The Slap

18 Mar

The sun has had his hat on in Melbourne over the weekend and it seemed rude not to cremate some meat and slowly marinade our insides in beer. It was your typical backyard bbq, a mixture of adults doing their best to stay just the right side of tipsy without straying into embarrassingly intoxicated (there’s always one) and excitable kids doing their bit to push the adults further towards intoxication. As if the combination of beer and barbie was not Australian enough, cricket was thrown in for good measure, there might have even been a bit of “Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie” coming from the cheap seats too.
Things came to an abrupt end when one of the children started misbehaving and threatened another child with a cricket bat. What followed seemed to happen in slow motion, an adult who had maybe had one too many, got up and much to everyone’s shock delivered slap across the face of the naughty nipper.

Okay, hands up that didn’t actually happen and was in fact a reference to Chris Tsiolkas’s juicy novel The Slap (read it!), but it does lead me nicely onto the topic for this post, to slap or not to slap? For better or for worse I am an occasional slapper or tapper to be more accurate. Let me state very clearly that my taps are always delivered on the hand and bring nothing than a wry smile out of Max and a look that says “is that the best you got big man?”, he does however stop what he was doing and it is a gesture that for the moment I will continue to use. I am more patient than most and have a pretty high tolerance level, if I deliver a tap and I do very rarely, I do so in total control and without a side serve of anger.
I read none of the “expert opinion” on this matter and am using that under-utilised parent tool called instinct. I have no strong opinions on what is right or wrong for other parents and how they choose to discipline their own children but for me and Max it works. I would be willing to wager that most of you reading this post will be more familiar with a smacked bottom than the naughty step when looking back on your own childhoods.

My decision to tap is partly informed by what I see on a daily basis. I see toddlers physically hurting their parents, other children and generally throwing their toys out of the pram and the parent reaction is often along the lines of “please don’t do that”. As a teacher I see children who know right from wrong because their parents have found a way to instil it and then I see children who know no boundaries because none have ever been imposed. I am certainly not saying that it is the correct or only way to teach a child right from wrong and I use lots of other strategies before I get to that point but for Max it seems to do the job.
What frightens me most is Max not knowing that I am in charge, not in a control freak kind of way, but the longer he knows I am ‘the boss’ the more time I have to shape him into being the person I want him to be. I take that decision believing it is beneficial to him not because I am in someway losing control of a situation.

What’s your take on child discipline? What informed your choices? Should I have my Dad of the Year nomination revoked?

As always linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess


42 Responses to “The Slap”

  1. leighleigh22 March 18, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Both my husband and i smack, but always as a last resort and we are actually finding, that the alternatives are working much better as a deterrent. We will give our eldest a couple of warnings and usually the possibility of further discipline to be deterrent enough. I did enjoy the book as well 🙂

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 5:46 am #

      I agree that what works today doesn’t necessarily work tomorrow Leigh and it sounds like your using your instincts to guide your choices, I think that the best thing you can do as a parent, let your children guide you and pick up on the clues they leave.

  2. Jo @Countrylifeexperiment March 18, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    I don’t smack because it just doesn’t work for me. Though being a teacher, I am a big fan of the well disciplined child. Let’s face it a child who understands boundaries is just going to go better in life. We have a corner, and if the behaviour then continues we take away toys. It works better with slightly older kids though.

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      I am sure I won’t be doing it when he is old enough to reason with, but at the moment if he does something that needs to be instantly squashed it works and his behaviour is very good. Thanks for adding your point of view Jo

  3. Julie March 18, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    I think I have smacked my eldest only a few times, mostly for extreme cases, eg once Tamika was about to insert a fork into a power point, she got a hand slapping for that. But have found the best form of discipline is the time out. I pick up the child under the armpits, no cuddles, carry the child to their bedroom and say “Naughty”, the older the more I explain why they were naughty. Worked with the eldest, hoping it will work with Jarvis. I was hit way too often, with things, to ever want to hit/smack my children. But I am super strict and take no bullshit.

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      Thanks for contributing Julie. As I say I use it sparingly and to squash extreme behaviour. I still feel a bit strange talking about it, it’s taboo to admit I suppose. Sounds like your strategies are working well with yours though.

  4. Poppy March 18, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I also do slap sometimes. It is either a little slap on the hand if they are throwing things, which I totally don’t allow them to do (except balls), or it is a small slap on the nappy-covered butt, just to get them out of the hysterical attack. It usually works. Strangely enough, I remember, I only had to use this method when my daughter was in her terrible twos, not since then, an I had to recently introduce it again with my son, who turned 2 last weekend. With my daughter I have to sometimes use the method that Julie described above, bringing her into her bedroom, and tell her to think about what she has done. I think (hope) she is old enough for that now.
    But there was an odd accident a few weeks ago, when we went visiting some of my husband’s elderly relatives in a home, where one of his aunts simply started to walk out of the room with my kids, while I was still collecting their clothes and toys, and she took them to the elevator, where my son got super-excited about all the buttons on the wall, and wanted to push them. Then the lady panicked, shouted at him, and smacked him with her leather gloves, she didn’t know I was already behind them and saw the whole thing. She got embarrassed and started to explain to me that children need strong discipline, and mothers are too liberal nowadays. I know better than to argue with an old, half-senile childless lady, and started to comfort my son instead, but I learned the lesson, and never gonna let my kids out of my sight when they are with her again. I can slap my kids, but noone else is allowed to do so.

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      That sounds like a sequel to the book The Slap with the old lady! It’s one of those things that if you are using it as a strategy that is planned and thought out it is completely different to snap and lose control of a situation. I think it is probably something that we use now with max as he has recently turned two and it will not be needed further down the track. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  5. LettheWildflowersGrow March 18, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    With our four we parent fairly similar to you,especially when they were toddlers.But as they have gotten older we have managed to step away from any physical discipline,and I believe that is due to how we raised them as toddlers.
    Our kids seem to know what we expect of them,and when we expect it,which plays a big help in heading out anywhere with 4 young kids.Especially for functions on base for Nick.Being his job is so important to him and the expectations are high for how he should behave,we installed the same values in our kids.
    As toddlers I would give a tap on the hand or shoulder and then talk about what transpired.They ‘NOW’ understand,they listen and we don’t need to be as hands on.There have been times,and will be times that it is called for,but it is much less,and I get complimented on how well behaved my kids are all the time 🙂
    Your doing a good job of raising Max Matt,and if you and Anna went on to have more children,it would show in them also.x

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      I wish I’d used the word tap instead of slap, sounds a bit more accurate. Ultimately that’s what I want Jessi, for Max to be well behaved and right now it works. Hats off to you for raising 4 fantastic children, that is truly heroic!

  6. kellie March 18, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I’m with you…the odd slap on the hand, especially when they are in danger or need a sudden change in behaviour. I also really feel the need for my 3 to know “who is boss” – more from a safety point of view – I need to know they will listen to me and what I am telling them is important i.e. to stop them walking out in front of a car or something.
    My husband doesn’t often discipline but if Miss 6 pushes him too far he smacks and not only does it have no effect on her but I think it makes the situation worse (behaviour wise).
    I loved the book….and series! It is a topic that raises lots of questions and opinions but I guess it is like anything with this parenting stuff, trust your instincts and try not to judge eachother – we all make our decisions and choices based on our own circumstances.
    Love your work x

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      Thanks Kellie, I knew there would be people who don’t agree with what I’m saying and that’s fine but as you say we all make our own choices and do so thinking they are what’s best for our kids. Thanks for adding your thoughts

  7. Rory Mouttet March 18, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I’ve slapped a few times but try to avoid it as I feel horrifically guilty afterwards. I used to get smacked a lot and got the cane for really bad stuff like stealing or lying. My dad used to tell us how much he hated to do it but it was for our own good and one day we would understand. I do think it was good for me as it taught me a no frills black and white lesson on the difference between right and wrong. And I do understand (now that I am a father) how much it would have hurt him as well.

    These days I slam my hand down on a desk or something nearby really loud. The leather couch also makes a pretty cool sound. It scares the crap out of the rug rats and gets their attention immediately. Once you have their attention they soak it in a bit better. For the growing years I’m going to focus more on the good old guilt trip. Its already working on my 2 and a half year old and hopefully will continue to do so :).

    Of all the things that have made me see the error of my ways – the good old fashion guilt trip has always been the most effective.

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      As parents we all have a repertoire of strategies and its about finding the one that works. If it doesn’t work or stops working you change it and move on. I got the odd no frills lesson growing up too Rory and as you say it must have been every bit as painful to deliver. Thanks for commenting Rory

  8. coloursofsunset March 18, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    I’ll try to keep this brief because I have a lot of thoughts on this. When Nick was a toddler, he started going around switching off power switches within his reach. I kept slapping his hand and telling him “no” and he kept doing it. I had an “ah ha!” moment – the slap wasn’t teaching him what I wanted, and I wasn’t learning that myself! It was a no-win situation. So I stopped. Hubby and I always thought we’d smack, and N has had a couple of smacks on the bum, but in his almost 5 years I think I can count on 1 hand the number of times, and they were for behaviour we were absolutely against. That said, I find it very hard (ok, stupid) to hear parents smack their child for hitting another child. “Don’t hit!” (as they hit them. DUMB!). Even slaps/smacks that are not hard or in anger, or violent, are still hits. I also think we wouldn’t hit another adult, why on earth does it seem ok to hit a child then? Imagine someone 2 or 3 times as big as you, hitting you, even “lightly”? I guess I’m rambling and can argue for both sides of this to an extent. I think there is a HUGE HUGE difference between a slap and child abuse! I believe most parents know that difference/the line. Unfortunately many parents don’t, and slapping/smacking is a last resort, and usually out of pure frustration. I’m lucky my son doesn’t like to get or be in trouble. So a stern word, a look, and he is apologetic and pulls himself into line. I know not all children are that easy, I just think there has to be a better way than slapping. -Aroha (#teamIBOT)

    • daddownunder March 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts it’s good to get other perspectives. I knew it wouldn’t be a universally popular post and that people would have some strong feelings and I understand that. To be honest you made a couple of points that made me question it myself. The one thing that makes me feel vindicated is that for me and max it works, in that he stops the extreme behaviour that I want him to stop. My wife tried the same thing and it didn’t work and she freely admits she doesn’t really have the same authority. Nothing is set in stone as parents and I might completely change my mind tomorrow and that’s fine. I would like to reiterate It is a gesture that tells max I mean business rather than something that causes pain.

      • coloursofsunset March 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

        I don’t for a second think you cause Max pain. Like I said, we always thought we would slap/smack, but when I saw it wasn’t working, I needed to change tactics. If it works, then I don’t see a problem with a slap, especially if he learns that behaviour is not acceptable. I don’t agree with people who say slapping promotes violence, but I do wonder if kids see it as ok to slap others if they’re doing something they don’t like or want them to do? LIke I said, I can argue for both sides of this. I know what works for us, and I’d never try to tell another parent how to discipline their child.

  9. Rachel March 19, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    When my boys were younger I did use the occasional slap – as you said it is an effective way to immediately get them to stop what they are doing. Toddlers are forces of nature and trying to reason with them is like trying to reason with a tidal wave. In some situations they just need to know that what they are doing has to stop NOW!

    These days however the major reason I have to discipline my boys is because they are arguing with each other, which does mean sometimes that one person has hit, kicked or punched the other person. It became very quickly apparent that to tell someone off for hurting someone by giving them a smack was ridiculous! So now I use withdrawing priveleges like time on the Wii or going to the park as a way to teach consequences for actions.

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 2:26 am #

      “It became very quickly apparent that to tell someone off for hurting someone by giving them a smack was ridiculous!” this is the point that coloursofsunset raised that made me question the whole thing myself. As you say its a temporary fix that will be replaced when it no longer works. Thanks for commenting Rachel

  10. Alli @ Ducks on the Dam March 19, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Gosh! Interesting topic to put out there and it appears to be receiving some debate…. We are a family of non smackers / hitters / slappers of any kind. Not once. Not ever. Not even in a controlled manner without anger. Just putting it out there…… but how can you teach your child that it is not wrong to hit another when you hit them? Each to their own but that is my take on it. 🙂

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      How can you teach your child it’s wrong to hit – I suppose its something I plan to phase out as other strategies become relevant and effective. At the moment there are some behaviours that could be dangerous and I want an immediate response. Thanks for giving your input its been an interesting debate in which I’ve heard one or two things that I hadn’t considered and might have altered my mindset a little.

  11. LettheWildflowersGrow March 19, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    Nothing heroic about Matt,just a heck of a lot of blood,sweat and tears.From all of us.”Tap” is what I use,because I only ever use the tips of my fingers and then follow right away with ”a speech” as Amber calls it now.I still get the eye rolling and sighing and ”Oh mum” from the older 2 girls,but it’s more in good (and cheeky) nature,and considering we are soon to be in the ‘tween’ stage,I reckon I will just enjoy this while it is lasting.I have ready many books on the new stage we are coming up to,and it is ‘fear mongering’!!!!

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 2:28 am #

      Good luck with the next phase Jessi, thats what parenting is really, a series of phases that you need to adapt to and work out as quickly as you can

  12. LettheWildflowersGrow March 19, 2013 at 1:24 am #

    Nothing heroic *about ‘it’ I meant.

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 2:29 am #

      You rright though theres nothing heroic about Matt ; )

  13. Emily March 19, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    I haven’t slapped/smacked/tapped and plan not to. Which is not to say there are no boundaries – there are certainly boundaries in this house! – but I just don’t think slapping is the way (no judgement though, please don’t read it that way).

    Long ago, before we’d ever had children, a friend once asked me ‘How can you expect to teach a child not to hit if you yourself hit?’ And it’s stuck with me. Sure, you can phase it out as a punishment, but the child only needs to remember that you hit them once to think it’s acceptable in at least one scenario.

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 3:28 am #

      Hey Emily, I am acting completely on instinct and trial and error. Max shows no inclination to hit others and I think that’s probably who he is, he’s very gentle around others. If I see a change in that behaviour and I think it’s as a result of my actions it would never happen again. Thanks for adding your opinion

      • Emily March 21, 2013 at 9:22 am #

        That’s all we can do! As I said, no judgement from me, just my opinion and approach.

        Thanks for writing the post – the post and the comments (and your responses) have been very interesting reading.

  14. Carly (@confessionsof30) March 19, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    We do not smack or use physical punishment in any way, this does not mean we don;t believe in discipline, we do.
    I firmly believe that smacking is all about the parent and not the child. Its basis is in control and I believe you even mentioned this above. I think you are raising a wonderful family Matt but we will have to agree to disagree on this one 🙂

    • daddownunder March 19, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Hey Carly thanks for commenting. I will try to respond without sounding defensive, but it might happen by accident. I go to lengths to say that there are lots of other strategies to discipline and that its not the only way. I also wouldn’t call it a smack, just a slap on the wrist. I really hope I’m not a controlling person, I actually mention not doing it to control in the post, I don think I am. But I take your point, its not for everyone and it may not be for me. I hope that didn’t sound too defensive. parenting is about learning as you go and perhaps I might learn from some of the feedback I have received.

  15. Have a laugh on me March 19, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    On the rare occasion I have given my middle child a wee finger tap, hard, on his hand, and it destroys him, but that’s because it is the last resort and he knows it. Often it just happens without me consciously making a decision. I remember my mum breaking a wooden spoon or two on my ass and I’m totally okay (twitch twitch). Seriously though, I think as parents we make our own rules for our kids, and everyone’s a critic. You’re doing a great job and just do what you feel is right for you and your family.

  16. Cathy March 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I think a slap/smack is very different to abuse and whilst I don’t like to smack, sometimes I do find it necessary. It’s more effective when they are younger I think. Generally, I just scream like a madwoman…I think they’re too used to the sound of my voice. My husband just has to raise his voice and the boys tend to jump to attention. They say he sounds scarier lol. So smacking is rare and a last resort. I believe each parent (within limits of course) should discipline how they see fit. Perhaps too much political correctness has seen a generation raised with no boundaries. Read The Slap early this year and loved it too – very thought provoking.

    • daddownunder March 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      Thanks Cathy. Its clearly a tricky one, I suppose the bottom line is that as parents you will always do what they feel is right for your family, time will tell but I’m very happy with the way Max is turning out. The argument is much bigger than my ost, which talks about a tap/slap on the wrist to prevent dangerous behaviour and occurs rarely to talk of smacking and child abuse. Its interesting though to hear other peoples thoughts on the subject

  17. Zanni March 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    I admit, not smacking children is one of the causes that would take me to the street. I personally believe it’s cultural if smacking generally is tolerated or not. In many developed countries in the world, it’s not, and there are strong correlations with less physical abuse and other social issues. Smacking kids is very normalised here, and while I think people parent the best way they can and know how to parent, it’s my hope that at some point debates instigated by books like The Slap will not even need to be had. I wrote about it here.
    I love your blog and your status updates but do want to share my thoughts on this particular topic. Zanni 🙂

    • daddownunder March 20, 2013 at 2:02 am #

      Hey Zanni, I’m glad you feel your able to share, thats what a blog should be about. Again I dont smack and personally wouldn’t, its been a slap on the wrist when Max is doing something potentially dangerous to him or others. Its not something i plan on doing throughout his childhood and as he gets older and other strategies become practical I will use those if they work. I always appreciate your comments and facebook interaction Zanni, hopefully you keep on reading.

      • Zanni Arnot March 23, 2013 at 10:26 am #

        Oh, yes, I definitely will keep reading. We are allowed to have different points of view! That’s the beauty of blogging. I don’t usually contradict blog posts, but I just had a strong urge to share what I felt about this subject. It’s good putting this stuff out there, because it gets everyone talking, which is important.

  18. always josefa (@always_josefa) March 20, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    A very interesting, maybe even controversial topic, The Slap raises the issue of slapping someone else’s child and that is not right in my books
    As for smacking my own children – there is a fine line and I’m not sure the expected result is always achieved
    I dwell on your line “to shape him into being the person I want him to be” I truly wonder if we have any control over this at all?

    • daddownunder March 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      Hey Josefa, thanks for commenting. To be honest I didnt realise the can of worms I was opening. I hope the debate about child abuse and smacking is referring to the bigger topic rather than what I was talking about (a tap on the wrist that stops the unwanted behaviour and usually draws a knowing smile). In terms of my sentance “to shape him into being the person I want him to be” your absolutely right, I am excited to see what Max becomes and hate the idea of imposing myself on him and who he is – I meant in terms of teaching him right from wrong, I love that max can be anything he wants to be. Thanks for contributing

  19. Kassey March 20, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Such an important topic! It’s good to read these comments for different perspectives. I would be a smacker/slapper/tapper etc but my husband is anti.
    After thinking it through it seems like for me it is a learned response from being raised by a physically strict mother.
    I actually find that I’m glad not to have it as a condoned action in the house now as I would struggle with the guilt if I acted out of anger because a physical remedy became a ‘norm’, even in extreme situations.
    Bring on the other strategies. I’ll be needing them.

    • daddownunder March 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      Thanks for adding your thoughts Kassey. I personally know that I refer back to my upbringing frequently as a parent, its hard not to. Time will tell if my choices as a parent are right or wrong, naturally I feel I know my son and situation well enough to know what is right but I accept its not for everyone. As long as everyone appreciates we are talking about a rare tap on the wrist to stop dangerous behaviour then I have no problem with people opposing it. All the best to you and your family

  20. Janet March 21, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Interesting Topic and very thought provoking. When my son Mackenzie was a toddler reasoning with him was impossible, he just wasn’t wired that way, so for a 12 month period I did, when he was putting himself in danger, give him a light tap on his hand. I can remember only needing to do this two or three times, putting things in power sockets, pulling away as we were crossing busy roads. I do remember that the “shock” of my response stopped the behaviour immediately. By the time he was three he could understand the reasons and the consequences (electrocution, car makes me go splat etc). I know when it came to destructive behaviours, which stemmed from being an only child, you know the I don’t want to share type scenario, that removing the item or him from the situation worked best. As he got older time outs worked and now (he is 11) removal of ipod, wii controller and that sort of thing works best. I am also lucky that he is a compassionate soul and the question “how would feel if that was done to you” works really well and has him considering his responses to stimuli and he will for the most part choses the path that does not hurt others. I guess my point is that if you are not reacting from anger and not hurting your child and it works for them and you then instinct works.

    • daddownunder March 21, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      To be honest Janet my behaviour is exactly the same as yours, its a gentle tap, it’s very rare and its to prevent dangerous behaviour. Thanks for your comment

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