..on the Pope’s progressive approach to child discipline.
Under controlled circumstances, I imagine it’s entirely possible to raise a child without ever smacking. From what I can see, the majority of parents and guardians in my tribe and beyond are determined to pursue this way of family life. But I’m not sure everyone manages it as efficiently as they would claim. It’s a sound philosophy, if you can apply it. I would like to think we will achieve it.
The reactionary smack on the part of the frightened/exasperated parent is always wrong, but sometimes extremely difficult to control; so long as that reaction is not foul then it’s entirely forgivable. I would hope the Mexican wave of moral outrage won’t drown out these quandaries surrounding parental discipline. After all, the majority of parents currently enraged are in pursuit of support for their peers in their child-rearing role overall.
Closer to home, I would hate to think of my Mother feeling guilty for the odd slap that was more of a reflex action. She needn’t feel guilty about them; she probably saved me from more serious harm in those incidences. Sometimes they were unavoidable. That said, a child should always be apologised to regardless of the circumstances. It’s when that reactionary smack or aggressive reaction is violent, systematic, and a form of discipline, that it becomes obscene and grossly wrong; a critical issue about the parent’s lack of self-control.
We will have to learn to make judgements on when to apply the reasoned let’s-talk-it-out approach; when that is futile, and how to balance keeping the child safe from danger in an instant with managing the boundaries she’ll naturally attempt to push. The odd lapse in judgement seems inevitable somehow.
If nothing else, Mr Red Socks over in Rome has succeeded in raising discussions on child abuse, which is always a good thing. We have come a long way in advancing our understanding of child psychology and the cyclical nature of violence. It is the combined experience of the child, parent/guardian and guidelines that counts, and it is from these controversies that the sharing of common challenges that lie beneath the aspiration of a smack-free home should be possible. That said, there’s always a danger of this opportunity being eclipsed by the tip of the scales of anger. To obscure the difficulties of parental self-management and discipline would be a pity.
I’m often struck by the differentiation made between physical and verbal punishment. The differences are easily understood, but to a child, being roared at by an adult must be a terrifying experience; one in which their esteem and confidence takes an almighty bruising. For the older child, it becomes a subtle but insidious and crushing weapon of ridicule. I was smacked by one teacher in primary school, but like many of my peers, I met a number in both primary and secondary level who were a bunch of bad tempered, short-fused fuckers who should never have been allowed to work with young people. If I met one of them now, I’d probably be tempted to give them a serious mouthful. They taught me well. There are children and young people caught in verbal storms in homes and schools everywhere; yet a hand will never be raised to them.
Let’s wag the finger surely. Wag it all around.