In wishing to respond to the ill informed and ill considered comments made by MP David Lammy on Sunday regarding smacking, it is difficult to know where to start.
His comments show such an astonishing degree of ignorance, not just of the facts, and what the overwhelming evidence of research regarding the effects of smacking now shows, but also of the possible alternatives to smacking available to us as parents, that it is difficult to imagine why a man in his position has taken it upon himself to speak publicly on the subject.
Not only has he clearly failed to grasp the basic concept that smacking models and therefore teaches violence, but in making repeated references to his ‘deprived constituency’ and the difficulties facing the parents living in it, he perpetrates the ludicrous notion that disadvantaged parents have more need to smack because they do not have ‘other disciplining techniques’ available to them that middle class parents have. In elaborating on what he means by these middle class techniques, he merely mentions private schools and tennis lessons.
He paints a picture of parents in a ‘tough part of London’, their hands tied by legislation, totally unable to discipline their children or teach them right and wrong. Oh, please. It amazes me that he is unaware of the many other, more effective, parenting tools and strategies available to parents of all backgrounds, that cost nothing.
The argument against smacking is not based on a ‘liberal middle class assumption’, but on evidence and research – something Lammy seems to have skipped.
He seems aghast at Iain Dale’s suggestion that smacking is violence, and later claims “This is not about abuse, not about hitting or about violence…”. Erm, yes it is. That’s exactly what it’s about.
Smacking is violence. Let’s not pussy foot around trying to draw lines, talking about ‘reasonable chastisement’ and ‘reddening of the skin’, which Lammy himself is pleased to point out would not be a good indicator for non-white children in any case. Such quibbling over what does and does not constitute violence also misses the wider issue of emotional harm.
Smacking, in whatever situation, to whatever degree, is unnecessary and wrong. If Lammy doesn’t know any other way to raise a child then he needs to keep his ignorant remarks to himself, crawl out of Victorian times, and enrol on a basic parenting course.
I was struck by the hneotsy of your posting
I come from a similar background to Lammy and brought up similarly. I now have two kids/children and I’m constantly holding my breath, my tongue, what have you, when they do things that are wrong. It seems that these days as parents you are constantly negotiating with these children, and in the end they still get their own way! My upbringing was extreme but I can’t help but think parents are now on the ‘otherside’ of their children: parents simply have no say in their children’s upbringing. Just to add a further point. Coming from the same area as Lammy, don’t you think after last year riots that it showed how parents have lost control?
We basically learn to parent from our parents, so trying to break that pattern isn’t easy, and what can sometimes happen when we come from a very authoritarian background is that we go to the other extreme and become too permissive. However, parenting without smacking doesn’t mean we have to hold our tongues when our kids do something wrong, (although obviously we need to give consideration to our responses), and it’s perfectly possible to set sensible limits for children without resorting to smacking. Just for starters, go to Dr Laura Markham’s Aha! Parenting site and do a search on ‘setting limits’.
Yes, quite possibly the riots were indicative of a major breakdown in parent/child relationships. I think they also showed that there are a large number of people growing up with social and emotional problems, and a limited ability to empathise with others. And yes, I would put much of this down to parenting. However, smacking is precisely the kind of parenting that will not raise empathetic, emotionally healthy children.