Well. I am on the fence here. I'm very anti-smacking (spanking?). Very much so. I cannot imagine hitting my own kids, actually.
BUT but but. Its the lesser of two evils thing for me. Kids are hard, difficult. They tantrum just when you really do not have any more to give. Generally, when you're around those skeptical about breastfeedingslingAP etc is exactly when they decide to act like the world's worse reared kid. I do recognise that, having grown up with seriously crunchy parents, in a crunchy circle of friends, I also have quite a long perspective on this.
I think the thing for me is that, except in a case of real, obvious, sadistic abuse, 95% of the time parents do have their kids interests at heart. I don't mean that they can't lose it and hate their kid in the moment, but that actually, I think most parents don't truly want to inflict pain on their kid and a lot of smacking is a loss of temper. Yes some of it comes down to anger management, but some comes down to extreme stress and parents, like anyone else, flipping. I have to be honest and say, I've known parents who have hit their kids in the moment who are really, really good, your proper AP types, who are just under stress at that moment. They needed support to get out of the crisis and belief from others that they could get back on the AP wagon, because their biggest critic in that moment was themselves.
So would I say something? Maybe. But I would approach it from the perspective that the parent hitting was just at the end of their tether. I'd try to support them. Say the wedding party. I've been there, I've let a kid too young stay up too late and dealt with the tantrum. You learn, or I did. I didn't hit but I have really good support compared to an awful lot of parents - in particular, support for our way of parenting and educational choices. You need support in those situations. I think offering support, communicating to the parent that you can see they are stressed, also communicates very clearly that you don't think this behaviour is ok, that you think they are behaving this way because they are stressed. That you regard it as abnormal and a sign that things must really have come to a head. I also think that it might suggest to them that they need to look after themselves better, which I think is at the root of a lot of angry parenting-a failure to self care.
I don't agree with smacking/spanking as part of a discipline program, that's something else. Actually maybe intervention might be good, because I think it could be helpful for a parent who considered smacking ok to realise that it was not socially acceptable. TBH I can't see anyone here (UK) being open about smacking their kids anyway these days, it wouldn't happen in a public place without considerable tutting. Real sea change from when I grew up.
I think in a situation where a parent has really lost it with their child the priority is to do what you can to make sure that that doesn't happen again, and the best way to do that will depend on the situation. But I also feel strongly that the best way for a person to get better is for them not to be seen as some kind of abusive monster but someone, not at their best, with the potential to
learn to control themselves. Because I think that that is the best way to get someone to change, to show you believe they can.
(sorry the reason I've used smacking/spanking is that I'm in the UK and I don't know for sure that spanking is actually the same as what we call smacking. Smacking is fairly light hitting, open palm, would not leave a mark or cause a lot of pain. Not that that's ok, but there are matters of degree here. Also, like I say, I'm living in a country where its now rare for someone of childbearing age to argue that smacking is a reasonable form of discipline)
To be absolutely clear, I don't think smacking is ok, not at all. I'm interested in ways to stop it happening and I think support and understanding in the context of it being unacceptable is best.
ETA I have to say, maybe this is just me but I wouldn't be too worried about my kids. We model non-violent conflict resolution. They know its not ok to hit (though they do at times). If it was a fairly ok situation, I'd be more concerned that they saw that the appropriate response to someone angry and out of control is, providing its safe for them, compassion and empathy, not judgement. But my kids are that much older, I suppose.
Edited by Fillyjonk - 8/12/13 at 7:01am