As the Victorian Government moves to follow the lead of NSW and ban the smacking of children, the Presbyterian Church has stepped into the argument, warning that parents could face court for disciplining their children. Is this another indication that Australia is turning into a nanny state, or an act to prevent children from being unfairly punished?
I hate to sit on the fence in anything, priding myself with having an opinion on anything and everything, whether others agree or not. However, on the issue of smacking a child, I am strangely ambivalent. I just don’t see how relevant legislation can be deemed to ‘solve’ this issue.
Born in the 70s, I am from a generation when smacking a child was an acceptable form of punishment. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a battered child, but my parents had no hesitation in a swift backhand to my backside when I stepped out of line. On occasion my brother, who was naughtier than I, had my father’s belt taken to him, and despite the shock of seeing my mild-mannered father actually snap, I don’t recall thinking this to be excessive.
As the mother of a son who, when younger, would on a very rare occasion try my patience, I am strangely embarrassed to admit that I did smack his bottom. Something I’m sure many of my friends will also ‘confess’ to.
So, here is my dilemma; despite being on the receiving end of a smacking now and again, and then to have gone on and done the same thing to my own child, do I think parents should have carte blanche to smack their own child? I’m not so sure I do, but why am I conflicted?
Firstly, my parents are gentle souls who never, knowingly or not, did anything which would physically harm me or my brother. Even on the rare occasions where my father snapped, more often than not, the threat of the belt was enough to bring my brother and I back from the brink of naughtiness.
Secondly, when pushed to the brink of even considering physically lashing out at a child, does a parent understand restraint or what is ‘reasonable force’, as practiced in Queensland.
And lastly, does the fact that I was smacked as a child and that I then went on to smack my own child make it right? Does the fact that no harm was done to me, nor did I do any harm to my son, make it right? Do two wrongs make a right? No.
So, how do I feel about the proposed laws on smacking? Saddened. Is this what society has come to that we need the law to deem what punishment is acceptable for a naughty child? Does the minority of parents who can’t control their temper, or who lash out as a matter of course, mean we must look to the state for guidance? Apparently so.
What do you think? Should parents be able to smack their children as a means of punishment?