In my childhood, smacking was not done with love or compassion for the child, but in anger and resentment. Children somehow paid for the parent's frustration with life and lack of parenting skills by being first in the line of fire. I remember at 15 years old admiring the son of the owner of the local cinema and felt very pleased when he finally noticed me and said hello one day. I shyly answered back with a big smile and stopped to gossip. What I did not know was that my mother had passed by on the bus and saw me chatting and was waiting for me when I got home with a thick tyre strip at the ready. I was beaten to a pulp. I could hardly walk to school the next day, just for saying hi to a boy on my way from school. My mother was a very loving woman in other ways, who would have given her life for us. Her life revolved totally around us, sacrificing her needs many times, especially after my father died, so we could eat. Yet she was so willing to chastise us at every turn, which made no sense at home but fitted into the wider society perfectly.
Jamaican culture was a controlling one and parents had carte blanche authority to do what they liked. Disciplining the child came first before praise, hugs or value. But beatings were not always deliberate acts of cruelty. They were hand-me-down parenting of the worst kind stemming from similar actions to our parents that, in the absence of knowledge and education, were regarded as the 'best way' to bring up children. So we grew up in tremendous fear and hostility. In view of this unrelenting background of violence, I resolved three things before I emigrated to Britain as a young adult: never to smack my kids, always to explain my actions to them and to punish them by withholding things they liked.
Home Ethos Which Worked
I had a simple philosophy with my children, which went something like this: We all have a role to play in the family which is crucial for our success. If I am not doing my role (which at the time was keeping the homestead) they wouldn't be looked after. If their father wasn't doing his role of being the breadwinner, we couldn't eat. Their role was simply to keep their space tidy, make independent decisions, not follow the crowd, and perform brilliantly at school. If they failed to perform, they could not have their 'pay' which was being allowed out with friends, or having the things they valued. It worked fantastically well except for the day my daughter of 9 years was sent upstairs to her room 'with no dinner' for a misdemeanor. She stood at the bottom of the stairs, looked at me defiantly and shouted: " I didn't want your poxy food, anyway" and scuttled upstairs quickly before I could react!
I never once used violence on my children and they are now great achieving, warm human beings who loved to bring their friends home to meet us. My own upbringing would have seemed so alien to them. So, I am not for corporal punishment at all, though I recognise that some parents would need some awareness of the alternatives before they relinquish the right to smack.
I do not agree with one writer who said that smacking was the 'lazy solution'. There is nothing lazy about smacking. It is often a sign of deep frustration in a parent, a lack of appreciation of the alternatives they have and a lack of confidence in being the right kind of parent as expected of them. More a pointer to their feelings of impotence at such times than mere cruelty. There but for the grace of God...as they say.
But what do you think?