I smack because I care

I wrote most of this this morning after reading this post by My Big Nutshell. Gemma’s post has some great points, for example that instead of making smacking illegal the government should pour money into parenting classes/counselling. I agree, however I worry about what might be taught in these classes. Parenting is a very sensitive topic, especially with regards to discipline, and the last thing people need is more guilt. We have guilt thrown at us about everything from every angle and all most parents want to do is what’s best by their kids.

Jess from diaryofasahm.net was brave enough to say “I smack my kids,” and you know what, so do I. I don’t smack William, obviously, as he is only 4 months old, but I do smack Alexis.

I believe what’s best for my kids is what’s in the bible because I believe God loves them and knows what’s best. This is what I’ve found.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Proverbs 23:13Do . not withhold discipline from a child, if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.

Even though it’s there plain as day I didn’t want to smack the child I love so much and so held off as long as possible. I thought we could reason with her and remove temptation etc but try as we may Corey and I couldn’t. We were getting frustrated with her and she was losing all respect for us. Kids need boundaries. Kids need discipline to be kept safe and to learn what’s right and what’s wrong.

Smacking has been accused of being lazy parenting. I’m sorry but I cannot devote every second of my day following Alexis around saying “no darling don’t do that how about we do this instead.” I tried it. She thinks it’s a game. She’s two years old and although most of the time she is sweetness and light sometimes she can be pretty evil. Smacking isn’t easy though either, especially when it’s done out of love and being careful not to just react to difficult situations.

Corey and I agree that completely losing our cool and whacking her out of utter frustration is more damaging than consistent smacking. Now when I say consistent I don’t mean smacking her every day just in case she has done anything wrong. What I mean is there are clear rules and expectations with clear consequences.

Alexis is well aware that if she hits or bites her brother she will be smacked. She knows that if she stands on the dining table she will be smacked. She knows that if she climbs her bookshelf she will be smacked. She knows that if she runs away in a carpark she will be smacked. No exceptions. Do you know what? She’s stopped hitting her brother, she’s stopped climbing onto the dining table and she’s stopped running away. Smacking works.

Smacking is not the default for everything. If she is not allowed to play with something because it’s dangerous we say “bitey. Ta for mummy/daddy” and take it away and praise her for giving it freely. If she is frustrated with her little friends we encourage her to calm herself. We cuddle her in close and sing/distract with surroundings rather than time out (because for Alexis time out doesn’t work). She also knows that if she gets herself completely hysterical and cuddling her close doesn’t calm her down we will try to remove her. If she then scratches and bites us then she gets a smack. We give her a warning because she is emotional. Most times when we say, do we need to smack you” she says “no” and calms down.

Essentially smacking is only something we do when she willfully disobeys us and when what she is doing is dangerous. We do it gently, on the fatty part of her leg, but hard enough for it to hurt. We don’t do her permanent damage but it has to be a little painful otherwise there’s no point.

She knows that mummy and daddy don’t like smacking her but that we do it because Jesus commands us to teach her right from wrong. Before we tell her we are going to smack her because it is the consequence for her disobedience. Afterwards we kiss it better and she says sorry and we cuddle and give her a dummy. She always knows we love her. She knows that we do it because we care about her.

The first few times really shocked her but it did not take her long at all to get the point. She has behaved so well since we started although admittedly it’s only been a short time. To be honest I think she is benefiting from the consistency.

The good thing about smacking is that the punishment is quick, the offence it is dealt with quickly and then we can move on. She is almost always over it very quickly unlike if we were to remove a toy or something like that. It’s also, believe it or not, helped me stay calmer because I am not continually getting frustrated over telling her no over and over again. For Alexis with her particular personality type I know it upsets her so very much when I yell and get cross with her and we know it is better for us to give her a little smack so she knows we are serious and she will not get away with that behaviour.

Personally I think it’s a good discipline measure for her age. We don’t want to be smacking her when she’s in school (and certainly not once she reaches puberty) but for now she does not resent us for it and it gets the message across. Society has it backwards trying to reason with toddlers and say “because I said so” to teenagers. We are hoping that by instilling a respect for authority in her now we will avoid a number of discipline problems later. We know we don’t have all the answers. We know we are young. We know we will learn as we go. Yet we know that we are doing what we think is right and we know it has been working. Will we do the same with William when he is older, we probably will, if it works for him. We will NOT smack him until he is old enough to know that what he is doing is wrong though.

I’m not saying that smacking is for everyone. I don’t recommend you go and smack your child. I’m not a psychologist or a doctor or anything other than a mother. All I can say is that for us in our particular situation it has worked wonders for her behaviour and I will not feel guilty for it.

As Alexis’ parents we have the right to choose how we discipline her. Yes it is her body and she should have a choice as to whether she is smacked or not and she does. When we say, “you can do what mummy/daddy asked (and insert specific instruction here) or you can have a smack” we are giving her a choice. How we discipline our children is our decision because it is our responsibility. When we stand before God on judgement day it’s us alone who will have to answer for our parenting.

I realise the government has to do something because child abuse is on the rise and it is totally unacceptable. There is however a very big difference between a smack and a case of abuse. Making smacking illegal won’t stop child abuse because the people who abuse their children don’t do it thinking they’re just smacking them out of love. They do it for a number of reasons, none of which I will pretend to understand. As Gemma said, legislating against smacking isn’t the answer, helping parents get the help they need is far more useful. The only problem is, where do people go to get their help? Who draws the line on what is acceptable and what is not? Is strict discipline any more damaging than a gross lack of discipline? I sincerely doubt it.

I don’t expect everyone will agree with this. By all means post your views. (If you’re not already totally bored with this subject from commenting on the other blogs. Sorry this is the first chance I’ve had to get online.) I value your comments. Please be respectful of other people though as any inappropriate comments will be deleted. Thank you.