This is a really interesting one. Here in New Zealand it is now illegal to physically punish your children. It was a huge huge controversy when the law change came in though. People defended the right to physically assault their children pretty vehemtently.
I have two children and while I understand the compulsion to physically discipline them, here are the reasons why I don’t:
1. I don’t want to send the message to my children that losing control of your emotions and lashing out physically is acceptable in any situation
2. We teach our children not to hit. Smacking them says “It’s not OK to hit. Unless you’re really angry.”
3. Big people have a duty to protect little people. Physically hurting them does not align with this.
4. Children are learning how to behave in the world. Everything mistake they make is a learning opportunity. Physically hurting them will bewilder and sadden them, and send the message that making mistakes is not OK – when it is.
5. It is humiliating and I refuse to humiliate my kids. I discipline them in a way that allows them to keep their dignity intact. Same reason I don’t give them a telling off in front of company, I take it to their room and talk to them about it. It gives them a chance to learn and correc their behaviour without losing their dignity.
We mostly talk to our kids, but we also take away priveliges. I am a fairly strict parent – I have expectations of their behaviour and manners. But these are only learned by trial and error, and I understand that. So I give them every opportunity to be good, reward the good behaviour more than I acknowledge the bad, and make sure that every misguided action has
a) A warning
b) A consequence
The other trick is to ALWAYS ALWAYS follow through on threats. If you say they will be eating their dinner for breakfast, or there will be no phone calls for a week – you mean it. End of story. They learn very very quickly that Mum means what she says.
The other point is to be age appropriate – I have expectations of my 7 year old daughter that I would never dream of applying to my 2 year old. It’s unfair of ME to expect her to behave in ways that aren’t developmentally possible.
I was physically punished as a child. I’m not saying we are going to totally ruin kids by doing it, but I just think there are so many other tools available in our parenting toolkit that it shouldn’t be necessary.
I’ve lightly slapped a hand away, or grabbed a kid that’s tried to run away in the supermarket carpark. But I will never intentionally raise a hand to my child, because that’s not what parenting is about.
My view only, ready for some backlash though.