Thursday, September 14, 2006

To smack or not to smack?

That ageless "hairy lemon" is back in our (Aussie) newspapers and media yet again......To smack or not to smack your kids?
Surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of Australian adults (80-90%) endorse the legitimacy and occasional necessity of mild physical punishments of misbehaving children by their parents, or those in loco parentis if they have the consent of the parents. This points to the widespread belief that parents and those authorised to assume a parental role have a responsibility to administer reasonable chastisement if it is merited, and that such punishment is effective in disciplining children and controlling misbehaviour. It seems reasonable to infer that the respondents are drawing upon their experience both as children and parents in reaching that conclusion. There is evidence of declining resort to physical punishment. For most parents, it seems, physical punishment of children is rarely random or capricious and is almost invariably tied to ‘pulling them up’ sharply and immediately with the intention of teaching them an understanding of acceptably social, or safe, behaviour. The moral questions – is physical punishment always wrong or can it be rightly used in certain circumstances? – admit no easy or unanimous answers. Both views have been strongly put; the first in terms of fundamental human or natural rights; and the second, so far as children are concerned, as not inherently wrong and pragmatically valuable provided there is no physical or emotional harm involved.
From the latter perspective, the crux of the issue is whether mild, undamaging corporal punishment – for example, open-hand spanking or smacking on the legs or bottom with a disciplinary purpose, and which could not be construed as violence or an assault because it lacks the ‘evil intent’ which some courts have found to be essential to assault – has a useful and humane place in adult control and supervision of children. If corporal punishment has a legitimate but restricted place, the presumption is that it would only be administered by parents or guardians and those acting under parental consent and delegation. Some studies show that frequent smacking may be counter-productive. But selective or infrequent smacking or spanking is not necessarily contra-indicated and can be effective. Most experts would agree that the form and context of punishment are important. A substantial body of opinion is consistent with the commonsense view of most parents that a slap with the hand for a naughty child, or one whose behaviour is endangering itself, may sometimes be the best immediate course of action under certain circumstances. However, reliance on physical punishment, to the exclusion of other measures such as warning, explaining, withdrawal of affection, etc., may lead to less compliance and lagging development.
Evidence from surveys indicates that slaps with the hand on legs or bottom are the common forms of physical punishment and peak in the critical ‘socialising’ period between 18 months and 4 years of age. As children get older, physical punishment declines noticeably. Evidence suggests, further, that most parents would agree with the experts that severe and frequent punishment is morally wrong, counterproductive and conducive to aggressiveness as children grow up, and an admission of parental failure. They would also agree with the experts that physical punishment should be accompanied by an explanation to the child of the reasons for it.
I doubt whether the Aussie government will be able to legislate against it. For me personally i guess i'm kind of torn. Professionally, i view smacking as wrong, it reinforces to kids violence is ok. I am also a huge fan of explaining to kids why they are being punished......"A" you are being sent to the spare room for 10 mins quiet time to think about about what you've done, when 10 mins is up we'll sit together and talk about it". It worked for me in the past very well. I am very lucky, having just the one child means no sibling arguments to adjudicate, and on the whole, punishment in my house is rare because she does behave. LOL, i know this is not the norm in most houses though, trust me, i came from a house where my brother would love nothing better than to shove my head through the bedroom wall........actually, he did!!!

till next time, Michelle.


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