“To Smack or Not to Smack” … that old onion

I will confess that when I started this business of parenting, I was under the impression that discipline meant a smack.

A smack would teach you that the consequences of your action/inaction would lead to discomfort and that might give you pause for concern next time you were in the same/similar situation.

A smack is not meant to be hitting a child until they are bleeding or bruised or fading in and out of consciousness.  A smack is a swift movement of your hand that is aimed at your child’s rump.  With the idea that it sends the message : “Hey bum, ears are not working.  Maybe bum can send a message to ears to say hey ears, wake the fk up!”

Seemed simple enough in principle.

Before Connor I had never really been around children.  I was the youngest in my family, the youngest in my wider family circle, and for some reason just never really came in to contact with children.

When I did I realised that they were a constant source of embarrassment.  I would ask a question and people would laugh at me.

Connor was the first baby I held for any significant length of time.  I thought that babies (like puppies) were born with their eyelids sealed.  So more novice you could not get.

I think the reality of most of us going from adults into parents is that we mimic our own upbringing.  Monkey see, monkey do stuff!

I was especially harsh with Connor, and was quick to punish (snap upbringing).

I did not want to be “those” people who are ostracised from society/public/friends because their child is a brat, or cries over nothing, or does anything that might remove from the joy of social occasions for people who do not have children.

I did not want to be stuck at home forever just because “we had a child” I wanted to continue what we usually did, within reason.  And Connor’s end of the bargain required him to behave according our rather rigid rules.  Poor guy!

Shame, I do pity the first child with Learner Parents.  Learner Parents cannot but fk up in the name of “I thought I was doing the right thing” – how else are they going to learn?  Been there, done that!

I recognise now that we were much too harsh, and especially with a child like Connor – who used to burst in to tears if you spoke in an angry tone to him.

By the time Georgia came along I must confess we had learnt a little (though not terribly much) but we were much gentler (and better) parents.  I still didn’t have much other options other than “I am counting to three, if I get there and you have not done/have not stopped doing what I asked you to do then you will get a hiding!”

Two problems with this system.

You have to do something if you get to three.  If you get to three and then warn again, and just do not do what you threatened/warned then your child is going to know that they have the upper hand, and they will know that they will able to always push you and you will cave.

The other issue is that you leave very few options as discipline if you are resort to a smack as a first measure.

At the time that was really all I knew.

In 1996 I went to the UK to visit my brother Bruce.  Him and his wife had been talking about Super Nanny and I bought a book and watched her show.  I was amazed at the “other techniques” I just did not realise existed that did not have a smack as the option.

I felt sick to my stomach that we had failed as parents and had been so harsh with Connor.  I recall standing in the bookstore in Glasgow and skimming through the Super Nanny book and feeling like I had been such a terrible parent.

I did not return a reformed from the UK a”non smacker.”  I still did not rule out a smack, but it got shifted to a “real point of last resort” when we felt we had exhausted every other method within reason.

I think we are still pretty strict parents, but that being said I think we have definitely mellowed from the first few years of Connor.  If I went back I would probably do it differently, but that would be because now I have plus eleven years of parenting under my belt, and woudl look at a situation totally differntly.

In some ways I definitely let somethings just roll on past and I do not make a fuss, but with other things I think I am still “I vant to year vun klik or else!”

I am definitely not an advocate against smacking children, and at the same time would not suggest it as the only course of action.  I am still a bit on the fence on it – presently we smack as a last/final/no other option — and it is very seldom.

I don’t think good parents are born — they are created with the shifts of experience and learning.

We do what we can with what we have got.  But for a me a good parent realises that what is right today, may not be right tomorrow and they realise that parenting is not an absolute point – it is a point of departure and we all learn a bit more each day.  From others, from ourselves and from our kids.

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  1. I honestly wish smacking worked with Kiara :-/ It worked well with Cameron – one or 2 smacks and then I could just threaten and count and by the time I got to 2 he was back in line. Even now at 10 he won’t push too far but he was my “easy kid”.

    Kiara is my “no discipline under the sun will ever work ever” kid *sigh*

    • reluctantmom

       /  August 2, 2012

      Georgia and Kiara were divided at birth!! Georgia does not respond to a smack – she cries, but there is zero long term benefit. I am almost sure she looks you in the eye and goes “BRING IT ON BITCH!!!”

  2. Helen (1st-Timer)

     /  July 31, 2012

    Yah I smacked my 2 year old this evening and he replied: “no mommy, hitting is naughty, go stand in the corner.” Can’t say I had a comeback for that…

    More importantly though – why why WHY did you have to tell me about the Chuckles sale? Not only do I now feel disgustingly nauseated but I am also going to be living in my sweats for at least the rest of winter. Sometimes sharing is not caring Celeste!

    • reluctantmom

       /  August 1, 2012

      I ate an entire packet last night — I meant to only have 2 or 3.

  3. Beautiful post. Im on the fence about it too.

  4. Alexandra

     /  July 31, 2012

    Lovely post.

  5. Tania

     /  July 31, 2012

    taking into account as you will know, having 3 children, i have 2, each child reacts differently to smacking, grounding, flicking, counting down from 3, etc. what works for my oldest, ethan, does definately not work for emily & vice versa. in your defense, we were also alot more stricter on ethan & now, thinking back, he was an angel compare to his sister, and also such a softie, just a mean glare would send him off crying and get him back in line.

    • reluctantmom

       /  July 31, 2012

      Definitely agree Tania – one style of parenting is not always a one size fit alls for each child in a family.

  6. Ciska

     /  July 31, 2012

    I totally agree! With Nadia (my eldest) we were so much more ‘you better do this our way, or take the highway to a slap on the backside!’, but with Eric it is time-outs etc.

    But there is still a place for a good smack and both of them know that option is always there if the make my palm itch to much. We talk of our kids upbringing as an experiment. Trying this today, if it explodes, we will try something else tomorrow.

    Also, love the expression ‘Learner parents’!

  7. “I don’t think good parents are born — they are created with the shifts of experience and learning.” That is REALLY good to hear as a person about to have their first child. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the issue either. I side with you, definitely last resort.

    However, I went to a fondue dinner thrown by some friends. Their kids are my god kids. I’ve never smacked them in all the times I have taken care of them. When their youngest kid (two going on three) quickly reached for the fondue pot my hand quickly slapped his hand away. I felt SO BAD, still feel bad. It was complete reflex.

    • reluctantmom

       /  July 31, 2012

      Victoria, the only thing I can tell you is that you will get some of it right, and some of it not so much. But kids are adaptable and forgive parenting mistakes …. well they do until a certain age. I think you have a good 7 – 9 years before you need to appear a confident parent, until then you can sort of wing it.


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