Let's end all violence in families

Violence is wrong, right? And violence against children is always wrong. I certainly think so. But making smacking illegal will not miraculously make everything right for all children and their families.

Sweden was the first country in the world to ban all forms of corporal punishment of children, and while it hasn't solved everything, most children have benefited. Ireland is under pressure to follow suit, now that the European Committee of Social Rights has found that we have violated a European charter by not banning all corporal punishment.

I am fully in support of this, especially as being chased up the stairs and walloped - more than once - is the only miserable memory from an otherwise glorious childhood. It didn't teach me anything, it just left me feeling angry, resentful and unloved. I don't blame my parents: I now suspect that I was quite a challenging child to rear and they knew no other way to discipline me. But I vowed not to slap or hit my own children.

If slapping is banned, what are parents to do instead? There is a bewildering range of advice, but how much research is done into all the other techniques that are suggested? I tried using the 'naughty step' with no useful results at all. Consequences? Well they are supposed to be immediate and relevant, but you have to be feeling both clever and calm to implement them effectively. For many exhausted mums, strategies like that are beyond them in the moment when something needs to be done. Mostly I suspect that we'll all muddle through, trying to be as consistent as we can. But maybe there will be other negative effects for our children's mental health, who knows?

As a nation, we also need to think about all the reasons why we want to ban smacking. Surely it's not just to protect children from hurt. It must also be about the lesson that violence is not the way to solve problems. Yet our children get the opposite message from media and films that show that might is right and wins the day.

And parents hitting their children isn't the only violence that goes on in families. What about parent on parent violence? Or children and teenagers who are violent, sometimes towards their parents, sometimes towards their siblings. These problems need to be addressed too.

In some schools, the alternatives to corporate punishment can be very unpleasant, such as the face-down restraints and seclusion that are reportedly used on some special needs pupils. How do techniques like that fit with the policies of the EU?

If we ban slapping, let's do it properly and introduce a policy to eliminate all violence from families - as well as schools, residential homes and other places that care for the vulnerable. What's needed is a comprehensive package of sanctions, education, a change of culture and support. Of course that would involve a huge effort and cost money, so I'm not betting that it will happen any time soon.




8 comments:

  1. A very well written post..... and *yes* to all of the above.

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  2. My experience in this area is that it's not (just) exhausted parents who slap their children; parents do it when they are annoyed by the child's tone of voice or by a word they used (often one they use themselves all the time, in front of the children). When I think back at the occasions I was hit by my parents, it was nearly always petty annoyances and never major things, and it stopped when I got big enough to hit them back. It is the same reason why school bullies hit anyone who "mouths off" at them. They do it because they can get away with it, but if you hit your child for such trivial reasons, good luck explaining to them why they shouldn't hit anyone else who annoys them (possibly far greater than they annoyed you).

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    1. I totally agree that it's not just exhausted parents who slap their children. There's a parenting strategy that involves a 'loving slap', an idea that I find very upsetting. I was always of the opinion that you have to set a good example for your children, so I've always been against any kind of corporal punishment, but I do snap, and on those occasions I try to walk (or run) away as fast as possible.

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  3. Yes, lets go the whole hog on this slapping issue and ban all kinds of violence against the vulnerable. xx

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    1. I should've mentioned abuse of the elderly too, which sadly is another problem xx

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  4. I agree. Violence is never right! Shocked to hear that some think it's a good parenting strategy :(

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    1. Perhaps "effective" rather than "good"? But I am in complete agreement with you about violence being never right x

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