Did your parents smack you as a child? And have you forgiven them?

smacking children

I was smacked when I was little.

Lots of us in the office were. Two were belted with belts. One of us had a wooden spoon broken on her butt and an egg slice leave three ridges of red on their bum.  Another had her mother chase her around the block wielding one of those weapons, only to watch her mum retreat in humiliation.

We have husbands who have been hit with the wrong end of the feather duster and canes, mothers who had rulers smashed against their piano-playing knuckles and even a friend who was horse-whipped.

One Debrief Daily contributor (who wishes to remain anonymous) had her own personal story to tell about being smacked as a child:

"A slap across the bum from Mum's open hand was pretty standard in our house - for back-chatting, for refusing to do what I was told, for any number of other petty misdemeanours.

But two serious beltings stand out. The first came after I'd accidentally smashed a window trying to attract the attention of a boy I had a crush on. We were about 10, I think. The second came after I went wandering aimlessly around town after dark - Mum and Dad were at a ball. Dad found out. The tracks from his belt lasted for days.

Earlier this year, I talked to Dad about those two beltings. You were naughty, he said. Yes, I agreed, but the second one especially wasn't deserved. He laughed awkwardly and changed the subject. I think, 40 years later, he concurred, and was ashamed. As he should have been.

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I realise now those beltings said more about his insecurities and the fear he'd lose the good opinion of others than they ever did about the actions of one naughty child. But they did change my opinion of him, even then. It positioned him in my young mind as a man whose anger was quick to rise and hard to moderate. It was a view at sharp odds with the dad I preferred - the one who was funny and warm and good company. Intellectually, I can see his upbringing contributed, but nonetheless, that's no excuse. If we all kept doing the things our parents did, we wouldn't have made much progress."

I went to school with a girl whose Mum lashed her with the horsewhip. She was naughty - she once dabbed black boot polish over the front steps of her house after tiring of her mum's requests to clean her shoes, and on another occasion set fire to her curtains. The whippings had no effect - if anything, they made her more defiant.

For those who wonder if physical punishment works, this was a bald lesson: it doesn't. The whippings (her brother got them too) were a bit much for even the sternest disciplinarians in town, but no one ever stepped in. They were a much-respected family living in very different times.These days, I kind of applaud my friend's bravery. But she's not close to her mum, and I wonder how much of that is down to the way she was treated as a child.

None of it was ok.

No, we are not scarred for life, we are not lying on a psychiatrist couch weeping, we are not having flashbacks or having multiple personality disorders due to trauma.  But we remember each smack.  And while we can empathise with our mother (often left alone to bring up the family), we don't forgive our fathers.  And we remember. Yes, we remember.

None of it was ok. (Image via iStock)

We remember because often we felt it was unfair and cruel.  Even when we felt we deserved it we remember because it was a time a parent lost control.  Went to the edge.  Frightened us with their fury.  We remember because we saw them adrift, humiliated by their actions or, worse, enjoying the power they had over a small child.  Sometimes we enjoyed making them lose it because for that brief moment we had power over them - we had undone them.

Smacking is ritualised violence.  It's also ritualised humiliation for smacker and victim. It's a violation of their rights.

While 45 other nations, including New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, have introduced legal measures to protect children from physical punishment, Australian law allows the use of “reasonable force” to control behaviour.

But we also admit we are not perfect.

Yet we admit that those of us who are parents have, at one time or another, lashed out at a child. Given them a tap on the bottom, even a slap to the face.  We've seen the twist of hurt in their face, the flash of anger and the vacancy in their eyes that results from a breaking of trust.

That's why we need to learn not to do it.  Nobody wins.

So, should you smack your children?  Watch as the MWN team weigh in on the controversial topic below:

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