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

By Mallon, Margaret | Daily Mail (London), June 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

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. …

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