The sight of Small children throwing tantrums in supermarkets, forcing themselves to the floor and demanding trinkets from their shamed parents has become quite common in today’s society.
In response, many will offer a gentle reassuring smile as If to say “I know what that’s like”, others will simply nonchalantly shake their heads and a minority will be filled with blinding rage. I am of that minority.
Why would anyone be filled with such rage hear you ask? Because for some of us, the mere idea of confronting your parents was near inconceivable. Sure, you might have muttered a few words of discontent in the sanctity of your room or if you were feeling particularly brave perhaps you’d angrily scribble your thoughts into a diary but outright rebellion was completely out of the question.
My childhood was something like that. My father is what Jo Frost (better known as Super- nanny) would call a dictator. You either followed your instructions or faced severe punishment and then followed your instructions; there was no democracy in our household.
A certain aura encompassed him, making my siblings and I aware that challenging his authority was as about as viable as spending your life savings on Enron shares.
Nonetheless, we had fun. Whether we were playing football in the park, going to the cinema or just messing around in the house there was much fun to be had but at the same time, we knew where the line was.
Today, Children brazenly strut across that line as if it doesn’t exist.In a recent report Unicef, the UN’s children agency slammed british parents for displaying their love for their children via “gadgets and branded clothes”. The report found that parents felt “helpless” and “compelled” to pur- chase such things for their children despite knowing that such spending was “pointless”.
The modern Parent has little or no authority and in many cases has become a passenger to whims and needs of their children. How did this happen?
Well over the past 15 years the correct ways to disciplining children have been fiercely debated. Some people believe that corporal punishment is an effective means of keeping children in line while others believe that “spanking” is for consenting adults only and look upon it as a somewhat dated and unrefined action in our “modern” society.
Despite pressure from the UN to ban smacking in households, Britain refused to do so in fear of marginalising parents.
However the media have played a prominent role in confusing parents as to whether disciplining their children is right or wrong. Films and Television shows usually depict smacking or even vocally reprimanding children as wrong. In films such as Cheaper by the Dozen and “Are we done yet” protective fathers and disciplined families are vilified; implying that children should be given free reign to do as they please.
In my understanding, these kinds of films sow seeds of doubt in parents and seeds of rebellion in children. After all, if the boy on the television didn’t have to wash the dishes when he was told, why should I?
Numerous experts have also weighed in on the discipline debate and many believe that smacking is wrong. Parenting “guru” Penelope Leach is one such person and in 2010 she condemned reports that smacking children at an early age makes them more successful in later life;
“No good can come from hitting a child ‘I do not buy this idea that children will learn positive behaviour from being smacked The law says adults hitting adults is wrong and children should be protected in the same way. Children are people too.”
Her sentiment is often echoed by Jo Frost on her popular television show Supernanny as she has said on numerous occasions that parents should not hit children under any circumstances. She looks upon it as acting out of frustration and as such believes that “time outs” are the method by which children should be disciplined.
“Certainly what is more effective is using consequences that allow a child to reflect about their behaviour, to think for themselves, to make sound judgments, to be able to know the difference between right and wrong and to be able to be consistent in that fashion so that they’re able to think for themselves”
Ms Frost has a wealth of experience and her methods, at least on Television seem to work. The popularity of her show has seen 67% of British parents use “time-outs” to discipline their children. Whether or not smacking a child is necessary or not is at each individual parent’s discretion.
Physically chastising children when angry is perhaps not an intelligent decision but using smacking occasionally as a means of establishing boundaries is something else as psychologist Aric Sigman explains:
“The idea smacking and violence are on a continuum is a bizarre and fetished view of what punishment is for most parents. If it’s done judiciously by a parent who is normally affectionate and sensitive to their child, our society should not be up in arms about that.”
In spite of the numerous debates and opinions expressed through the media, the decision as to how a child should be disciplined rests solely with the parents. Looking at the results of loose parenting though, I personally believe that the bible says it best; “Spare the rod, spoil the child”.