Smacking: Not “a personal issue”

Here are some things which are personal issues:

  • deciding whether or not to like blue cheese
  • mooncups vs tampons
  • the acceptability or otherwise of being attracted to Lego Han Solo

Here is one thing which is not:

  • smacking other people

Smacking other people is wrong. This is the case even if said people are little and even if said people would not exist without your genetic contribution. I realise this sounds a little judgmental. Well, it’s meant to. After all, the whole problem with liberal lefties is that we’re supposed to be drowning in laissez-faire moral relativism (apart from when we’re being intolerant of intolerance). Anyhow, I’ve had enough of all that. I’m coming out 100% against smacking. Take that, pro-smackers (“that” is not, by the way, a smack).

A while ago I blogged about why I wouldn’t smack my kids (short answer: because I was smacked and actually, it did do me some harm). Writing for the Guardian, Bim Adewunmi claims she wouldn’t do it either, but that “parents need some autonomy in deciding on how to raise their own children”. I’d agree with that, but I think the key word here is “some”. The ability to reproduce is just that. It doesn’t bring with it special knowledge or moral authority. God forbid that we should all be able to take responsibility for tiny lives and then assume we can do whatever the hell we see fit.

Adewunmi claims that there is “obviously a clear line between “smacking” and “abuse””. No, there isn’t. You can’t always tell when a decision to chastise has tipped over into the venting of frustration. You can’t always tell when the pressure applied is just that bit too hard, when the object used is just that bit too solid, whether that chair or door frame that got in the way was there “accidentally” or whether you saw it, through the angry mists, and carried on anyhow. You can’t always tell whether someone is a child to be smacked or an adult to be abused. I was smacked / hit / whatever until the age of 19 (because I was still “acting like a child”, apparently. Well, I still act like a total fuckwit at 37 – does that mean I still need to be taken in hand?).

I guess Adewunmi would see me as the exception to a vague “didn’t do me any harm” rule:

There are children who have been brutalised by their caregivers under the umbrella term of “smacking” and “discipline”. This was not my experience, and I doubt it is for the millions of children who are smacked. Parenting is a personal thing, often done publicly. And it’s worth remembering that the social stigma of smacking does not seem to be stopping a determined set of parents from “disciplining” their children this way.

So if Adewunmi “doubts” that others had experiences and responses which were different to hers, that’s okay then, is it? I rather think it bloody isn’t. And the idea that parenting can be glibly dismissed as a “personal thing” is ridiculous. I hate criticism of my parenting style as much as the next totally paranoid, utterly guilt-ridden but more or less “trying to do my best” person. But that’s neither here nor there. So I’m sensitive. Big fucking deal. It shouldn’t give me the right to lash out at a five-year-old, nor should the fact that other parents carry on regardless mean it’s time we all shrugged our shoulders and allowed them to get on with it.

I’m glad Adewunmi isn’t going to smack any children she goes on to have, less impressed that she’s decided to take such an “anything goes” approach towards those who are more slap-happy. I mean, it’s probably safe to do so; Adewunmi’s in her twenties, so she’s unlikely to get a smack in return. But still, I’d be wary. It’s all very well telling people that you understand where they’re coming from, but I’d rather tell them they’re wrong. Still, I guess that’s just my “personal” view.


6 thoughts on “Smacking: Not “a personal issue”

  1. I wonder when “it takes a village” became “you’re on your own”. I know it can be annoying to have a bunch of people telling you how to raise your kids, but there’s a reason we feel compelled to do it. Our survival depends on the next generation. Especially if our parenting techniques may turn them into mass murderers, I could see that being other peoples business!

  2. Totally, completely agree with you (as always!). Children are more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves than adults, so we should be even more careful with their feelings, and with controlling our anger – if we wouldn’t hit an adult who was annoying or disagreeing with us, what makes it ok to do it to a child? My children frequently drive me loopy, and I don’t always manage to stay calm, but that is a line I will never cross.
    Rachel x

  3. Fantastic post. As someone else who was left emotionally damaged by physical punishment, I agree with every word. I’ve never hit my children and I don’t intend to.

  4. Why do people hit/smack their children? The main reason given is to stop children doing something wrong and/or dangerous. Is there any other group of people that we think it is acceptable to hit when they do something wrong and/or dangerous? Is it acceptable to hit people with a learning disability or people with dementia? No, of course, it isn’t. So why is it okay to hit children?

    1. I’ve always said I would smack my child to prevent him from hurting himself or doing something dangerous – the only two times I remember being smacked myself were when I went to touch the hot oven door and when I ran into a busy road, both when I was under the age of five. After reading your post (and the comment above by Hazel), however, I’ve changed my mind. Thank you, on behalf of my six month old son.
      Great post, as always…

  5. Couldn’t agree more. Saw a woman smack her child for hitting another child last week. Setting aside the general wrongness of smacking as outlined in your post, where on earth is the is the logic in that?

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