of organised religion. It’s alright when it’s not being done excessively.
I read a Dr. Phil article recently where he condemns smacking. Fair enough- he is using real scientific research to say there are better forms of discipline out there. But he does mention some of the benefits of smacking too; yes – I said benefits. Like how some studies show that parents who combine smacking with reasoning (ie, do both) have the most success in changing negative behaviour.
It would seem modern families almost universally agree that smacking is unacceptable. So unacceptable that those of us who do so have gone underground. (Well, apart from Tony Abbott that is!)
I’m far too anxious to smack my daughter in public for fear of condemnation or an eventual knock on the door from social services. Whereas, in my grandmother’s generation no-one would look twice.
Perhaps I should feel sympathy for this Mosman mum, who must have felt stressed as cars watched on while she tried a softer form of discipline with her child. Perhaps she was anxious, wishing she could just pick him up and smack his bum for misbehaving. Perhaps she was worried, as I am, about the looks she would get if she did so.
If “rationalising” with your kid is the better alternative to hitting them, then why are these toddlers not budging from their spots on pedestrian crossings? Why have kids become worse-behaved over time? Why is it that they have little concept of who is boss?
Whatever side of the fence you stand on, hitting your kids is super controversial and books like Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap have shown it is a sensitive topic around the nation.
Everyone seems to have an opinion. So what’s yours? Should we bring back the smack?