Excellent Aussie commentary on smacking

Parent’s love leads to disciplineJane Fynes-Clinton From: The Courier-Mail December 29, 2011
THE S-word has bobbed up again, obfuscating what is truly important, selfishly drawing attention and stealing rational decision-making. Smacking is always a contentious topic, the kind on which everyone has a view, whether they are a parent or not. But this time, tragically, it has been given more weight than love. A court has stopped a NSW couple from adopting two children, aged eight and 11, because of claims they smacked them. The couple fostered the children for four years. The birth parents are unable to look after the pair due to dreadful circumstances and Acting Justice William Windeyer told the Supreme Court in NSW the children called the foster pair Mum and Dad. They are, in practice if not in law, a family. He said the foster parents were devoted and were considered “very suitable” to adopt the children, but one child had told a psychologist he had been smacked and hit with a spoon.┬áThe judge said “such methods of discipline are not regarded as acceptable”. That these foster parents love the children as their own should be enough. That they may or may not have smacked them to discipline them should be moot. Two children have been prevented for now from having a real, permanent family because of a perception of community disapproval about smacking.

Regardless of whether or not the foster parents smacked the children, other people do. For the judge to say it is not regarded as acceptable might be true only in some quarters. But smacking has become a secret sort of discipline. Parents don’t admit doing it for fear of being labelled child abusers and violence mongers. Yet many do it, even if they are not these things. When a behaviour is forced underground, it morphs and grows. It can become dangerous. We need to be careful to keep discussion of disciplinary measures for our children out in the open…

People who condemn parents who have smacked their children as having lost control of the child-parent situation are not living in today’s real world. Children are not always rational and do not always act maturely. They do not always respond to requests, commands or appeals from a parent. The occasional smack, delivered deliberately and calmly, to take the heat out of an event or after a child has done something horrendous, brings the lesson into sharp relief for them…

The loud, periodic calls for bringing in laws against smacking are a sign of people who can no longer reason or work out what is acceptable in their own framework and rely on governments or authorities to do it for them. We don’t need all or nothing where smacking is concerned. We need to be able to work out what is suit- able discipline within our own families.


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