Andrea Mara

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The spanking debate



Recently scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across this:

It had been “liked” by over 1.2 million people at that stage. I was taken aback to see that so many people agreed with the sentiment; agreed that spanking children is a good thing to do. Agreed that teaching children that physically hurting someone or humiliating them is the correct response to any conflict.

Maybe I live in a bubble. I don’t actually know anyone who sees spanking as a reasonable parenting tool. Sure, lots of parents did so in the 70’s and 80’s, but I believed that generally people in the 21st century agree that it’s not a good practice to hit children. In the past it was an accepted norm, now it’s not. Like car seats and smoking around children – not enough was known in the past about damage that some practices can cause, and now that information is widely available, practices have changed.

But I also think that the debate that this meme has generated is healthy. Perhaps because spanking children has become unacceptable for so many, it has also become difficult for anyone to admit that they’re ever tempted to do so. I’ve had moments where I’ve been pushed to my furthest limits as a parent, and though I’ve never spanked my children, I’ve felt guilty that I’ve been so close to losing it. I’ve shouted at them which was probably just as frightening for them. I haven’t always been as gentle as I should be. I’ve always apologised afterwards, and guiltily analysed to see how I could have handled the situation differently.

But I didn’t feel that it was something I could talk about – in my mind, spanking was so unacceptable, that even admitting to being close to doing it was taboo. And that’s not healthy either. Bottling up anxiety and feeling guilty and thinking nobody else ever felt the same isn’t good for any parent.

There’s a world of difference between actively practicing spanking in a deliberate, planned way as a means of disciplining a child compared to losing it on occasion and making amends; resolving to avoid doing it again.

It’s good to have the debate – and maybe instead of simply being “parents who don’t agree with spanking”, we can add a sub-heading: “but have sometimes felt close to doing it”

If we continue the discussion, people who spank their kids might have a chance to read up on what it’s really teaching their children. People who have been tempted to spank their kids can take heart that they’re not alone. And perhaps some other memes can be shared on Facebook, like this one:

via Olive Branch
via Olive Branch

This isn’t an attempt to analyse the debate in any detail – it’s a surprised remark on an attitude that I didn’t know existed to this extent. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m in a bubble and maybe I’m offending people. I’m open to hearing other points of view?

Additional note:

The ISPCC report on parental attitudes to slapping has just been released, you can see it here .

Among other findings, it says that three in five adults already think it’s illegal to slap a child (it isn’t) and 73% believe that it’s an ineffective way to discipline children.






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