CAN SMACKING BE BEATEN?; TV Cameras Filmed Three Families as They Stuck to a Childcare Expert's Tips on Discipline. the Results Were Highly Revealing
Mallon, Margaret, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: MARGARET MALLON
SCOTLAND is on the brink of introducing controversial legislation to outlaw smacking young children. The proposals have sparked a furious debate between the Scottish Executive and family campaigners who maintain all parents have the right to discipline their offspring.
In a BBC documentary A Good Smack? - to be screened next week - three families were given tips by a childcare expert on using discipline without force.
Karen Sullivan watched fly-on-the-wall video footage before visiting the families. The children were allowed to decide on a system of rewards and punishments and Karen advised the parents to adopt the yellow and red card warning system from football, to send the children to their rooms for ten minutes when they were in a temper, and to implement punishments such as not being allowed to play computer games when they were naughty.
Here the Scottish Daily Mail talks to the parents and Karen Sullivan to find out their views.
THE CHILDCARE EXPERT: Karen Sullivan is a divorced mother-of-two from London and the author of a string of childcare books, including her latest, Kids Under Pressure. She says: The reasons smacking doesn't work are very straightforward - you are giving the children negative feelings about themselves and you aren't teaching them anything other than that violence is acceptable and a way to solve problems.
Most people stop smacking once this is spelled out to them because parents who love their children don't want to harm them. Discipline isn't about power, it's about teaching children how to grow into responsible adults.
Every time a child is naughty, that gives parents a little window of opportunity to teach them something, that respect for property is important, as is getting along with the other family members, to be helpful and kind rather than violent and treat others as you expect to be treated.
Discipline is about teaching a child self-respect because, if you have that, you have respect for other people and for property.
I can't agree that hitting a child can be right, particularly when i t' s premeditated. As parents we have all lashed out in anger, because we are human, but I think that's better because you can apologise to the child for losing control.
But if you say your punishment is now to be hit across the back of your legs, I think that's odd. You don't hit things you love, so a child grows up feeling they are inferior or dirty.
What I suggest is parents try to remember a time when they were hit as a child and the feelings of anger, outrage and helplessness. It is a horrible experience because it's a shock.
THE WYNN FAMILY: Graham, 36, and Jacqueline, 30, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, have four children, Kelly, ten, Ross, eight, Stefan, seven, and Demi, four. The children were disruptive at home - breaking lightbulbs, drawing on the furniture, gouging holes in the wall and breaking toys - wouldn't obey their parents, and smacked each other and even the family dog.
Graham says: I was smacked as a child myself and came from a strict family.
But I went off the rails when I was about 13 and my father threw me out of the house when I was 16, which was the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me grow up.
I was really harsh with the kids and because they were so wild, it made me even harder on them. I realise now I was smacking them too much and being overprotective.
I wouldn't let them play outside the house in case anything happened to them, but now I let them play outside as long as I can see them from the window. We now take them to the park and out shopping to let them run off some of their energy.
Karen gave us lots of good advice about rewarding the children for their good behaviour. The kids soon realised that if they were good they would get a treat, but I want them to learn to behave without always getting a treat.
Their behaviour is much better, and my son Ross is like a different boy. He was always getting into trouble at school for hitting people but now, although he's still boisterous, he is better behaved. We have gone back to smacking the children, but we only do it occasionally. I believe that children under three should not be smacked, but that parents should be allowed to smack children over that age. In this day and age, if you don't smack your children they just run wild.
Karen Sullivan's verdict: The Wynns' expectations were too high. They expected their children to be immaculately behaved all the time but there are four of them cooped up in a small house. The children had cabin fever and once they were allowed out to let off steam their behaviour improved immeasurably.
THE BRIGHT FAMILY: Alan, 41, and Elspeth, 40, live in East London with their six children, Richard, 14, David, 13, Katrina, 11, Jonathan, nine, Ian, six, and Michael, four. Alan is an IT consultant and Elspeth is a fulltime mother who educates the children at home. The children were well-behaved and were only smacked occasionally.
Alan says: There are alternatives to smacking but they are jolly wearing on the parents. We do smack, not because it's easier for us but because it gets punishment out of the way immediately. Alternative means of punishment hang over the child.
With smacking, the parent-child relationship can be restored after five minutes.
The debate has moved the focus away from parenting skills and on to smacking. Smacking is not the silver bullet that solves all problems. We've all seen those parents who smack their screaming children in supermarkets, and they should be thinking of alternative ways of parenting.
I believe you should give a child an instruction in a normal voice, otherwise you teach a child to respond only when you shout or only when it's the third time. You accompany that instruction by the reason why - 'because I said so' is lazy and doesn't help the child to understand. You give either the moral reason or the pragmatic reason for the instruction.
Don't let children play one parent off the other. It's important to be consistent as a couple. Distinguish between deliberate disobedience and childish irresponsibility or forgetfulness. And when they are good, give them bags of praise.
I don't believe the Executive should ban smacking. Children are currently protected under law against being physically attacked.
There are parents who are out of control with their children and I'm not defending domestic violence, but to call smacking violence is misleading and emotive. Most parents know how to give a controlled smack.
I thought Karen's system was unnecessarily complicated. But I do agree with her that there is a place for both reward and punishment in bringing up children.
We didn't need her advice and in fact I believe my wife is more of an expert because she has six children and is a fulltime mother.
Karen's verdict: The Bright family have a very strong discipline policy with a warning system.
Everything they did was right until it came to the final punishment of smacking. They could just as easily have used another type of punishment.
THE TANIMOWO FAMILY: Amber, 27, and Kay, 35, live in Harrow, Middlesex, and have three children, Paloma, five, True, three, and a ten-month-old baby, Pari. Amber is a clerical officer with the local council and Kay is a mini- cab driver. Amber was locked in a battle of wills with True, who had tantrums. The two older children are smacked. Amber says: We went along with Karen's advice and it was a brilliant help.
We have gone back to smacking but we just use it as a last resort now. Our home is so much calmer now and the children are much better behaved.
I don't think you should be able to smack children under the age of two but after that it's up to the parents as long as they are not abusing the children. When the programme was made, smacking wasn't working for us, but that was partly because of True's age - he was at the terrible twos. He's now growing out of that stage and has settled down with fewer tantrums.
He was also getting used to having a new baby in the house and he was a bit jealous.
I find smacking works as a quick solution. Karen's suggestions were helpful for long-term solutions. Her advice to be more positive with him really helped a lot. She told me to ignore the children when they were naughty and praise them when they were good, and that worked. It's such a small thing but it made a huge difference. True was suddenly getting extra attention and hugs when he was good, so it made sense to him to be good.
We went back to smacking because Paloma, who doesn't really need to get smacked much any more because she is older and knows how to behave, realised there was no more smacking and started acting up. She thought she could do what she liked, so we have reintroduced occasional smacking and the threat is there.
It's too time-consuming not to smack your children. I work parttime and I don't have time to negotiate with two toddlers and look after a baby.
Karen's advice worked well for us.
A lot of what she said was common sense. When you are tired and so close to it all, it's sometimes difficult to see what you should be doing as a parent. There are many parents who could benefit from Karen's advice.
Karen's verdict: Any attention or touch True received was negative - Amber was either shouting at him or hitting him and he was in trouble all the time, so he thought he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Things improved when she praised him and started hugging him more when he was good and ignoring him when he was bad.
A Good Smack? will be shown on BBC1 on Tuesday, July 2, at 10.35pm.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: CAN SMACKING BE BEATEN?; TV Cameras Filmed Three Families as They Stuck to a Childcare Expert's Tips on Discipline. the Results Were Highly Revealing. Contributors: Mallon, Margaret - Author. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: June 25, 2002. Page number: Not available. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.