“Spanking does for a child’s development what wife-beating does for a marriage.”
Say what? I was a bit annoyed when I read this comment from Patricia Torngren, Vice President of the National Childbirth Education and Parenting Association, on the Living & Loving Magazine Facebook page. Her quote leads to a website called Project No Spank. I read a few of the hundreds of articles and got more and more annoyed as I read so I stopped reading. Consequently, she has posted many articles, all of which I think are a bit over the top. One relating to keeping your child in your bed for at least the first three years of his/her life, another relating to “time out” being banned because it too is unhealthy for children. Now I am all for every parent doing what works for them, I don’t judge the next person’s parenting style because I know that every child and parent is unique and there is definitely no right or wrong way when it comes to raising babies, you do what works best for you and your family. However, I have an extreme dislike for parenting “tips” that state your child will turn out to be a psychopath or clinically depressed or have emotional issues if you do x, y or z.
First and foremost, let me be clear in saying there is no grey area when it comes to abuse. There is a huge difference between a smack on the hand for doing something wrong or dangerous, as compared to whipping your child with a belt. I do not condone the continued and unnecessary and unmerited hitting of a child. I do not condone hitting a child for every mistake, mishap or broken tea cup or plate either. But I do smack my kids. Usually on the hand or on their bottoms, on top of their clothes. I generally follow a three step procedure..first I warn them that what they are doing is not acceptable or dangerous and that they should stop it. I must admit that most times this works for Hannah. However, Liam is at the age where he likes to test boundaries, he likes to see how far he can push or just how much he can get away with… and this usually ends badly for him. If he continues to defy me, I TELL him that he is going to get a smack if he doesn’t stop it. Sometimes this stops him in his tracks, other times he looks at me and carries on with whatever it is I have repeatedly asked him to stop doing. Then I administer the smack and he sobs for about 3.5 seconds and then I usually explain to him why I did what I did, so that he understands and we shake on it. Going forward he knows that if he does that, he will get another smack, so he avoids that situation altogether. It works. There were times when I felt so guilty for giving him a smack, and I have tried other disciplining measures, like time out. But trying to keep a 2 year old in time out is like holding back a crowd at the Woolies sale, it’s impossible. Sending him to his room is no punishment at all, as he has access to his toys and books. So in my household, a smack works.
According to Patricia Torngren “the hitting of children in schools is now illegal in South Africa. Sadly though, parents in South Africa (as in the USA, UK and Australia) are still allowed to hit their children at home. It is under review in South Africa though, and hopefully will then bring us into line with most of the countries in Europe, where spanking has been illegal for many years. As spanking is stopped in the various countries, the levels of childhood delinquency, crime, and depression and other forms of mental illness in adulthood drop significantly. Children start to do better in schools, and when that generation grows up, there is less spouse battering and a greatly reduced rate of inter-family violence. Countries where spanking is stopped have also been shown to become less likely to go to war with other countries. So stopping the spanking of children, stops all forms of interpersonal and international violence across the board. “ Seriously? This really does sound more like the effects of child abuse, as compared with disciplining your child with a smack? Or am I crazy? Less likely to go to war? Really? How do they figure that?
In another article she speaks about the benefits of co-sleeping as a family, preferably on a wall to wall mattress on the floor, until your kids are at least three years old. Now excuse me for thinking this completely weird and quite freakish, but if I had to sleep on the floor for three years, being kicked in the ribs by the kids, tramped on by my hubby going to the loo, sneaking out to be intimate with my husband… I think I would be way less fun to be around in the waking hours. I understand the benefits of co-sleeping, I did it myself while my babies were newborn, it’s easier to breastfeed in bed, it’s comforting for both mother and child to be close together and let’s face it, walking up and down to a restless baby is TIRING for the mother. But I couldn’t wait to get them out of our room. And they actually slept better in their own rooms, free from the snoring and tossing and turning and bright lights of the TV turned down to mute. And I was so glad to have our room back, I could read in bed with the light on until all hours, I could go back to watching my TV shows in bed after 7pm, my room looked like a room, and not like a nursery with bottles and bibs and a big camp cot which invariably I’d stub my toe against in the middle of the night. In the article to which Patricia Torngren refers, it states that “brain development can also be damaged by nightly separation, which can lead to behavioural problems in later life.” And that “babies hearts were under up to three times more stress when they slept in a cot, rather than on their mother’s chest.” Oh and also “…disrupted sleep and stress to the heart could make it difficult for them to form relationships…” I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how this is true. Yes a baby is more calmer and relaxed when he or she is close to his mother, and I don’t undermine the value of skin to skin contact for a newborn and mother, but to say that children who didn’t sleep with their parents until the age of three could have difficulty in forming relationships and could have behavourial problems just makes no sense to me!
You see, I am all for doing what works for you, if co sleeping until your kid is 5 years old works for you, then be all means go for it. If you are against smacking your child, that is your right and I do not judge you for it. But please do not infer that because I smack my kids or let them sleep in the dark, on their own in their rooms, that they are going to turn out to be the dregs of society! All the statistics, surveys and professors/doctors/health professionals opinions in the world, cannot count for a mother’s intuition and natural ability to know what is best for her child.