Category Archives: Tantrums

Spanking was the norm in the 1950s

Is it time to bring back the smack?

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? 



Tales from an epic tantrum survivor

This can’t be happening. No, no, no – it can’t be. I had expected some trouble. But this just takes the cake. It’s 9pm and I have only just managed to put my toddler to bed. She has
bimageeen tantruming non-stop since 6pm. I wouldn’t call it tantruming actually. More like an audition for the role of Satan in Hell’s latest musical production. I reckon she’ll land the part.

My newborn baby went to sleep easily enough, much to my relief. I had been anxious that my toddler would demand – as she had done the night before – repeated kisses and cuddles with our baby, to the point where even the baby got fed up and started screaming.  I tried to bribe my 3year old with sweets if she promised she would leave the sleeping baby alone and go about her business as usual.image

She promised.She took the sweets. And then she started stomping her feet because, surprise surprise, she wanted to give the baby a cuddle. “Here we go again”, I thought, and my hubby and I stomped our own feet, in unison, with a resolute “no.”

No matter how much we explained that the baby was sleeping and that babies need sleep to grow, my child refused to listen. She was far to busy having fits and rolling around the floor to hear our patient and caring explanations.

Despite our best efforts (including distraction, bribery and ultimately threats) this behaviour continued for hours.

Then baby woke up.

And here I am, at 9pm, feeding a hysterical baby who I had to let cry it out while I sung my equally hysterical toddler to sleep. My partner tried his best to ease both children. But a  one-week-old only wants his mum. As, it would seem, does a 3year old. His efforts were wasted, it pains me to say.

Because I am a second-time mum, I’m experienced enough to know this moment shall pass. It feels like an eternity as you look at your heartbroken child, choking on her own snot and red with frustration at the inability to express her feelings. But this eternity is simply a night – just one night.

And though the nights are long, the years are short.

Unlike with my first motherhood experience, I wasn’t ashamed to reach out to friends and professionals for help. I called Parentline  which has child psychologists who talk to you for free. I asked for some tips, and got some excellent advice. The most interesting point being that introverted children like my daughter struggle harder with change. They are usually clingier children, looking for reassurance in new social situations and will often find it only from their parents. In this case, the new baby represents the biggest change in her universe to-date, but where is her support system? Mum was in hospital and nowhere to be found. And this dad bloke, who is normally working a lot, is suddenly here 24/7. That in itself is unusual! She is having to learn to cope with all this change without the help of mummy, and she doesn’t have the right tools yet to do it. No wonder she is lashing out!

First cuddles

It might feel like it but I know that this is not a forever problem.  This night will roll onto the next one. And then the next one. The anxiety I feel that I have scarred my daughter for life is balanced by the advice of my friends and experts that I haven’t. Her reaction may be more severe than some, but she will ride this wave and end up unscathed on shore.

The love I bear my daughter is enough, and  soon enough she will take this in her stride. Sometimes we have to ignore our worries and trust that our children are stronger than we give them  credit for. Or, at least – I sure do hope so! Here’s to a better night ahead!