Children: unbeatable?

a book. by Noel Jani-Norton.

a book. by Noel Jani-Norton.

A youf stands on a corner reading a newspaper that says: ‘Smack Ban For Parents’. His friend quips: ‘My dad’s okay. He’s only doing crack at the moment.’ That cartoon would have been pretty relevant, had a proposed law that would ban parents from smacking their children not been roundly ignored in Westminster last week. The vote never took place, leaving MPs on both sides of the debate ready to slap someone (over the age of 18).

In Scotland, parents have been forbidden from smacking children under three since 2003. Last week saw some Scottish politicians attempt to ban young people under the age of 21 from buying alcohol. Coincidence? I think not. What do you do with a drunk, abusive toddler if you can’t smack it?

The thing is, whether it’s legal or not, the tide, seems long ago to have turned against smacking. People far removed from fairly extreme campaigns like the Children Are Unbeatable! Alliance, who claim that ‘hitting children is wrong, and the law should say so,’ seem to agree with their views, at least within their own homes.

Many of my parent friends are against smacking their children. They tell me they don’t know any other parents of a similar age who do. As Children Are Unbeatable like to point out, our society has moved on and most of us no longer believe it’s appropriate to smack, and what is more, we have not done so for some time. The law simply needs to catch up with the trend.

My primary comment on this ‘we’ve moved on from smacking’ theory is: ‘And gosh, isn’t it working out well for you?’ It seems that fear of the naughty-step, the grow-good shelf or the disapproving-glances-pedestal has really done the job. Our nation’s streets are awash with teens and pre-teens committing random acts of discipline, washing previous (smacked) generations’ graffiti off walls and generally not knifing, spitting, swearing at or terrifying anyone. Clearly, abandoning corporal punishment has paid off. Job done.

Now, I may be biased. I am, I admit, not just in favour (if I am one day blessed with progeny) of smacking my children in order to discipline them. I am in favour of smacking other people’s children. Strangers’ if necessary. Wherever and whenever they are crying out for it through their lack of boundaries, respect, or sense of consequences.

a JOKE in bad taste

a JOKE in bad taste. And the way anti-smackers tend to portray spankers. This is all sounding very CarryOn.

I’m joking of course. Sort of. Because I do believe it is up to every parent to decide how to discipline their children. Even if they choose to do it like hippies. But arguing, as some do, that if you smack a child they will resort to violence to resolve conflict has two major flaws: 1. it assumes your child is, and always will be, an unreasoning idiot. 2. it also assumes that you child will never watch television, visit a cinema, attend a school, or, indeed open a newspaper, where disputes are rarely settled through detention or naughty steps.

The argument that it opens a door to abuse is all fine and well, but surely if sadists (at home or at school) take pleasure in physically hurting children, they will find ways to psychologically damage them too? And aren’t these forms of abuse already illegal?

Of course, if you’re an anti-smacking liberal, nothing I say will convince you of a ‘woman’s (or man’s) right to choose’ in this case. Killing a kid is one thing. Giving it a hiding is a step too far. But, live and let live, I say. So I propose this compromise: If non-smackers promise to stop trying to make smacking illegal, I promise never to campaign to make it a three-line-whip.

[I was going to embed Madonna’s Hanky Panky video but i thought it might actually kill some older readers]

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3 Responses

  1. Oh, Jonty! (Brace yourself for my first comment, dude, it’s gonna be a smack in the face.)

    I don’t actually think that all smacking should be outlawed, but I respect you too much to let you get away with this nonsense:

    “My primary comment on this ‘we’ve moved on from smacking’ theory is: ‘Our nation’s streets are awash with teens and pre-teens committing random acts of discipline, washing previous (smacked) generations’ graffiti off walls and generally not knifing, spitting, swearing at or terrifying anyone. Clearly, abandoning corporal punishment has paid off. Job done.'”

    Before the Evening Standard asks for your CV, let’s get this straight first: our streets are actually safer than they ever have been. Our crime rate is historically exceptionally low and in fact, the UK is the fifth safest country in the world for children to grow up in. (Compared to the many, many countries lower down the list where it is perfectly acceptable to discipline children through violence.)

    My second point is this: lack of corporal punishment can in no way be correlated with increase in youth crime. Come back with me for a minunte to the Hallowed Glorious Victorian Golden Age of 1800 – 1870. That heyday which corporal punishment advocates speak of with delight in their eyes; when teenagers were birched in the streets for being drunk / stealing etc. As we all know from historical sources (or even Dickens if you must) the fear of such sound discipline meant that our nation’s children were all little angels. Of course. And those darned liberal evangelical social reformers were all too soft on them. (Come on Leftie Langley, I know you’re in there somewhere… knock knock…)

    Now, journey back with me to 2008, on the walkways of our social housing schemes and our children’s gang turf wars and I’ll tell you what juvenile delinquency *can* be correlated to: social exclusion, poverty and fatherlessness. What’s needed here is courage, love and proper role models. No amount of smacking can ever magic up a father. And no cane can ever give a child hope.

  2. hullo Rachel, thanks for popping by. yeah, it’s rarely agreeing with me that gets people to comment. c’est la vie!

    i agree with most of what you’ve said, really. i certainly don’t think smacking alone will fix society’s ills, and i’m well aware that poverty and the entrenched injustice of the system of privilege enshrined in everything from the postcode lottery to private ownership of land is what breeds crime. but crime and estate kids are not mostly what i was talking about (so i guess the ‘knifing’ bit was a cheap shot). i work with kids from the local estate (ineffectively, it must be said, but that’s because i’m not a trained youfworker, not because i’m not allowed to hit them, much as that would help my argument) and i know a positive male (or female) role model (and decent opportunities in life) would help. I also happen to think discipline, boundaries and an end to a sense of entitlement and victimhood in some of them would help as well, but none of that can happen with corporal punishment alone.

    but what i was really thinking of was not the genuinely disadvantaged kids from broken homes and estates, not gangs and not crime. I’m from South Africa. Crime does not worry me. I was thinking, when i spoke about the little darlings, of the charmers one meets on the night bus after a night in Reading. The ones you encounter on a street corner in well-heeled villages like the one in which i live. The ones in the private (public? this country is so confusing) schools and government schools in ‘decent areas’ who have assaulted, spat upon and jacked off at teacher friends of mine. suburban kids who come from a range of backgrounds, some of them not exactly poverty-stricken or broken. Hell, i’m talking about some of the kids i went to school with, from very wealthy backgrounds and loving families who would not have known a boundary if it set off klaxons when they crossed it. What they need, just very occasionally, is a bloody good hiding. just to get their attention.

    Do you really believe those drunken lovelies, swearing at the taxi driver after a night in the club are only suffering from a lack of love? is there really not an issue there of discipline?

    most evening standard readers can no-doubt not tell the difference in background between one kid in a hoody and another. i’m not sure i can either. to them they’re all yobs. but i’ve seen children from ‘good homes’ financially speaking, with loving parents who were not divorced, who gave them all the attention in the world, produce teenagers who set fire to shit, kicked in windows, picked fights and hurled abuse at passers-by, etc. and a large majority (though not all, i admit — there is not defining causal relationship in these things, i think) had never been disciplined by anything more than grounding since they were tiny.

    but, on the whole, i agree, you can’t blame the state of our society on lack of physical discipline alone. that was lazy of me to suggest.

    the fact remains, however, that there is no good reason to ban or even frown upon smacking. it’s not betraying one’s lefty credentials to believe that (and to be honest, who cares about credentials or the respect of the left — or the right?). spanking is hardly some bourgeois practice forced upon the long-suffering proles or the lone practice of right-wingers (that was lazy of you). There are many liberals (my hippie parents for example), who smack with gay abandon and reap the benefits. i just find the horror and social pressure among middle-class lefty intellectuals to never lay a hand on any of the disgustingly behaved little brats running around them (who one dreads to think of in their teenage years even now) worrying. like my mom always said: it never did me any harm.

  3. Now THAT’S better! I’m glad I wrote my comment cos what you just posted was WAY more difficult to argue with – point very well made. [doffs hat]

    It’s actually not your belief I was arguing with – just I was worried you actually believed that smacking could somehow be directly related to incidence of vandalism / knife crime. And yeah you got me on the lazy lumping-together of leftieness.

    Interesting footnote: my brother, sister and I were all smacked as kids. It worked real good on me and my sis. But the more my bro was smacked, the more badly behaved he became.

    Second rather less interesting footnote: isn’t complaining about the yoofoftoday just a sign that you’re getting older?

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