I’ve always had a lot of respect for Kelly Clarkson. She turned a reality show win into a brilliant career in music. She’s got a killer voice, obviously. She’s done a heap of great work for charity.
But I’ve just discovered that when it comes to spanking, she and I are on opposite ends of the parenting spectrum.
Clarkson, mum to three-year-old River and one-year-old Remington, told a US radio station last week that she doesn’t see anything wrong with smacking.
“I’m not above a spanking, which people aren’t necessarily into,” she explained in the interview, which went on to make headlines. “And I don’t mean like hitting her hard, I just mean a spanking.
“My parents spanked me, I did fine in life and I feel fine about it. But I do that as well, too.”
Clarkson grew up in Texas, to a church-going family she’s previously described as “highly religious”.
“I’m from the South, y’all, so we get spankings,” she told the radio station. “My mum would call the principal if I ever ended up in the principal’s office and give permission for her to spank me.
“I’m a well-rounded individual with a lot of character, so I think it’s fine.”
It’s an argument you hear from a lot of people: “I was spanked, I turned out fine, so spanking is fine.” And sure, Clarkson has turned out more than fine. But a lot of people you hear that argument from are not fine at all.
In the US, the majority of parents still think it’s okay to smack their kids. But research has proven, beyond doubt, that it’s really not okay. The effects of smacking include lower self-esteem, an increase in aggressive behaviour and damage to the parent-child relationship.
LISTEN: Mia Freedman on why it is never okay to smack children… Post continues after audio.
Just last month, a study found that kids who are smacked when they’re younger are more likely to be violent towards their partners when they grow up.
It may feel satisfying at the time to spank a naughty kid, but in the longterm, it’s not good for them.
There’s a reason why more than 50 countries around the world have banned smacking. It harms kids. It’s violence against someone who is smaller and weaker than you, someone who is totally dependent on you. It’s not okay.
As parents, we have a responsibility to do the best we can for our kids. That means looking at what our parents did and working out what was good and what wasn’t. We have knowledge our parents didn’t have, and we should make the most of it.
In 2014, US professional footballer Adrian Peterson disciplined his four-year-old son by beating him with a tree branch. At the time, his lawyer said it was the same way Peterson had been disciplined as a child growing up in Texas. He later faced criminal charges. Times change.
What was acceptable a generation ago isn’t acceptable now. I remember being hit with a ruler when I was at school, but I’d be horrified if a teacher did that to my kids now.
With more and more places around the world banning smacking – Wales looks to be next in line – it’s just a matter of time till violence towards kids becomes as socially unacceptable as violence towards women. Because it is violence, no matter how people try to minimise it by calling it “spanking” or “smacking” or “whooping”.
Clarkson opening up about spanking her kids might turn out to be a good thing, if it creates more discussion about discipline and makes more people think. It’s a discussion we need to keep having.
LISTEN: The best of This Glorious Mess, including how often your kids really need a bath to Susan Carland’s trick for getting the conversation flowing at the dinner table. These are the highlights of our podcast about family life.
Cut the crap.