Admittedly, I have been avoiding this topic for some time. It is a rather difficult one to address as views in this area are often widespread. The way we punish our children may be down to how we were disciplined. This would make perfect sense for most of us, but a trend I seem to be noticing more and more, is that social norms (what is acceptable in a specific society) tend to be more of a precedent on how we go about disciplining our little ones and not what we have learnt from our own parents. Social desirability (the tendency of respondents to respond to questions in a manner that will be viewed favourably by others) is a massive factor. Think about this: someone asks you if you smack your child. This question may pose as a moral dilemma. If you do in fact give your child hidings, yet society frowns upon it, what will your answer be? When I was growing up, receiving hidings was completely the norm, both at home and at school. A shift in the wording of this kind of disciplining these days has contemporary society viewing it as something completely different. The word commonly used in the UK to describe this form of discipline is “abuse”. I have my personal view on this, one which is often not supported by those around me.
Before my daughter was born I had made up my mind that I would never give her a hiding; unfortunately (to some degree) I have not lived up to that promise. One thing I can be assured of, is that I have never responded with this form of discipline out of anger. To me, the intention is a key factor. If one takes the principles of social learning theory (the idea that we model and imitate the behaviour of others) it only makes sense to avoid giving your child a hiding. But this theory is void of any cognitive input of the person concerned. Let me put it simply; I see someone smack their child, I then imitate this behaviour when my child misbehaves – the missing ingredient which is key in this example is that I have the ability to think for myself and process whether or not this is a necessary form of punishment. Therefore as a parent, one needs to decide whether the method of punishment is in fact the legit way of going about things. Punishment by definition is the delivery of a consequence that decreases the likelihood of that particular behaviour reoccurring; punishment serves to reduce the frequency of the behaviour that precedes it.
The world we are growing up in is becoming more and more tolerant of unfavourable behaviour. Society seems to be shying away from imposing consequences. When we see parents yelling at their sweet little darlings, we may instinctively view this as bad parenting. Imposing boundaries such as curfews may be argued against in light of infringing on a child's rights. Giving hidings when deemed necessary is labelled as abuse. The fact of the matter is, by not imposing boundaries and creating consequences for our children’s behaviour we are doing them a disservice, and in my view, that is where the real abuse lies. So many parents want to be friends with their children from a young age and please them in all instances; this will only result in a future generation where the adults of that time have little or no concept of the real world, its boundaries and expectations.
These views are entirely personal and subjective. As a parent I try to always be objective in the way that I see things. However, not imposing boundaries as a parent, in my (strong) view, is in fact a form of neglect.
What are your views on this?