Once, in New York I saw a man wearing a t-shirt which proclaimed: Hit your kids! The Bible says it’s ok! I thought of it when I read that studies have shown, (doesn’t your heart sink at the phrase studies have shown . . .when I worked in magazines, that was tantamount to saying evidence for the spurious opinion I’m about to spout is very very thin so I’ll say something vague about experts and opinions and hopefully nobody will double check)
Anyway. According to research at the University of Michigan, smacking a child before the age of six makes them perform better at school when they’re teenagers. It’s not clear how much better – I mean if you’re going to create a frozen, frightened child who behaves well because they’re living in fear of physical pain, humiliation, and rage I would at least be expecting a teenager heading for Oxbridge grades. And it was a study of 179 teenagers. Big deal.
I don’t think parents who slap their child in a fit of rage are monsters – if your child runs into the road or has a massive tantrum in the supermarket, I totally understand why you might slap. But hitting a child is not imposing boundaries or discipline, it’s you losing control. I’ve done it. I slapped The Boy when he rushed into the main road to pick up a ball. I yanked him back, inches away from being hit by a bus and whacked his bum. I certainly wasn’t thinking hmmm maybe such a slap may produce braininess in my boy – I think my thoughts were more of the argggh bus death splat arrrrghh red mist kind
It’s parents who talk about ‘loving discipline’ that really creep me out – the ghastly ritual of it – the deliberate fear. The parents who wait to punish their child – wait till your father/mother gets home types. They’re the sadists. And as for the theory that slapping children produces brighter more well adjusted teens, perhaps a tour round our UK remand homes would prove otherwise. They are full of young men who were slapped, kicked and beaten regularly.