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  1. #1
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    Smacking - What do other parents do?

    I come from a background where I was hit by my father quite often, and occassionally by my mother too. My father has major 'anger management' issues, and would always hit out of fury and rage, up till I was around 18 years old (before moving out of that house.). My mother did it more rarely, but I remember she once hit me with hairbrush and I had a bruise on my face for the next few days after.

    Anyway, maybe because of that, I don't hit my kids. There were a few times that I did, and then the offending child would retort with a "you didn't even hurt me!" comment, or s/th similar... so it was never very effective anyway.

    But my husband does sometimes smack. And although I can feel repulsed watching / hearing him, and I can't BEAR seeing him in a rage, smacking my son, I also can't help but notice that it does seem to work. I posted recently about temper tantrums we were having with my son, and one very noticeable thing was: he always tantrumed when I was alone with him, hardly ever though with my husband.

    Which has led me to believe that instilling a sense of 'fear' in the child can actually be good for him. Of course children need loads and loads of love, but now I'm thinking that they also need some 'fear' too.

    I always make sure my husband gives lots of kisses and cuddles to the poor sobbing child afterwards to make it up to him, and we also have conversations with the kids saying how "Daddy doesn't like smacking you, but sometimes when you do naughty things, Daddy has to smack you. You need to learn that . . . . is not allowed."

    Another interesting point: at first I would always insist that my husband calm himself first, and only hit rationally and calmly. "Now I'm going to smack you, son, because you threw the orange on the ceiling, and now there are stains all over the ceiling and the wall, and you need to learn not to do that." He did that for a while, but he said that it wasn't as effective that way, and when the child sees that he's angry about something it makes much more of an impression. When he'd smack the way I told him to, my son wouldn't be as fearful, and he'd be quicker to go and do the same thing again. But when he just smacked 'naturally', it was far more effective.

    Judging from my son, his behaviour has really improved, and he loves his Daddy as much as (if not more than) he ever did. I also sense he respects him more too.

    When I watch my husband hitting my son I can sometimes feel really ill... all these thoughts and feelings come flooding over me, reminding me of my own father hitting me and my brother.. and it's just horrible to see a grown man hurting a poor defenceless child, a third of his size... Yet I'm forced now to try to ignore my own childhood feelings and come to the reality of the situation, which is, that smacking only helps with managing his behaviour. I try and think of the differences between my father hitting me, and my husband hitting my son, and it is a very different situation.
    My father would never say that he doesn't like hitting, and we never had any 'close' type of talks like that at all. He would never say things like "I'm sorry I had to smack you but..." and he'd never give cuddles and kisses. Things were how they were and they were never talked about, just accepted. But it's different with my son, and that thought helps me to bear the smacking.

  2. #2
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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    First, using physical force or physical punishment on a child is never a good idea. It may be occasionally necessary to use a certain degree of physical restraint to prevent a child from harming himself or someone else - that's the extent of it. Second, you should know that in many areas, the use of physical force or physical punishment is treated as just another form of abuse and assault, and parents can and will be charged with the criminal offense of assault and endure CAS intervention if it is reported.

    The message delivered when a parent uses physical punishment is (1) that this is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts or differences of opinion, and (2) that the biggest and strongest or most aggressive person gets his own way because he can impose his will on everyone else. It's unlikely that that's the message either you or your husband want to be giving your son, but make no mistake about it - that is exactly the message you are giving him.

    There are ALWAYS other options and always BETTER options than the use of physical punishment, among them time-out and loss of privileges, both of which should be appropriate to the child's age, the inappropriate behavior, and other medical-psychological factors that may be relevant to his behavior. Additionally, the concept of "natural consequences" as a reaction to inappropriate behavior is essential. There are several books on parenting which address appropriate versus inappropriate discipline ( see Parenting, Children, and Adolescents).

    One final point about the improvement in your son's behavior - All of the research over the years on the effects of punishment lead to the same very clear conclusion: Punishment is an effective way of producing temporary suppression of the behavior, BUT it is an ineffective way of producing long term change and it always results in undesirable emotional-psychological and social side effects.

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    I'm aware that many people are very against smacking, and that certain countries even have laws about it.

    Personally, I do all the other non-physical methods, like time-outs, taking away privelages, teaching the child consequences as opposed to just punishing, etc. as I said, I don't smack, and never found that it worked for me. My husband also generally disciplines without getting physical. But in certain cases especially with my son, the odd time that my husband has smacked him, it's really helped, sometimes far more effectively than my own methods do.

    I think that your points 1 and 2 could be true in some cases, but in the loving environment my kids are in, it's different. The blossoming relationship I've noticed between father and son seems to be proof of the pudding. And I come from a very anti-smacking background, thanks to my own experiences, yet I'm seeing that in our situation, this is actually working.

    And I was wondering if any other parents have hands-on experience and what their views are.

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    Just to clarify, I am speaking not only as a psychologist here but also as a parent who has raised four children.

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    when I said 'hands-on experience' I meant parents who've tried smacking among other methods, so that they could compare and judge what worked for them.

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    Hi Lost,

    I am not a parent and to be honest haven't had much to do with kids at all, but I did have one or two thoughts that I thought I'd share. It's only theory and I have no experience in implementing it, but I thought I'd put it 'out there' in case it was of use.

    If there's a behaviour you want to stop, I understand that it is a good idea to pick a specific behaviour that you want them to perform instead and reward the person for doing that at the same time as trying to stop the unwanted behaviour. People perform behaviours for a reason. Do you have any idea about what your child has to gain from being naughty or doing whatever it is that is annoying? The goal is to remove the reason that the person wants to perform the behaviour. You have to make sure you pick the right thing, though! This way they're getting rewarded for doing the right thing, and there is no benefit if they do the wrong thing. It may also help to tell the person (or child if they're old enough) exactly what the deal is so there's no mistake. I don't know if I've expressed that very clearly, but I hope it helps.

    I also had an additional thought to add to Dr Baxter's point that the use of punishment generally only has short-term effects. Precisely because the effect of physical punishment is so immediate, its use is reinforced in the punisher as being effective and this makes it more likely that it will be used again. Just something else to keep in mind.

    Good luck!

    Meg
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    Thanks Meg,

    All I know is, that all my cajoling, negotiating, positive reinforcing - basically all the accepted and recommended methods, kind of, worked sometimes, didn't work other times... many times it took a mighty long time till they started working ... etc...
    Whereas when my husband came along with a good old-fashioned smack - it worked 100% of the time, and it also worked instantly!!!

    So we're talking about me - not the smacker, I'm the one who does all the other stuff, and I couldn't help but notice the way that the smacking really worked and helped improve his behaviour far more than my methods did.

    And we've now been going through a period of excellent behaviour on his part thank god, and he probably hasn't had a smack from my husband now in over a month... or longer...

    It's because I know some people are so against smacking, and I happened to be one of those people in the past, that I posted this post, because I'm now not sure if smacking is such a bad thing, since I've recently witnessed it being very beneficial. - only when done carefully, and lovingly, that is.

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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    I remember reading an article that spoke about use of fear when disciplining children. It outlined the benefits mentioned here: quick results, immediate response, fear of parent, and so on. The authors agreed that all those are present at first (in keeping with the short term resolve), but it will fade, as will the fear factor. The article stated that instead of fear, the aim should be to earn and retain childs respect. They said that when children respect the rules and others, they not only will behave appropriately, they will enforce those rules themselves and others, with pride and love.


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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    You're welcome, Lost

    I'm not sure whether I made one point quite clear. There is a difference between reinforcement and extinction (which I described before but didn't actually put a name to). I'd like to clarify this, I hope that's ok. When you reinforce something you are trying to increase a behaviour, and when you use extinction you are purposefully witholding reinforcement of an unwanted response in order to decrease an unwanted behaviour. You might have got that, but I just thought I'd make sure. The thing with extinction and other such techniques is that sometimes there will be a period of resistance: the behaviour might get worse before it gets better, but it might just be worth sticking with it in the long run because it has fewer pitfalls than punishment. You do need to use extinction consistently, though, because every time they are reinforced it makes it harder to remove the behaviour entirely. I can see that you have seen a change in the behaviour of your son after he is smacked that has altered your view of its use. I would still maintain, however, despite the fact that it works quickly and visibly, that it is not the most effective behaviour change option in the long-term. If nothing else, it in itself does not teach a more appropriate way to behave, and the emotion that it generally arouses may lead to a clouding of the link between a behaviour and the consequence.

    I'm glad that your son has been behaving well recently. Now you can give him lots of praise for all the good things he's been doing!

    Meg
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung

  10. #10
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    Re: Smacking - what do other parents do?

    There are many arguments against the use of physical punishment to change behavior (including the fact that in many areas you can be charged with assault for using it and/or have your child removed from the home by Children's Aid).

    There is only one argument in favor of the use of physical punishment - the fact that it generally has a fast or immediate response. Even that is weakened by the fact that it is temporary and creates more problems in the child than it solves.

    Ask yourself this: If this is your primary or sole method for changing his behavior as a young child, what will you have to influence his behavior as a teenager?

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