The smacking ban - now we need to help violent children

So smacking has been banned in Ireland. And I approve. It wasn't part of my parenting plan: it just made me angry and resentful as a child, and I agree with all the other arguments against it too. But I know parent who do smack, and who believe that it is their right , and that sometimes it is the only thing that works. I wonder what they will do now. I suspect many will continue, just not in public.

I also suspect that most of the people who support the smacking ban have no experience of children who behave in ways that push their parents beyond their limits.

That includes another taboo topic - children who are sometimes violent. The Irish charity Parentline has reported an increase in child on parent violence in recent years, but there is little coverage and even less being done to help families in this situation.

Smacking is NOT the answer to this problem either. At least in my opinion.

But I do think that now the ban is in place, there needs to be urgent help for children and teenagers who show such extreme behaviour. Violent behaviour is not good for them, their parents or society. Apportioning blame is not the answer and it won't always be possible to identify the exact cause, but violence in children may co-exist with one or more of the following:

Post traumatic stress disorder
Due to life experiences such as war, disaster or domestic violence.

Personality disorders
Such as sociopathy and psychopathy.

Neurological difference and intellectual disability
Both of these can lead to children lashing out due to frustration, inability to communicate, lack of understanding or coping mechanisms, or stress.

Increasing exposure to violence
This is supposed to be one of the ways that terrorist organisations use to turn children and young people into killers, so I do wonder if repeated watching of violent films and video games could have an effect, though enthusiasts deny it.

What happens to these children? Many of them will be punished for their violent outbursts. But based on the above list, does punishing children for things like surviving domestic violence, or trying to cope with stress seem fair? I don't think so. Many of these children will have very poor self esteem, they will have been criticised and labelled all their lives. Punishing them may make them feel even worse about themselves than they do already.

But they do need to learn that violence is not the solution.

Violence within families is one of the reasons that children go into residential care of different kinds and that's not an ideal outcome for anyone. And what happens when they grow up? Studies show that many children in care do not do well as adults, partly because the help often stops when they reach 18.

This is a problem for society, not just individual families: without help some of these children will face a bleak future, their lives may be blighted and their potential unfulfilled, but if they continue to react with violence as adults, that will impact negatively on their relationships, their careers and even their freedom.

Meanwhile parents are traumatised and in emotional turmoil. The mental anguish of being attacked by the child you adore cannot be overestimated, even if you understand why.

So what can be done?

Well there are gentle ways to parent children who are violent or have other difficulties, outlined in books such as Connected Parenting and The Explosive Child. But the parenting advice in them is not easy to follow, especially when parents feel hurt and resentful of the way that their children behave: parents do not suddenly become perfect human beings after giving birth, despite society's expectations.

What this issue needs is more awareness, more discussion and a champion to support it. Putting in the resources now to help these children will benefit society in the long term.

I am glad that parents can no longer smack children. Now I want to see a future where children no longer feel the need to smack their parents.







14 comments:

  1. Brilliant post Candi really thought provoking

    ReplyDelete
  2. I never felt comfy smacking my kids - it never helped
    People used to think i was silly reasoning with them.
    They also understood that there were times i would ask them (or tell them ) to do something and i would explain later - as long as i explained why i grabbed them out of the way of that car coming along the road or why i wasn't going to stand arguing with them when we were all tired, it seemed to help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I would've been the same, especially as I hated being told what to do as a child.

      Delete
  3. I wonder how many suffer in silence? I think admitting your child is violent is possibly more taboo than being abused by a spouse. Certainly we need to get the conversation started.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plenty do it seems, though people are now starting to talk about it on Facebook - thank goodness for social media.

      Delete
  4. Very good post and very good view point. One that needs dealing with. Parents and families dealing with this awful scenario need help in identifying the reason the child feels the 'need' to hit in the first place, most likely found in the co-existent situations you mention. They then need the help to get interventions in place. It is not enough to wait and deal with the violence when it materialises in public; when they're adults and more 'punishable'. As ever early intervenytion is key..... xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If only all families had proper access to early intervention it would improve so many lives and save the State so much money in the long run. Why do they not see this? xx

      Delete
  5. I have one child that is extremely violent and one that isnt. My youngest who is nine is undergoing assessments from CAHMS. We have always managed his emotions, the good and the bad, all are close to the surface ourselves, but as he has got bigger the violence is harder to deal with (He recently broke my ribs). My brothers reaction is to smack him really hard and he will never do it again. He really lacks understanding. I am a firm believer that smacking will not solve anything and yes I was smacked as a child and had marks that lasted weeks, it didn't stop me being a horror!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you weren't a horror....

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you get good help and advice for your son soon.

      Delete
  6. When my children were much younger I did occasionally smack them and we had a wooden spoon which was used maybe once or twice. I just don't think smacking works long term. A short sharp shock maybe, but I'm not sure what it teaches children. I think we smacked because WE were smacked, if that makes sense. Now people are actually thinking about it and changes are happening. My daughter has thrown things at me on occasion but never actually hurt me (although has threatened to out of anger once or twice). It's frightening for people whose children are violent. I'm not sure what the answer is but this is an interesting post. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you found it interesting, really hope it will help to steer discussions about smacking and children who are sometimes violent in a different direction. x

      Delete
  7. I'm delighted too with the smacking ban and though I think you're right that those who disagree with it will continue to smack in private, I think (hope) that over time, this will decrease too. If it's socially unacceptable to smack, and illegal to smack, the message will get there eventually, even if it takes another generation to grow up and do things differently. I haven't thought at all about children who smack parents - what a thought provoking post. You're so right about people needing intervention and support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I think you're write that this legislation sends a message and hopefully smacking will go the way of drink driving and smoking in workplaces.

      Delete