The law isn’t stupid, Colin Craig.
There is a metric tonne of research that shows how harmful smacking is and you intentionally choose to ignore that. When you spank your children you’re harming them, you need to read the research and upskill – immediately – as does anyone else who still smacks.
Smacking has been shown to have a negative impact on cognitive, mental and behavioural development, is related to violence against partners in dating relationships and undermines parent-child trust bonds. It has been shown to decrease long-term compliance and be no more efficacious than time out. It increases children’s risk of aggressive behaviour toward peers and often has a racial, gender and ability bias. It is irresponsible and socially harmful for any politician or parent to come out in support of spanking. It is time we all work together to challenge these harmful, archaic notions and provide parents and communities with the tools, support and resources to drop that which is harmful and create more nourishing household environments for all.
First I’m going to throw some studies at you, and then I’m going to talk about my own experiences as a new parent.
Corporal punishment of children linked to violence against partners in dating relationships:
Long-term compliance is decreased after spanking. Spanking is no more effective than time out:
Spanking increases risk of children’s aggressive behaviour:
Spanking has a negative impact on cognitive and behavioural development:
Corporal punishment in schools had a gender, ability and racial bias:
More on the racial bias:
Spanking causes aggression toward childhood peers:
Spanking by parents causes anti-social behaviour in children with links to violence in broader society:
More on antisocial behaviour:
Spanking under-2s causes behavioural problems:
This is an American study but there is a huge amount of research that implies low socioeconomic status results in more spanking:
Spanking negatively impacts mental health:
Spanking predicts lower mental development and higher aggression:
If you haven’t realised yet, spanking is very, very bad – for everyone.
This is how I feel about smacking personally as a parent:
My son understood “no” from 12 months of age.
But like all children, sometimes he listens to me and sometimes he doesn’t. In my relationship with him – just like in my relationships with adults – sometimes I have to accept that he will do what I want and sometimes he will refuse. I have to tolerate this. There are times when listening to me is of vital importance to his physical safety. So I have a legitimate need to have authority at times and there are various ways I can achieve this. He inherently seeks my love and approval and looks to me for safety and to provide for all of his needs. So if I am stern with him or say “no” this can be distressing to him. I have a great responsibility to handle him with care.
I do not want to cause him any harm physically and I want to deliver – very strongly – the message that as individuals we respect the bodies of other people, but more importantly I do not want to cause him harm socially. If I template hitting as a reasonable response to emotional distress, he will see hitting as an inherently reasonable response to his own emotion. I have no basis to ask him to stop hitting others, or me, if I hit him. I don’t want him to hit within his dating relationships in future, I want him to have the best possible emotional and mental health outcomes. So with this in mind I strive to give him the skills to verbalise his emotions from his pre-verbal stage. I do this by putting words to his emotions for him and templating clear expression of my own emotions. I say “I can see you are feeling angry, that makes sense, how about we…”, I ask him how he feels or what he would like, I say things like “I feel angry” or “I feel sad” or “I feel happy” so that clear communication of feelings is normal to him. Sometimes I say “I don’t want you to climb on me now” and I also respect it when I can see he is offering pre-verbal cues that indicate he doesn’t want to be touched or picked up. I offer him hugs if I can see his emotions are overwhelming, though he doesn’t seem prone to melt-downs at this stage.
Alternate ways of asserting authority when his safety is required include; a stern “no”, clapping loudly to get his attention, distraction, removing him from the source of harm.
I see hitting as a default that is used out of parental frustration or lack of time or resources to dedicate to relearning parenting-skills. I understand parental frustration, sometimes you’ve dedicated full attention to someone for well over 12 hours without a rest and you feel uptight and want everyone to go away so you can just finally relax. I understand lack of free time; there are a lot of parents out there, with barely any support and no breaks and it’s a terrible shame that some people’s lives are nothing but 24/7 rotation of work both outside and inside of the home. It doesn’t help the parents and it doesn’t help the children. But it’s important for us all to take the time and make the effort to correct a harmful social trend – sometimes that involves more than just relearning skills – as parents it also involves reaching out to friends and family when the frustration levels and exhaustion peak. It involves an understanding that body autonomy is something we should consider; the right to say no to touch and the right to be safe from hitting is fundamental to all of us for the entirety of our life. It involves a requirement from politicians to consider those who are under terrible strain and find novel ways of alleviating the pressure some parents are under.
This isn’t a time for a politician to be supporting that which has been shown to harm children. It is a time for those we seek to lead to be thinking about new ways of introducing support to exhausted parents and how to support the good emotional health of families. This isssue is relevant to all of us no matter where we fall on the political spectrum.
These are my take-aways and I hope you’ll embrace the spirit of this:
~ Smacking is something we ought to bring to an end.
~ If someone is smacking their children; consider first gently speaking to them about it and asking them what support they might need to embrace alternatives, then follow through with that support. That might be something as simple as giving them rest time, or helping with chores. This isn’t about creating a culture of shame, but an environment where we all feel we have the resources to do the best for our family.
~ Yelling at children can also create harm, please consider this also.
~ If someone is seriously harming their children; consider contacting agencies for support.
~ Finally, don’t vote for Colin Craig – please.