Smacking and violence?

We live in a society where 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of a partner at some point in their life. Nearly every week, a woman loses her life to a partner or ex-partner in Australia. Violence against women and children cost an estimated 13.6 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2009. Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to ill-health and death in women under 45 in Victoria.

Why are we experiencing such a truly horrible epidemic of violence?

No doubt the causes are complex, as such things normally are. Alcohol, drugs, sexism, mental illness, dysfunctional families of origin... I expect all these things are in the mix.

One of my suspicions (and the primary focus of this rant) is that hitting small children actually normalises violence for future perpetrators and future victims. Not everyone who has been smacked as a child becomes a perpetrator or victim of violence. However, I would think MOST perpetrators and victims were hit as children. The early message they received was that it's OK to hit if you're bigger and have more power, and it's OK to be hit if you're smaller.

Some commentators, including Christian ones, seem to promote the following bizarre equation: smacking = discipline. In my mind, discipline should be a whole process of behaviour modification and teaching, with the ultimate aim of a self-disciplined and responsible adult. Discipline might involve structuring space, reinforcing good behaviour, natural consequences, logical consequences, removing privileges, family meetings to discuss values, rules, boundaries and punishments, time out, reflection, negotiation, sharing stories, rewards, limiting (or expanding) available choices... and it might involve physical pain. But it doesn't have to. And I'd prefer it didn't.

I'd prefer it didn't, because I'm worried about domestic violence. I'd prefer it didn't, because I'd like to think the daughters who follow in our footsteps know in the deepest part of their souls that it's NEVER OK for someone to hit or abuse them. I'd prefer it didn't, because I'd like our sons to know it's NEVER OK to hit their partner. I'd prefer it didn't, because as this link suggests, there is cognitive dissonance involved in the view that it's OK to hit small children, but that it's a crime to hit adults.

I gather my views about smacking (and physical punishment in general) is the minority opinion. So, what do you think?


Janet Woodlock said…
I saw this on Facebook today from "Teacher Tom", and it seems relevant to this discussion:

"I've had people shrug at my moral stance and say spanking 'works'. There are lots of things that work that I will never try. If I disagree with you, shouting you down works, but wouldn't it be better if I engaged you in reasonable debate? If I need money, stealing works, but wouldn't it be better if I worked to earn a higher income? If you're standing in my way, pushing you works, but wouldn't it be better to politely ask you to allow me to pass? Indeed spanking may work, but there are better ways. They just take more effort."

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