One Angry Momma

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Violence and Discipline

As a parent I have many choices laid out in front of me. How to discipline my children is just one of the many important decisions I have to make. Discipline however seems to be one subject on which everyone has an opinion, be they a parent themselves or someone who is completely anti-children.

Violence is not part of my parenting ethos. I was hit as a child by both of my parents in the name of discipline. My Father's idea of discipline would today have him put in prison as a child abuser. My own childhood plays a big part in the decisions I make and the things I do as a parent, but this does not mean that I have not evaluated my own experiences and taken into account the well reasoned opinions of others. Yes I was abused as a child but this does not render my decisions and beliefs void. It does not mean that everything I do, think or say is clouded by my negative experiences.

My belief that it is wrong to use violence as a method of discipline does not arise solely from my own experience of abusive 'discipline'. I am able to distinguish between a frustrated parent slapping their child's hand and an abusive parent throwing their child across a room or throttling them.

However, do I think either parent would be right? No, I do not. We can all see very clearly why parent number two would be wrong in this scenario. Throttling or throwing a child is quite clearly abuse. The line seems to become cloudy on the matter of 'smacking' or 'spanking' as we so fondly call it in our society.

"What is so wrong with smacking a child? It never did me any harm!" Is the line I have heard so many times. Let's take a detailed look at this question:

What is so wrong with smacking a child? How about what is so right about a grown adult, fully capable of rationality and reasoning hitting a child to get their own way? Hitting a child in any capacity, be it a tap, a slap or a full on punch is an abuse of power. As adults we are physically bigger than children. We are responsible for their care, their growth and their well being. We have an awesome power and an awesome responsibility. To use our greater size and strength in order to get our own way is an outright abuse of that power. In any other situation to use power in this way is clearly seen as an abuse of power. Why is the misuse of our power as adults against children not seen in this way too?

What is so wrong with smacking a child? 'Smacking' is a nice convenient little word that sugar coats the reality of what a smack actually is. 'Smack' makes hitting a child more acceptable because 'smack' does not sound as bad as 'hit'.

The Oxford dictionary defines 'smack' as: "A sharp slap or blow; a hard hit". So when someone says to their child "Stop that or you will get a smack", they are actually saying: "Stop that or I will hit you hard".

How in any way is it acceptable for adults to threaten the most vulnerable people in our society; our children, with such a threat? How is it in any way acceptable for them to carry it out?

What is so wrong with smacking a child? It never did me any harm! Firstly; if it never did you any harm, why do you now as an adult think that it is acceptable to hit someone smaller, weaker and far less capable of reasoning and understanding than you? This could be seen in several ways: Perhaps being hit as a child has taught you that people who are bigger and stronger are better and deserve unquestioning obedience and respect? Perhaps you have never taken it upon yourself to look at the issue of violence against children from any other angle? I find the 'one size fits all' position on any issue worrying and fundamentally flawed. On the other hand, perhaps it actually didn't do you any harm and I am taking liberties with my assumptions here. However, does this mean that hitting children is an ethically and morally acceptable thing to do in this day and age? A few hundred years ago it was perfectly legal and acceptable for a man to beat his wife so long as the stick he used was no wider than his thumb. It was perfectly acceptable for children to be worked to death in factories and used as slave labour. These things have changed and yet it still remains acceptable to abuse the power that we have over anyone or anything smaller and weaker.

Let's take a look at the process involved in using violence as discipline:

A child does something his parent does not want him to do. His parent warns him to stop, but he carries on. The parent hits the child to make him stop. The child stops. The parent has succeeded.

There are many things wrong with this scenario. The first is the assumption that parenting is a battle of wills and a child is something to be moulded, controlled and dominated. Children are simply little people. They are not demonic creatures sent to try us. We do not need to use violence towards them to teach them things. That is of course unless it is your intention to teach the child that touching the hot fire means Mummy will hurt me, rather than touching the hot fire will hurt me.

Children as with all young have an innate fear of being hurt. If you hit your children you will be teaching them to fear. Whether it be you they fear or the pain you are capable of causing them, this is not a healthy or productive way of bringing children up. Why unless you are a power hungry control freak would you want to make your children fear you or your capabilities? Why use negative reinforcement as a way of teaching creatures that thrive on positive attention? Why not teach your children that yes anger is a natural and acceptable emotion, but one we are capable of controlling and using appropriately.

Why teach children that it is OK to hit someone smaller? If you hit your child to discipline them then what do you do when your child's teacher calls you in to school because your child has hit another child? You can't tell your child off without being guilty of complete hypocrisy. You have taught your child that to get what you want, you hit. Why not take the time to teach your child how to deal with frustrating situations calmly and effectively, without the use of violence? Even very young children are capable of learning this and in my experience both as a childcare worker and Mother; they do.

I have had some people quite proudly tell me that they hit their children in a calm and controlled fashion, as if removing anger from the situation makes it all OK then! These people are still using violence and pain to make their point and get their own way. Removing anger does not make violence any more acceptable. If anything, I personally find it more concerning that someone would considering all the above factors, calmly decide to use violence rather than rational constructive methods of discipline.

Take this scenario for example: You are at work, and you are browsing the Internet. Your boss walks in and sees that you are browsing the Internet instead of working when you have already had one warning about this recently. Your boss decides to stop you from doing what he doesn't want you to do by hitting you. It's only a slap, not a full on punch, but that's OK, right? He was just disciplining you. No, actually, it is not OK. He has just committed a crime. He has assaulted you. Why is this not an acceptable way to discipline you? Because you are an adult, and adults have rights.

Why are children not afforded these same rights?

Where does one draw the line between what is discipline and what is assault? This blog author feels that there is no differentiation, however for those who feel there is a difference; when has it gone to far? How do you define how much violence it is acceptable to subject a child to? Would your definition be different to the next person's? And the next? Who decides what is acceptable? Opinions will differ greatly until we are left with the situation we are currently in: some parents occasionally hitting their children, and some outright abusing them. Why can we not as a modern civilized society accept that we are no longer cave men? As a species we have developed a high level of sentience and intelligence, why do we still have to use and accept such archaic methods of parenting?

I have heard people trying to reason that animals use physical chastisement to keep their young in check and that it is only natural for us to do the same as we are after all; only animals. I agree that we are only animals and I do not believe that as a species we have any more or less importance in this world. As animals go however, we have made quite a few unique advances. These advances are generally what make humans believe they are superior to other animals. We have developed larger brains, language, we have superior intellect. Surely then we are capable of moving away from the animalistic inbuilt instinct to lash out at something that makes us angry or frustrated? Surely with our powers of reasoning and our rationality we can find better ways to discipline our young than rabbits, dogs, foxes or cows? "Well animals do it" is just another rather pathetic way of rationalising something wholly unacceptable. Animals after all, eat their own crap. You wouldn't accept that when sat in a restaurant now, would you?!

I accept that our society currently has problems. Our society will always have problems. Some people believe that our current problems are due to the fact that it is no longer accepted for parents to beat their children with a belt, or for teachers to beat children with a cane.

Society changes. Beliefs change. Was society really better when violence was more openly acceptable? Or was living in fear of violence what created the society we have today? Generations spent their lives in fear of violence if they did not behave a certain way. The morality of this aside, is this not akin to living under a dictatorship? And what happens when a dictatorship breaks down or is removed? As we know from the recent removal of the Iraqi dictator, chaos ensues. Order has to find it's feet again. People have to find their way, their purpose, and their place in society. Could this be the situation our country is currently in? Our young people no longer live in fear of violence from those in authority. Yes we have a lot of problems that we didn't have under the dictator fear, but I like to hope that we will be able to overcome these problems and find our way through the chaos, without reverting to our old, outdated, archaic methods.

Claire's blood pressure hit the roof at: 22:07. 0 Comments.

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