So the Minister may be attempting to drive through a complete ban on slapping, smacking a.k.a. beating, children? Good luck to her. This will be a hotly contested one, in a nation which often seems polarised on the question. On the one hand there are those who don’t hesitate to implement a quick, sharp slap, who regard it as perfectly reasonable and argue that if your child starts to wander off the pavement onto the busy road, or starts to teeter towards a blazing fire (even one with a fire-guard) despite having been warned, that this is the only way to prevent children harming themselves. And in the other corner of the ring, we have a range of sensibilities which includes people who believe you must always ‘talk it through’ with your child, who spend their whole lives, it seems, avoiding what they regard as ‘inappropriate’ behaviour; and in this corner of the ring we have intelligent debate not of the middle-class or any other class variety, which simply insists that gently reared children will themselves grow up to be self-reliant, assertive, not insecure and definitely non-bullying. Such parental styles have always existed, and to good effect. The problem with the people in the ‘short, sharp, slap’ corner, is that all too often the so-called slap is applied when the parent has just lost their rag and is in a blazing temper. What do people who lose their temper usually do? They take it out on someone weaker, who usually cannot fight back (not yet, that is). And this is the problem. If the Minister wants to do anything useful, I suggest she organise and enforces National Parenting Classes for ALL PARENTS regardless of who they are. Parents should be screened. I’m not joking. Prospective parents should automatically have therapy available to them before they embark on this most wonderful, joyous, but challenging life-path. Of course, EVERYONE could do with a bit of therapy while they sort themselves out in adulthood, but especially those who have children in their care – because they above all, will find themselves at a loss to know how to behave. There is nothing like one’s own children to bring out the dormant disasters from one’s own past, after all. According to research, if you were slapped or caned, there’s a fair chance you’ll do the same to your kids. This isn’t always the case, obviously, and many once-slapped/beaten/caned/walloped kids grow up to be so adamantly opposed to such treatment that they never, ever allow their guard to slip when with their own children. They will vocalise a correction, will point out something, will turn it into a game and make an attempt to defuse a situation, but rarely, and often never, do they resort to violence.
I am opposed to the violation of children. I believe it to be wrong. It is usually a violation on little bodies, and not something that emerges from a source of inner wisdom or instinct, so much as a loss of adult control. Of course, being human, that’s natural too I know. And there’s the nub of it: the Minister needs to get people AWARE of their own capacity for violence, to make them more responsive to the noting that parenting isn’t like minding your dogs. Unlike dogs, who always adore us, and cats, who do too but pretend not to, children don’t uniformly adore us for feeding and walking them, for putting them to bed, for talking over them at table, for making them eat food that’s good for them but which they may not like. Children are small humans. That’s what the Minister needs to hammer home. It’s quite simple. Small – humans – are – just – like – big – humans. If we see them that way, it’s less likely we’ll wallop them and more likely we might try to figure out what’s actually going on.
That being said, I know that as humans, we always screw things up. Which brings me back to National Therapy for Prospective Parents (or NTPP).