Friday, April 06, 2007

Anti-smacking laws in the works...

The Government is apparently pledging money to campaign against smacking children. I've seen this discussed on two parenting forums today and it's really affecting me! I'm all for a campaign against smacking. Smacking children is abuse, but it isn't properly legislated against. Apparently, it's illegal to strike a child above the shoulders, and it's illegal to harm a child physically, but some distinction is currently made for corporal discipline, whereby it's acceptable to smack your child on the bottom with your hand as a form of discipline.

The vast majority of parents admit to doing this very occassionally when nothing else is working, or working fast enough. The example often trotted out is to warn a child against repeating physically threatening behaviours, such as running onto the road or touching a light stove top, that sort of thing.

As I've said here many, many times, I struggle with gentle and respectful discipline. I have often smacked my children, mostly Erik. I continue to do so. I struggle against doing this, and am in counselling, primarly to put a stop to this abusive relationship I have with Erik and Luey (I don't smack Bryn, I don't have that impulse with babies or young toddlers, though I did smack both Erik and Luey once or twice before their second birthdays)...

These holidays, I've smacked again. I've threatened smacking A LOT. I haven't seen my counsellor in over three weeks, which might be part of why I've smacked more in the past week than in the past couple of months, but also, the kids and I haven't had the break from one another that we get when they go to school.

I really loathe myself for abusing my children like this, and don't accept any justifications others might want to make on my behalf, like how everyone does it sometimes, and I'm really a very good mother. I know what I do is negatively affecting my relationship with my children and their self-esteem, and I am sickened by that.

So, why do I continue to give in to the impulse to physically assault my small, innocent children? I really wish I could answer than, because if I could I could then control that impulse, I believe. I know I do it not because of them, they don't make me do it. I choose to do it. Part of that choice is needing that physical release of built up adrenalin, I'm aware of that. So, why not punch a wall, or something else? Well, I do, most times I do redirect that need to physicall attack something - not that that saves my kids from being afraid, but it saves them physical pain, I guess.

I sometimes try to think what I would do in this situation if it was Dave, but see with Dave I can always communicate my frustration. In the face of the kids, I don't feel heard at all. I want them to acknowledge me, to remember my words. That is the frustration I feel.

It comes down to control, and so sometimes when I've attacked a child physically, I actually become enraged simply because I lost control again.

I've played with the idea of letting go of the need to control my children. Respecting them like I would respect (but not necessarily like) another adults right to make decisions that impact negatively on me. The thing is, with other adults, I can just walk away, and abdicate any responsibility. I can't do that with my kids. Society expects me to have some influence and control over them. I most often feel like I have none of either. I feel trapped by the sense of having all the responsibility and none of the control.

So that's parenting I hear some of you say. That's what I signed up for when I got pregnant. I don't disagree. I don't know how other people do it. I don't know how other people maintain control over their rage, their frustration, their dispair, in the face of their children's contrary choices. Are my children extraordinary trying? Am I extraordinarily impatient or demanding? Maybe one or both of those are true? I almost hope so, because then there is a solution to my situation. If not, then how can I hope to ever become the gentle, trustworthy parent my children deserve?

I don't think parents smack to be mean to their kids. I don't. I hate myself for my lack of self-control. I know smacking is wrong. I want to stop doing it. I don't know how any Govt. education program will help me though...


Minni Mum said...

I can totally understand where you are coming from Sif! To me, it's a bit like overeating: I know it's wrong, I know I'll feel guilty afterwards, and I know it will make me feel worse, but after a crappy day, gimme that chocolate bar!! No amount of public education will fix that impulse, people need the tools to be able to regain/ retain control without smacking out of frustration. I never felt the need to smack Zoe, but Ava has been a challenge from day 1, but I learnt very early on that smacking has zero impact on her, and it just made me feel bad. It helps me enormously to step back from the situation and look at why she is misbehaving; is she tired, on a sugar high, hungry, bored? Then you can decide on proactive responses next time it happens (eg taking healthy snacks when out instead of getting sugar- and fat-filled Maccas), and having a plan (used consistently) makes it not only easier deal with them but you feel more confident and when you are confident they (generally) perceive that and will treat you with more respect... Does that makes sense, lol?

Leah said...

When I smack Audrey I feel in that moment she is an equal opponent and inflicting on me at least equal to or worse than a smack. Unfortunately no government campaign could stop me in that moment because I already know it is wrong and useless and damaging :( When I can think of other things to do and ways to interact I do, and that's most of the time, I wonder if the knowledge it is illegal would be a deterrent, I hope it could work like that! Be nice for a law to solve this issue for me :)

I know in a lot of the GD stuff it's considered that adults only smack children, and not other adults or teens, because they are smaller and can't be hurt in retaliation. But I think you are more on the money - it is because it is when they are more or less free agents in their environment, but you are still responsible for their behaviour. And quite often are the target for anti-social behaviours the majority of adults have left behind. It's not always a simple matter logistically let alone in terms of self control to disengage once your emotions are high and you are in danger of smacking. But I will try to remind myself next time that no response is better than that response.

Zoe said...

I think I understand some of what you feel when you smack. Except with me, I never smacked my eldest, smacked the middle one a couple of times, and my 2 1/2 yo has been smacked the most. He manages to push the wrong buttons all the time, and I sometimes forget who is the grown up. Like Leah said, I get caught up in the moment of anger/frustration and forget he really isn't my equal in this battle.
It doesn't happen very often but once it too often for me.

I remember once (about a month ago) we were having bedtime battles. I got angry, yelled at him and smacked him. I saw his face and saw the look of fear. My little boy was in that moment scared of me and that was horrible. I walked out to cool down (and cry about being a terrible mother) then I walked back in and apologised to him and to his sisters too.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention again. When I'm having a good day, the thought of smacking doesn't enter my head, but this is the time I should be thinking about it and how to avoid it when I'm having a bad day.

Jen said...

I know where you are coming from as well Sif and so much of what you said applied to the way that i have reacted to Kaeden and the way I feel about that. I know it is wrong but in the moment it is hard to stop.

The hardest thing for me to come to grips with is I feel as though I am just doing to him (angel hasn't been smacked, she hasn't done anything that has got me to that point) what was done to me as a child, starting to use the same language as well and it is horrible. This is one cycle of life that I really don't want to repeat.

I tried to analyse why I get to the point of smacking with Kaeden and not Angelique. I came to the realisation that I expect, as he is older that he can do what I ask, and when he doesn't or breaks some 'rule' that I believe he should know and understand at this age, then I get angry and feel as though what he is doing is in direct defiance of me. I forget that he is only 3.5 and that he is more than likely not doing it to spite me, he is simply caught up in his own moment of play, distruction etc.

My challange now is to break down that perception of defiance and see the situation for what it is and rope in my own anger so that I can stop myself from smacking. Not an easy feat but I too desperately want to be that calm mother that my children deserve.

Amanda O. said...

This is such a toughie... and it's something that you're right, there's no excuse for and nothing can be said that will make it right or normal... but at the same time, is also understandable. IME there is a lot of difference between making a concious decision to do things non-violent/non-coercively and doing so when our own resources are tapped and a part of us that's very deep in our psyche is triggered. I could give examples from my own life but it'd probably turn into an essay. I'm not sure there are any easy anwers other than trying to recognize and resolve in ourselves the things that trigger us. Whichever one of us figures out a simple formula to do that first can tell the other one when they find it! As I said, such a complex situation and probably not one government regulation is going to make a huge difference in because when someone hits, they're not doing so in a calm, rational, logical state of mind oftentimes but because they're tapped and don't have the ability to not do it at that point, even though they know it's not what they want to do. *sigh*

Good Job!