Friday, 15 April 2011

To Beat or not to Beat?

So after a pretty dismal result at football, a couple of us went to help out at a friends Barbershop (Johnny's - 632 Old Kent Road, SE15 1LA – freshest trims in South!). 
After working we started discussing, how I can't recall but a heated debate ensued about beating kids.

Side thought: On second thought after the merciless beating* we received earlier in the day, we were probably looking for whom to take out our frustration on!

Out of five, three (including myself) were for whilst the other two against

The argument at hand

The Anti-Smack Party (ASP) argued that:
  • beating was acceptable in our early years (80's/early 90's) because of the social environment then - less stigmatized than today - it's now against the law 
  • beating is unnecessary and archaic - the heritage of primitive norms that have no place in today's society
  • beating jeopardizes the bond between parent and child - once a parent hits their child, the bond is scarred – confusion ensues as the child believes the same person that is perceived to be their protector still has the ability to cause them harm 'out of love'.
  • beating doesn't garner respect, it accrues fear. A parent should be a friend not a master
  • sanctioning without reason – not letting the child know why they're being punished – unnecessary 'beating' in their respective upbringings hampered the potential for closer bonds with their parents
  • smacking was always taught to be a means of correction but they insisted it only penned up frustration and in some cases rebellion and even resentment. One member in particular drew comparisons to a few people who felt the rod liberally, rebelled and are now worse off (crime, jail, etc).
In their estimations, explaining to a child why what they did was wrong had deeper intrinsic value and viable long term benefits. One said the most effective means of punishment was to deny the child of what they cherished most i.e. their favourite game as opposed to giving them a choke-slam for stealing chicken from the pot.

My party, the opposition SRSC (Spare Rod Spoil Child) believed:
  • "If you spare the rod, you spoil the child" – citing the lack of physical discipline for the wayward behaviour of peers
  • there's only so much talking and 'time-outs' one can do - instances of petulance should be 'punished' by hand when words fail
  • it acts as a deterrent – once bitten, twice shy. If the first time the child did it and they received a nice backhand, the child would think twice second time round. Smacking in their upbringing kept them on the straight and narrow
  • smacking is a more effective way of setting the boundaries making clear what is and what isn't acceptable
  • the child should know their role - the concept of parent and child being 'friends' potentially brings the relationship into contempt - respect is compromised if the child gets too 'comfortable' addressing their parents as friends. 
They condemned the Tyson-type beating their (and my) parents dished out when our offence was of a heinous nature, but felt a smack on the bum was a sufficient reprimand.

After an explosive rally of spit and emotion flying back and forth, I deferred my affiliation with either party and made myself comfortable on the fence. I was eager to stress that nature would play a pivotal role in determining if my child hears my voice or feels my cane. I feel there are kids who are receptive to vocal scolding – a ticking off or even that 'look' is enough for them to get the message. For others it's more of a battle – the hard-headed child whose sound-proof cranium won't heed vocal warnings. In these cases I endorse the use of physical force because as they say they that don't hear will feel.

The outcome

Needless to say both parties maintained their stance after a three hour stand-off. Each side accepted trying to convince the other was as fruitful as a woman post-menopause and rested their respective cases. Hopefully when these young men become the fathers of their homes, their method of upbringing will achieve the same desirable outcome despite their bi-polar approaches.

So to beat or not to beat? That's the indelible question. There is no right and wrong answer here, just preference similar to how one adores or detests Marmite. If you feel beating is necessary you're no sinner neither are you a soft touch should you chose not to go down the smacking route. I think the crux of the matter here is striking a balance and understanding what means of correction your child responds to and sticking to it. Every child is different. My parents felt they needed to administer "Doctor Do-Me-Good" (better known as the belt) when I did something wrong and I'm the better for it even though the thought of calling Child-line flashed into my mind on the odd occasion. My rents set boundaries from early (teaching me to respect my elders, stopping me from going raves or playing out after 7 or 'On lock' as some would say) so that left me in good stead not that going raving from a young age made you a delinquent or anything. They just let me know there was a time and place for everything – guess to protect me from a potentially volatile environment. By nature I'm a laid back, non-argumentative individual so I think even if the belt buckle didn't lick my left bum cheek more time, I would've stayed in check. But not everyone is like me and those (naturally) with a higher propensity to find trouble, may require the use of such methods to correct if the subtle approach isn't effective. If you chose to employ the assistance of the iron stick, know your boundaries, remember why you're doing it; to correct, not to cripple.

What most non-indigenous 'Brits' have to recognise is that we were raised by foreign migrants with near perverse ideologies on how to discipline. This 'hands-off' approach was simply seen as 'oyinbo nonsense' and as harsh as some may see it, this is what they knew best and for most, it worked. Perhaps clashes in mentality instigated the need for drastic measures of correction. I remember one of my siblings chatting-back (or so it was perceived to be) and my mother rambling on about how she would never do such to her parents. She felt modern society has given our generation the authority to challenge authority and if anything goes awry 'they will favor the schild as well NONSENSE!'. I don't condone answering back but in their generation, the parent played master and the child played servant. Their word was law and you dare not breach them. These days, we're less inclined to simply take a word as law especially in an age where we're encouraged to excercise our 'free rights'. Our parents generation simply don't relate which explains why there is such a clash between our and their ways of thinking. Now us born and raised Brits with distorted mentalities to that of our parents, are given the mantle to raise our own kids how we see fit whether that's with or without the belt. Raising kids in a similar environment to our own upbringing will undeniably lay a stronger foundation between parent and child as we'll be more empathetic to the challenges they face growing up. With understanding comes less conflict of interest and will probably mean our generation refrain or needn't call upon the services of Mr Cane as much as our parents did. Whatever we chose, the reality remains some of us will give rise to the next generation of Einstein's and Obama's and others to the next Charlie Manson's, Freeway Rick's and Bin Laden's.

Being a parent probably carries the greatest burden of responsibility and commitment known to man, yet the biggest myth is believing it's suitable for all. 

* We lost 12-2 *hangs head in shame*