Little to say for myself

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Smack away

This leader in today's Torygraph welcomes the House of Lords rejection of a total ban on smacking children.

It's interesting isn't it? When someone's passionate about something you don't agree with, they become a zealot. Or part of a "brigade".

As a parent, I suppose I'd class myself as one of their anti-smacking zealots. Although I prefer to think of it as anti-hitting, or anti-assaulting, or anti-abusing.

I'm not being holier-than-thou. I've hit my two boys in the past, and it's done me at least as much harm as it's done them. My commitment to them is that I'll never do it again, as much for my sake as for theirs.

In all the media coverage of the last 24 hours, there has been no discussion I've heard of any actual benefit to the children from hitting them. There hasn't even been the usual reassurance from the previously abused that "It didn't do me any harm, etc. etc.".

It seems that most of the debate has been about what constitutes "not hitting the child too hard". I don't understand this. Presumably the defence for hitting a child is supposedly to punish or (even less defensibly) to "make a point" about something. Regardless of the arguments, the aim is to inflict some pain. It certainly was for me.

So what The Great And The Good have settled on, as an acceptable level of abuse, is assault which causes pain but leaves no traceable evidence of damage (i.e. no bruising, scratching or reddening). That sounds reassuring.

From now on, all parents who are too lazy, or too habituated by their own abused past, to find other non-physical means of coaching their children, will be perfectly at liberty to whack them on the back of the head, since their hair will hide these tell-tale signs (the "mental harm" criterion being fortunately unmeasurable).

At least the Telegraph doesn't use the "Nanny State" argument that does the rounds at times like this. You know - the same argument put forward by the Daily Mail et al many years ago about The State meddling in domestic affairs when the debate was about wife-bashing. It seems that we've advanced enough now to a point where abusing your adult spouse is unacceptable, but doing the same to your infant children is acceptable so long as it's not traceable.

Our children have as much (if not more) right to the protection of the state as everyone else. Just because we chose to give birth to them, and have the responsibility to raise them to adulthood, that doesn't give us the right to treat them with any less respect than anyone else in their lives - their teachers, their child-minders, their health-carers.

We need to see corporal punishment as a failure of parenting, not a tool of it. If parents were to look, and look honestly, at why they hit their children, they would see that it's because they felt they couldn't get what they wanted by other means. They're not hoping that it will "teach the child a lesson", they're just giving vent to their own frustration - and there is no consideration for the good of the child in that moment. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

What our legislators seem to be saying is that, rather than concern themselves with what's good for the child, they'll concentrate on what is an acceptable level of failure for the parents, and leave the child to deal with the consequences.

posted by Plig | 11:14 |

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