Child abuse is a very difficult topic to discuss because there is so much contention over what constitutes abuse these days. Apparently, breastfeeding a child past twelve months of age is often considered a form of child abuse, as is allowing a child to become overweight, but smacking a child as a disciplinary method is often not considered child abuse.
A couple of months ago Pink rocked a few boats by saying she believed children needed to be thrashed. Her own father apparently put her through a wall once, and not only does she feel she deserved this but she would do this to her own (as yet unborn) child if that child was bad. I was kind of surprised to find a lot of people agreed with her.
A cousin of mine put the following in her status update (I'm translating this loosely from Icelandic), "A small child ran up to his mother and exclaimed, "Mummy, I wrote a note for you on your new sheets with a crayon!", the mother flew into a rage and slapped her child so hard he fell to the ground unconscious. By the time she realised what she had done, his little heart had stop. Crying, she stumbled into her bedroom to find the following written on her sheets, "Mummy, I love you!"
The point of this status update was to remind us all how innocent children are, even when they're being "naughty". That story - even though fiction (I hope!) - haunted me for days!
Then, last week, the following you tube video made the rounds on facebook... WARNING! While this video doesn't contain smacking or swearing, I found it to be extremely disturbing (so much so, I've only ever watched it once, and that made me cry), but I'm posting it for people who might want to see for themselves.
This video disturbed me so much because this mother wasn't smacking her child, but she was still abusing him, physically and psychologically. I googled to see if anyone had discussed this video and it seemed plenty of people had but most people just wanted to say how this little boy was a "pussy" and didn't know "how good he has it:", compared to themselves when they were children...
Many people reported having been smacked, beaten with belts or other implements, burned with cigarettes and so on. They had no compassion for this child and felt more children should be physically deterred from "bad behaviour" such as lying and generally being "naughty"...
This morning, yet another discussion about the discipline of children was pointed out to me. Apparently, a mother of three has self-published a book about going back to traditional parenting, including smacking as a first resort.
I don't doubt for a minute this woman was smacked as a child.
The thing about physically and psychologically harming your child, even in "their best interest" is that even if they grow into a polite, socially acceptable person. Even if they don't turn into animal maming psychopaths, is that you diminish their capacity for empathy. The proof is in all the people who were smack, or beaten, or had Tabasco put on their tongue for lying, or were in some other way physically and psychologically threatened into behaving in the way that pleased their parents, or teachers, or other "elders", and then, decades later are incapable of connecting with the panicked screams of a 7 year old child who is confused, afraid, and in physical pain. Who says, "That NOTHING compared to what I had to endure, and I'm okay!".
Abuse isn't relative. Abuse is abuse. Your abuse cannot diminish or be diminished by, someone else's abuse. The need to diminish someone else's experience of abuse is, in itself, the evidence that YOU ARE NOT OKAY! If you believe for a second that just because you survived being smacked, it's okay to smack your child, you are not okay, and neither will your child be.
The inability to empathise is the strongest evidence that physical and psychological abuse impacts negatively on human beings.