The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Another question on s59 - what is smacking?

Again, as with my last question about the s59, I am not trying to be facetious, I am just trying to understand as I think a lot of the commenting and debate about this may be somewhat at cross purposes.

I would like to know from readers:

What is smacking?
When you think about parents "smacking" their children what do you have in mind? If you are a parent who "smacks" your progeny what do you do when you "smack" them? If you were "smacked" what did your parents do?

I'm using the quotation marks there because I think part of this debate is about people who define smacking differently and thus are talking past each other rather a lot. I'd be really interested to know what different people mean when they say or write the S word.

I completely understand if people want to comment anonymously on this. That is easily done by simply picking "anonymous" from the identity options, it is the last option above the orange Publish button.

Thanks in advance for your contributions to my enlightenment.


Anonymous said...

I was beaten infrequently with a jug cord, a wooden sppon, and an open hand. The only thing it tought me was that it would not be happening when I was big enough to resist it.

welly_girl said...

I was "smacked" with shoes, rulers, wooden spoon etc, as well as with my mother's hand.

A smack to me is not the light tap many people are describing. As one guy at the protest told me, it has to hurt to work.

All I learnt from being "smacked" was to avoid it I should hide the spoon and rulers etc and not to tell the truth in some situations in fear of getting smacked.

Josh said...

Rather than saying that I have nothing to say, I'll just link to this post I wrote almost two years ago the last time this issue was going around.

David Farrar said...

At secondary school I was caned, sandshoed, hockey sticked a total of 51 times in my first year and a half (took a while for my behaviour to modify).

At home I can only recall once receiving physical discipline and I think that was a belt.

In terms of my own definition, I would regard a smack as applying an open hand to a child's legs, arms or posterior, with the level of force being that which stings, but does not bruise or cause damage.

Moz said...

I think it depends on context - compared to the savage, random violence from my father, the period when my mother was breaking wooden spoons on my regularly was almost irrelevant. But the overall effect is profound, and still affects me today. Both my parents believed that when they were frustrated, lashing out at their children was a perfectly acceptable response. I suspect they still do. Children don't have the "if he beats you - leave" option that their parents have. Or even the "adults are presumed to be credible witnesses" advantage.

What I hope to see out of the law change is a change in behaviour - from "your parents left bruises on you" leading to "that's part of life" to instead "someone's going to be having a chat with the Police". Once you remove the legal grey area it will hopefully become very, very hard to defend the combination of visible damage and a child's word.

Lucyna said...

I can only remember ever being smacked once, on the bottom with an open hand by my father for something I didn't do. My parents stopped smacking completely by the time I was six or so, because of the influence of my Mum's psych classes she was taking and the stuff she was getting from social workers regarding the care of my autistic brothers.

I decided not to smack my children when I had them, but found the occasional time when my first children was just so naughty, I lost it and smacked him and then felt really guilty afterwards.

I had my aha moment when he was 4, when I was trying to put him in timeout and he kept running at me, and I was pushing him towards the room and he was running and falling over as I tried to get him into the room and I realised that I was close to being abusive, when a smack with an open hand would have put a stop to the behaviour right then and there and it would have been over and done with, without the long, drawn out trying to get him into the room, trying to close the door and then all the crying and screaming in the room for the number of minutes I though appropriate.

Without smacking, situations can go out of control. But with smacking at a parent's disposal, they can calm down and consider whether or not the situation warrants smacking. Most of the time it doesn't. Sometimes it does. And it's always a shock to the child, and that gets through the fog of denial that a child normally has about their own behaviour.

But it doesn't work if it's for every little thing. People can get used to the pain of getting hit - just like in martial arts where there's no shock value if you get hit hard regularly.

I once visited a woman with a one and a half year old, that the woman was constantly tapping on the hand. My child was one at the time and the woman's child would go after him trying to whack him because he was touching her toys, then the mother would tap her on the hand again. It just looked like a completely useless way of punishing a child at the time, but I realised later it was useless because of two things - it was over-used, so became ineffective. And the child was too young to be able to learn from it - it would have been better to do something else, like go for a walk rather than trying to hang out in the child's space with her toys (they can get very possessive over their toys below the age of 4).

Hmmm, I think I over-answered the question there.

Anonymous said...

Span, dumb, dumb question. The answer is different to whomever you talk to.
what are you trying to get out of the question? Perhaps you could answer it yourself and then argue with the people who disagree with you...

Anonymous said...

I have to seriously disagree with the last anonymous comment. The question is brilliant Span and rather than offering something that others can disagree with and therefore simply get into an argument (there are enough of those with this issue), the opportunity has been given for both sides to share and LISTEN to each other.

It's a very very good direction to take.

Legal Eagle said...

My Dad used to smack my sister and I, and it never did anything for us other than make us a little afraid of him. It certainly didn't make us any more "well-behaved". We have a good relationship with him now as adults, but during my teens, it definitely drove a wedge between he and I.

So, in terms of smacking, I always swore I'd never smack my daughter. However, I was shocked a few weeks ago by my response when she tried to stick her finger in a power point. She laughed when I told her off. Before I knew it, I'd given her a light tap on her nappied bottom (not enough to hurt her in any way) - just so that she'd know this was a really, really bad thing to do. She knew that it was out of the ordinary and burst into tears. But that is the only time I have ever "smacked" her, and I do not think I would ever be able to hurt her.

Does that count as smacking? There was no hurt involved (certainly no sting, no mark and no bruise) but I definitely applied my hand to her bottom in a smacking motion (albeit very lightly). Would someone report me if I'd have done that in a supermarket?

An interesting issue is different cultural views on this: I knew a teacher who taught at a school with a high proportion of students with a Greek background. When she mentioned to his parents that the behaviour of a particular boy was problematic, the father said "Why you not hit him hard? I tell you, hit him with a big stick." The teacher in question made it clear that this was not appropriate in an Australian school.

What happens where someone claims that their culture gives them a right to discipline their child by smacking? How does one reconcile this with the child's rights?

My personal view is that smacking should not be allowed if it hurts a child in any way, and if it is used, it should be an absolute last resort.

I think there is a distinction between beating a child with a belt, a power cord, smacking them thoroughly with the flat of the hand and a light non-painful tap on the bottom. For this reason, I'm not sure legislation is the way to go - maybe it's better to raise awareness that hurting a child is not acceptable.

Span said...

Anon at 2.37pm on Friday, servant is right on the money. I think, and I outlined this in the post, that much of the debate has been fruitless because people have different definitions of "smacking." Thus when I say I don't think "smacking" is ok others may read it with their definition which may be very different from mine, and form an opinion that we may be more opposed than in fact we are.

Thanks to those who have contributed their thoughts on what smacking is.

To me smacking is hitting a child, usually with the hand but sometimes with an implement such as a wooden spoon or even a belt, in a manner which hurts the child (not necessarily bruises, but hurts). If it doesn't hurt then I personally don't think that is smacking. I'm not sure what it is, and I'd like to hope that I don't do that with my kids either, but when I talk about smacking here (and elsewhere) I'm not talking about something painless for the child.

Further definitions and discussions welcome of course!

sagenz said...

an interesting question span. chester borrows definition would keep legal the power point baby while making illegal the bruising from power cords and canes.

imho smacking is open hand. if the law change had been specific about not using weapons and not leaving bruising it would have got much wider support.

I have had a bamboo stick used on me and I have no problem with the context it was used in. But times have changed.

Make Tea Not War said...

I think of smacking as a light-ish tap with an open hand. I don't do it myself.

However I was smacked in the sense of light tap on the back of the hand a few times as a small child for things like trying to stick my fingers in power outlets or picking on my younger sister- and I don't think it really damaged me. It stopped the behaviour immediately and made it clear to me my parents were displeased which I didn't like doing. I don't recall it ever happening once I reached 6 or so.

Maybe ideally there would be no smacking but its my observation that children are all different and I wouldn't necessarily consider someone a bad parent if they were generally loving and conscientious but they felt they had to smack sometimes (in the sense I defined it)to keep their children safe and out of trouble.

Nothing sickens me more than cruelty to children however and I agree with the intention behind the bill 100%- but I think it could have been a lot better drafted.

If the problem was that terrible abusers were being acquitted on the grounds that the force they used was reasonable then surely the definition of reasonable force could have been clarified to say something like force is not reasonable if an implement of any sort (wooden spoon, jug cord etc) is used or a closed fist. And if it leaves a bruise or a mark it's too hard. There probably are people who would complain about that but I think a majority opinion would be they should just suck it up. Whereas now all the people who are good enough, well intentioned parents who sometimes lightly smack feel lumped in with child abusers and as if they could be hauled up on criminal charges at any time at the discretion of the state.

Probably the Borrows amendment is a reasonable compromise but in public relations terms the damage may be irreversible.