My friend and I had a really great baby swim date yesterday. Seeing her always makes me feel okay and, after having the flu and a flu-ridden baby for the last week while Musicman was on the road (again), I needed to be okay. Ladybug and I were in a weird and unhealthy pattern involving endless stories, steamy baths, no solids, and many, many breakdowns. Did I mention it was so cold that going outside for any length of time meant frostbite?
My friend asked if I believed in “smacking”. At first, I wasn’t sure if she was making reference to shooting heroin, kissing or making a satisfied sound. She clarified. It seems that she recently polled her friends with kids as to whether they hit their children or not. She was shocked to find that they all felt smacking their children was a necessary, effective and worthwhile pursuit.
She then polled her co-workers, professionals who work with children all, and they too sang the praises of corporeal punishment. When she sought a reason, both groups felt it was the quickest way to end a behaviour. There was also the “I-was-spanked-and-I’m-ok” faction whom, for the record, she did not think was “ok”.
Before I had children or contemplated children, I assumed that a lack of spanking was to blame for misbehaviour. I have since educated myself and realize that this is not the case. In fact, using physical punishment has been shown to increase undesirable behaviour and developmental issues (read more here).
There is a movement in Canada to make corporeal punishment illegal and I can certainly see the logic. If you strike your spouse, you can be charged with spousal abuse. If you strike another adult, you can be charged with assault. In fact, if you strike someone else’s child, you can be charged with child abuse. The only human being you are legally allowed to strike is your own child. How does this make any sense?
It also defies logic that damaging someone will make them better in some way. For those who argue that they were hit and are okay: how do you know what you would be like otherwise? It is perfectly fine to realize our collective mistakes and move on. Kids used to play with mercury in science class – does that mean it wasn’t dangerous and our kids should do it too?
We are (hopefully) evolving as a species, and I believe the end goal is to work towards peaceful understanding and cooperation. As long as we use violence to discipline our children, we can expect that the world will not be a peaceful place.
The old line “this hurts me more than it hurts you” rings false, too. Do people actually hit their children when they are not angry with them? No. It is anger that inspires the violence to begin with. (Granted, I am sure it feels terrible once you’ve calmed down.)
None of this is to say that I don’t sometimes feel angry with my daughter but, rather than yelling at her or hitting her, I try to take a step back from the situation and get a clear perspective. Why is she acting this way? What can be done to make things go more smoothly? Is she hungry, tired or overstimulated? Is what I’m expecting from her unreasonable or developmentally inappropriate? What can I do to help her understand the consequences of her actions?
Though it has come to mean “punishment”, the original meaning of discipline is “instruction“.