THE Australian Childhood Foundation has launched a campaign to warn parents not to smack their children because it may “teach children that violence can be an acceptable way to solve problems”. A recent poll revealed 92 per cent thought that smacking was “sometimes” necessary. Tony Abbott also thinks going the thump on kids is fine.
I’ve never been sucked in by any of the fads and fashions in the extreme sport of parenting. I’m such a maverick mother my kids were all on solid food at three months. Which is why I can’t believe that I’m agreeing with something called the Australian Childhood Foundation.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids annoy me as much as the next person’s do. But I don’t hit them. I have never hit them and will never hit them. There have been moments when I have thought, “Ah, this is when parents hit.” But I haven’t. Because they are children and I am an adult. I pick on people my own size.
I’m not the perfect parent; ask my kids. I give the three kids two Freddo frogs and tell them to fight it out between them. Every night I kiss them good night and whisper to each of them “You’re not my favourite, but you’re getting pretty close.” I often respond to the question “why can’t you take us to the park?” with “because I hate children, I hate the park and I am flat out reading New Weekly“.
There’s a book called The Good Enough Parent. I’ve never read it but the title sums up my attitude completely. I’m not a helicopter parent, constantly hovering; I’m a bad-luck-you’ll-live-get-over-it parent.
But despite my “can’t be stuffed” attitude, I wouldn’t kick a kitten so why would I hit a kid? I love the response, “It didn’t do me any harm.” Well, yes, it did, because you are now inflicting violence on children instead of seeing it as abuse. Smacking kids is wrong. End of story. Violence or the threat of violence is an abuse of the responsibility we have as parents and as humans.
I can understand someone having a knee-jerk reaction if a toddler bites them unexpectedly. I can even understand someone doing it because they never knew how far they would be pushed. Once. But beyond that it’s just bullying and exploiting your physical advantage.
Parents who smack for the first time are racked with guilt. Then time passes, their kid isn’t in therapy and then they start using smacking as a threat and before you know it, it is normalised and often joked about in lighter moments, “Oh you watch out or I’ll paddle your cute little bottom.” But when they do, there’s nothing cute about it. I have been sickened listening to countless people recount hitting their children. They have a sadistic smile and a glint in their eyes.
The smackers say that smacking doesn’t work. They tell me that they hit because they are stressed out and at the end of their tether. “So why wouldn’t you smack an adult?” “Because they’re big and will hit back.” Some parents have told me that smacking makes them feel better. Here’s a tip, try meditation, a facial or self-control.
Put the kids in a room and tell them that you are angry but you are coming back. Punch the wall, have a drink, phone a friend or yell if you like. Why is yelling better than smacking? Because you are much bigger than them. If the yelling escalates, it’s still just yelling. If the violence escalates, they don’t know that you are not going to kill them.
It’s not just “a little smack”, it’s physical violence. Why are children not protected in the same way as adults? An adult hitting another is considered assault, but an adult hitting a child is considered reasonable parenting.
When is old enough? Six months? Where is the line between smacking and child abuse? Why is it only OK to hit them if you love them? Why, in domestic violence situations, is there a zero-tolerance policy but it’s OK of you hit, slap, punch, kick, pinch or shove kids as long as you don’t leave a mark?
I could back in a whole lot of statistics but what would be the point? Hits from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and today. Wrong, wrong, wrong. All wrong.
Before we had children, my partner and I (who had both been hit as children) made the choice not to smack. Which is the only reason that schools no longer beat, strap and whip kids. A conscious decision.
Smacking children diminishes us all. It’s time to break the cycle with some re-education, realistic alternatives and some shaming.
If you are proud of hitting your kids, hit ’em harder and hit ’em in front of other people. That’ll prove me wrong.