Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smacking Kids - What do you Think?

I'm reading a book at the moment called The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. It got quite a lot of press when it came out (in Australia, in 2008) and is becoming, I'm told, quite a book club favourite.

The Slap tells the story of a typical Australian barbeque with family and friends. The adults relax over a few drinks, enjoying each other's company and some great food. The kids are kept entertained by DVD's and video games, or at least that's the plan. Unfortunately, a group of kids of various ages, left to their own devices to "play together", often run into trouble. After a fracas resulting in a broken game remote, an uncle sets up a game of cricket. Let the kids expend some energy, what could be a better idea? The best laid plans... One of the kids is difficult, uncooperative, and throws a tantrum when he is "out". As his tantrum escalates, he lashes out at the adult who has grabbed hold of him in an effort to settle him down. The adult gives the child an almighty slap.

So, is it ever ok to hit a child?

In The Slap, the child in question is three years old, and a terror. The adult who slaps him is not his parent. It opens up a lot of questions, including where does discipline stop and child abuse start? Is it ok to discipline a child that's not your own? What happens when family members disagree about appropriate behaviour and discipline strategies?

I'd like to add some more questions. Is corporal punishment effective? If you choose not to smack, what alternative strategies are the most effective?

Also, a comment. I've noticed that it's very difficult to discipline children when you have an audience. A BBQ with family and friends is not the ideal situation in which to practice your own style of discipline, under the watchful (and sometimes critical) eyes of others.

Reading the Sunday Telegraph this morning (hard copy), I noticed this article by Lisa Mayoh:

In defence of smacking, I'll take a hit



The Sunday Telegraph, 21-03-2010, Ed: 1 - State, Pg: 113, 884 words , FEATURES


What I'm about to tell you is controversial, there's no doubt about that. I'm not proud of it, and I know I'm going to cop a lot of flak -- but it looks like I'm willing to take the hit, so to speak. I recently did something I never thought I would d...

Unfortunately, the article was not reproduced in the online version of the paper, and searching the archives only gives me what I have reproduced above. To get the full article, I'd have to pay.

In the article, Lisa describes a personal experience in which her younger cousin (Lisa is an adult, her cousin a six-year-old child) splashed her with water at a family picnic, and in her anger, she slapped him. She describes how upset she was that, despite being told in no uncertain terms not to wet her, the six-year-old disobeyed her and splashed her anyway. Yeah...kids will do that.

She's not proud of having slapped him, and the child's parents aren't angry with her, so no harm done, right? And Lisa is pregnant with her own child, who she plans to smack "if they're naughty".

So what do you think? I'd love to hear some opinions on this issue.

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