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Home > Culture and Society

Smack my kids up

9 July 2004

Ah, child abuse - you can't beat it. Whenever the issue of smacking is raised, as it was once again in the House of Lords this week, the hysteria is joyful to watch - in the same way that you could support England in Euro 2004 but also enjoy the sheer schadenfreude of watching blubbing blob-people as England lost.

But back to child smacking. An example of this week's meeja wank:


"Parents who smack are you and me - ordinary folk stressed out by the relentless pressures of child rearing... Once, when I had a glass of water in my hands when my baby son was screaming I threw the cold water on his contorted face and then smashed the glass on the floor. I was so far gone that I didn't even notice the glass cutting my feet..."


This is meant to be an edifying story from the writer Yasmin Alibhai Brown, as written by her in the Daily Mail. Unfortunately it more implies that she is - to use the clinical term - 'mad as a cat on acid'.

Like so many issues, smacking seems to generate two opposed and equally dubious views:


1) Smacking is good, and quite possibly character building. People who take this view also tend to say 'My father would give me a good thrashing on my bare bottom with an iron bar wrapped in barbed wire, and it never did me any harm'. Unfortunately it quite obviously *has* done them some harm, because they're the sort of weirdoes who write to the Daily Mail to complain the death penalty doesn't apply to squirrels who shit in your garden.

2) Smacking is wrong, full stop. Two types of people make this case: people who were thrashed senseless as a child, and people who fondly imagine themselves to be thoroughly modern parents. The latter implausibly suggest that the odd smack or slap by itself is going to turn your child into a cowering blob of fear
or the next Peter Sutcliffe.


Several questions present themselves:

1) Is smacking OK?
2) Does smacking work?
3) If you smack a child, what is the effect?
4) Does smacking matter?


Common sense suggests that:

1) So long as it's light smacking - not abusing your child

2) Only if you terrify the little fuckers.

3) Noone knows.

4) No. But everyone's seen a shit parent. You occasionally see these people in the street - they're the ones screaming "You little cunt" to a two-year-old child before dragging them into a supermarket by their ears. These people give the impression they actually hate their children, and maybe they do.

Fundamentally, smacking is not a very healthy thing to do. The consensus among childcare experts is that any sort of child discipline only works within a set of clear, didactic and 'loving' boundaries

But if you've got clear, didactic and loving boundaries with your kids anyway, why hit them in the first place?



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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