By MIA FREEDMAN
I’ll never forget the first time I smacked my son.
He was 4 years old and riding his scooter on the footpath outside our apartment while I roller skated slowly next to him – out of practice after more than a decade. As I wobbled along, he thought it would be funny to push me over so he reached forward and gave me a shove.
I stacked, hurting myself and getting a huge fright. Without thinking, I immediately swung around and smacked him hard on the bottom.
I will never forget it. The mix of shock and puzzlement on his face. The way my hand stung.
Instantly, I felt sick. And mortified. I was not a smacker! I was never going to smack my child and yet here I was. I smacked my son in anger – is there any other way? I wanted to hurt him because I was shocked and angry and it was totally instinctive. I lashed out. In that moment, I was not in control.
Fortunately, probably because I’d never smacked him before, he was as surprised as I was by what happened and burst out laughing before lightly smacking me back as if we were merely horsing around, having a playfight.
It was the first and last time I would ever hit any of my children.
And are you ready? Because I’m going to express an opinion that will no doubt provoke howls of protest from some.
I think it is a breach of your parental power to smack – or hit – your kids. An irresponsible breach of power. I think smacking is unilaterally wrong. I think it’s poor, lazy parenting. I think it’s bad for kids physically, mentally and emotionally. It harms them. That’s been proven.
And I find the reasons smackers give for hitting their kids to be utterly preposterous.
- “I was smacked and I turned out OK”
- “You can’t reason with kids”
- “It’s the quickest and easiest form of discipline”
- “My child doesn’t respond to time out….she needs a smack”
- “Smacking teaches kids right from wrong”
- “Children have too many rights these days”
We published a post in 2011 called The 7 Reasons People Smack Children and Why They’re Wrong that comprehensively dismantled and discredited each one of those lame justifications.
And now, Australian doctors have come out and called for smacking to be banned – they’ve also called it out for what it is: violence. Yes, there are scales of violence. Smacking is not bashing. But when society says it’s OK to smack your child, we are explicitly condoning the right of parents to hit their children.
Is that seriously the message we want to send?
This week the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) joined the growing call for law reform regarding the use of physical punishment as a form of discipline for children. In their media release entitled Child health experts call for change on how we discipline our children they stated:
Launching the RACP’s Physical Punishment of Children Position Statement today, Associate Professor Susan Moloney, President of the RACP’s Paediatrics & Child Health Division also called for better support for parents and caregivers to educate them about the potential harmful effects of physical punishment and other violence on children.
“Research is increasingly showing that physical punishment may be harmful and children who receive physical punishment are at increased risk for a range of adverse outcomes both in childhood and as adults,” Associate Professor Moloney said.
“These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressive or antisocial behaviour, substance use problems and abuse of their own children or spouse.
“While many children will not experience negative outcomes as a result of moderate or reasonable physical punishment, why put your child’s future health and emotional wellbeing at risk?”
Associate Professor Susan Moloney, President of the RACP’s Paediatrics & Child Health Division wrote for the Conversation (worth a read if you have the time):