My nine year old can be particularly agressive towards her younger siblings, quite simply because they get on her nerves. But whilst I can understand that she doesn’t have much in common with a six year old and a four year old, I can’t condone the way that she takes out her frustration on them by using violence.
The other day when she whacked her four year old brother on the head simply because he was being noisy, it was the final straw for me, so I told her off and sent her to her room. It is after this event that I am debating with myself as to whether I made a fatal error. I told my four year old that he should hit his sister back if she were to do that to him again.
After saying this I felt immediately guilty that I was condoning violence of one child towards another so I immediately back tracked by telling him that it wasn’t acceptable to hit other children and he must never do this at preschool. But to my horror all that sunk into his four year old brain was the fact that mummy gave him permission to hit his big sister, and he hasn’t stopped going on about it since.
This guilt stems from the fact that it is very much frowned upon to smack your children, and we don’t even encourage our children to stick up for themselves either by ‘fighting back’. Instead they are supposed to tell a teacher or a grown up and let them deal with the problem.
The UK law states that is is unlawful for a parent or carer to smack their child except where this amounts to reasonable punishment; the definition of reasonable being dependent on the circumstances, the age of the child and the nature of the smack. What is considered unreasonable is if a mark is left on the child or if the child is hit with an implement such as a cane or a belt. So having been brought up by parents who were regularly caned at school or hit with a belt by a strict father and being told it never did them any harm, we were occasionally smacked as children. I recall that it never hurt anything more than my pride, but despite this I havent been able to use the same kind of punishments on my own children.
Last week the MP for Ashtead, Chris Grayling was quoted as saying that he smacked his own children when they were young and he defends the rights of parents to do the same. However, the NSPCC says that smacking does nothing to teach children how to behave. Instead it gives a bad example, may lead children to hit or bully others or make a child’s behaviour worse, leading to an angry resentful child. So if you are a parent bringing your children up in the noughties, are you going to ignore what the NSPCC says and smack your children anyway?
The answer for me is ‘no’. I could not ignore evidence from an organisation which was set up in order to protect children. But as a parent you can feel guilty for everything you do. And there is so much conflicting evidence around us all the time concerning everything to do with raising a child that it is difficult to know what to do for the best.
I am part of the generation of parents who have been guided by the likes of super nanny. We have stumbled our way through our children’s early years by using a naughty mat, a naughty step, reward charts and anything else that our children might relate to in order to encourage good behaviour rather than giving attention to naughtiness.
But whilst I wouldn’t smack my own children, I feel very strongly that they should stick up for themselves if they find they are in a situation where another child is being violent towards them. I don’t want my children to go around hitting other children but at the same time neither do I want them to be bullied. If they were confronted by a bully and they didn’t stick up for themselves, no doubt this bully would continue to target them. Telling a teacher is one thing, but that teacher can not offer round the clock protection to one child and bullies will always find a time and a place to target their victims, no matter what punishment they have been dealt with by a teacher.
My six year old now is beginning to understand that the world around her is not so black and white and that there is a time and a place for everything. I think she would understand that in certain circumstances it would be ok for you to stick up for yourself but using physical violence against somebody just because you are cross or upset with them isn’t acceptable. But I’m not sure that my four year old gets this crossover of rules. The jury is out on this one. No doubt if I get called into preschool to say that he has been hitting out then I will know that it is all my fault. My nine year old on the other hand should know better and I will have to get to the route of her agression. I Get that it’s quite hard being nine, somewhere between young child and teenager, but thankfully she only takes out her anger on her siblings. Having said that, I think I will have to redirect her to the boxing punch bag that we have so that she can vent her frustration elsewhere.