I had an interesting conversation on twitter on the weekend. It was about discipline.
It started with a few tweets about the banning of THE BOOK. I won’t go into it here, but you can find out about it by visiting http://adadcalled.spen.wordpress.com . It’s not a very nice book. It’s been about for quite a while, but not promoted, so when someone who actually gave a shit about the way children are treated saw it and read a few pages they quite rightly stepped up to the plate and started a campaign to have it removed from circulation. Anyway, it’s all about corporal punishment for children. As young as 4 months old.
It was nice watching us all come together on twitter. A common ground, a group of parents that are probably old enough to remember when punishment of this kind was common practice. Some of us were smacked (a lot) by our parents (I was even caned at school), but perhaps some remember stories their parents told of the way they were treated. Nowadays, we know that systematic physical punishment of this kind isn’t good. We know that even the occasional physical punishment isn’t great, but it does happen.
I have never smacked my children, but I have come very very close. I was raised in a smacking household. My parents were quite a lot stricter than other parents and my mum lost her temper quite a bit (I’m afraid I do too). When I was older I always remembered the look my mum gave when she was in a bad mood and how scary it was and I always thought, why didn’t she just do that? Why didn’t she raise her voice, tell me how disappointed she was with me. It would have done the same thing. She didn’t need to wallop me over the head.
Pickle was a challenging baby, but a delightful toddler. She was nearly 2 when she did something I had asked her 2 previous times not to do. She was only 2, she had probably forgotten I’d said it, but I was stressed about something else at the time and tired of repeating myself (oh, how I could have seem my life 3 years hence…it’s a daily ritual), and I rushed over to her with one raised hand ready to give a short sharp smack to the bottom. She was watching television at the time, so to my absolute relief, she has no idea I nearly smacked her. I literally had to force myself NOT to smack her. So ingrained was that reaction. My husband saw it, with horror. We calmed down and talked about it. There’s been a few occasions since where I was tired, my brain wasn’t working, I couldn’t quickly come up with a solution to resolve the issue and my first thought was a smack. Just a thought. The reminder of that near miss all that time ago, stops me. I walk away, grab a few minutes to find a different solution.
I did “tap” my son’s leg once, whilst he was on a changing mat, whilst he was kicking me ferociously and ignoring my request to stop. I couldn’t leave him on it and he was too heavy to lift off and back on again. The tap says it all really. It was a half-hearted reaction. I know I’m not that kind of mother, or I don’t want to be.
So, what is that kind of mother. Well, it’s the kind of mother that makes mistakes. That was raised in a household where smacking was the norm, who may have made her mind up early on in motherhood that she wouldn’t treat her children the way she was treated, but often finds herself in situations where she falls to the default. This is especially noticeable if a child has been about to do something life threatening, like running on to a road. A friend of mine who is French, has smacked both her sons on separate occasions. I wouldn’t have done it, but I wouldn’t judge her for it. She is the product of her own convictions, her own upbringing, she reacted in the heat of a serious moment. She is a good mother.
I think we all want to live in a world where children are treated with respect, but who can be shaped to behave appropriately in certain situations. I don’t want to see anyone smack anybody (least of all me) but I do need to discipline my children. So I do.
I use the 3 and out rule. On the last one, I usually count to 3. That gets a response 9 out of 10 times. If they are being very stubborn, then they get to have timeout on the step. Both of them spent a fair bit of time between 2-3 yrs on the step. Pickle rarely goes on it (maybe once in the last year) and The Monster used to be on it daily or several times a day, but we can go almost a week nowadays without using it. He’s about to turn 3. That’s a success for me.
I know that’s probably not far enough for some mothers. They are confident in their beliefs that children do not need discipline. That they will find their way in the world through guidance. I applaud you, I am intrigued (and will read up about it) and I hope that your way will produce well-rounded good citizens and if so, that your way will be “the way” in the next generation, but I can’t do that.
Perhaps you have done a lot of research, met mother’s who have done it. Perhaps you are a 3rd generation of not experiencing physical punishment, the leapt isn’t so far for you. The leap is too far for me. When my son is walloping my daughter over the head with a wooden hammer, I have to do something, my daughter would be confused. When my son is pushing someone elses son off the steps of the slide, I have to make a “thing” of it. It’s not fair on the other children or their parents. I can’t overcome that. I have to find a way to tell my son that he shouldn’t be doing that. I have few resources at my finger tips at that moment.
We all do what we can within the parameters of our personalities, genes and upbringings. That’s all we can do. Strive to be better parents than the ones before and slowly find the right balance to raise good, resilient and respectful adults of the future.