Smacking


The Slap, Christ Tsiolkas

There was an article about doctors making it illegal to smack kids in the Sydney Morning Herald over a week ago, which brought back as many memories for me as it clearly did for others.

Most people tell me the rule of thumb when reading articles like these on the SMH website, or indeed anywhere really, is to not read the comments - but personally I find that even though sometimes there is your run of the mill comments that can be easily ignored, there is often some interest and provoking conversation happening. Or maybe that shows that I just belong on their level and am no better - take your pick, really.

In any case, although I don't necessarily agree with making 'smacking' a legal concern, and it is true enough that NSW can be referred to as the 'Nanny state' (which I'm personally mostly okay with), I don't agree with nor would I really condone such practice. That being said, you can discipline your child with that method if it works for you - within reason.

I grew up with smacking, didn't do any good. Is fear a good tool for raising children, or is a convenience of the lazy and mean? I have see no valid or functional reason to threaten or use violence on my little brat. -Harry of Brisbane

I don't know about convenience or lazy and mean, but I remember fear. I remember taking my report card home, at the age of 12 and hiding it and hiding in my room because I was so scared of showing my parents. Although I was no longer caned once I entered high school, the fear of it remained and the additional fear of being constantly screamed at replaced it. When I knew I could hide it no longer, I went and I left it somewhere they would find it and I would sit, and wait for the tide to spill over.

Sometimes it wasn't so bad, and I would be surprised for once.

Living in fear isn't healthy for anyone, much less young and vulnerable people whose minds and bodies are still developing. -Beaten

In fact, that fear still lives with me - irrational and paralysing. I'm surprised if I get home and don't get screamed at about leaving the house without telling someone first about where I was going, how long I was going for and when I was coming back... that was only last year even.

But anyway, it seems that a lot of the problem in this debate within the comments is the narrow line between smacking and abuse. Certainly people's definitions of 'smacking' here did surprise me, and it was interesting to know that the treatment that I had faced could have potentially bordered on abuse, but that also depends on which time period you're hailing from. Once, caning was perfectly normal, after all.

Another part of the problem is that people don't seem to see their children on an equal footing, that 'smacking' their child would not be on the same level as 'smacking' their partner, for instance, or 'smacking' a random strange on the street. Why is there this difference?

How on earth do you figure that violence teaches respect? My mother smacking me didn't teach me to respect her. It taught me to fear her. Big difference. And then when I got older, I retaliated. That's not respect. -AM

This describes me probably to a T. T as in the T in my last name - the last name that I don't even particularly like. Just like I don't particularly like my first name either - but you get used to it after a while when people keep calling you by that name.

I don't know about your experience, but my own means that I don't particularly want to repeat this lesson for anyone else, that if I ever walked the same path, I would definitely dig a bend in the road to tread on another. I'm always told 'when you're standing in my shoes one day, you'll see that I was right', but I'm still not seeing it. Perhaps because I still have yet to grow up from this psychological rut, but I still don't see, and likely never will see quite eye-to-eye.

Image from the Daily Telegraph.. I remember when The Slap aired on ABC1.