Families and smacking

On the Families First post, I mentioned the anti-smacking debate. Jackie Parkes (Catholic Mom of 10) posted a heartfelt comment:
Don't get me started Fr. i've seen Catholic Families smack their children & i personally don't like it. i know Joanna B warned me about playing into the government's hands on my anti-smacking post..but i can't see why parents would be worried. If they don't smack what's the problem. i also have seen 'poor' 'deprived' families using this form of punishment ..& it is awul to watch.

We were brought up being smacked. Did it do us any harm? Yes! i was determined never to smack my children.

Big people smacking/tapping even small people never!

i'm on my own on this one..nearly every post supported some form of smacking.i don't believe that is right Fr about the Catholic families hardly ever using corporal punishment..i think all those i know do.

A contentious issue..but i find it a very poor form of discipline & can't imagine St Joseph resorting to it.

Well i've donned my armour!
As a priest, I see various approaches to disciplining children. In Church and in the supermarket one sometimes sees things that are "awful to watch" - even well within the bounds of "reasonable chastisement". It can be just as cringe-making to see parents negotiating with a 3 year old about whether they can have an ice-cream or whatever. I was once in a toy shop where I was buying some Christmas presents for my nephews and nieces. A mother was arguing crossly with her 3-4 year old. They were both obviously tired. The last part of the debate that I heard was "Look it's your present, just make up your mind and choose something."

Now I know that as a priest, I have the privilege of being with children for short spaces of time. I do not have to get up in the night when they are upset, I don't have to endure the tantrums of 3 year olds or the stroppiness of teenagers except in small doses. Therefore I try to remind myself that what I see is just a small episode in a long saga. Would I make a better mother or father? No way! As I say to the first communion parents: "You are the best father and mother your child has." It is not for me to give my naive advice or to intervene except in extreme cases.

Very occasionally, I have had the sad duty of involving an external agency for the safety of a child. But in the vast majority of cases, I see my role as that of supporting good and loving parents. One of my favourite lines when a young child has been very badly behaved in Church during the sermon or the notices is to say with mock seriousness "Is somebody shouting at Mummy?" After Mass, I sometimes say to recalcitrant children "You must do what Mummy says." I don't suppose the effect lasts for more than five minutes but my intention is to support the parents in their role by a simple promotion of the virtue of obedience.

The role of the State should be similar: to support parents in their role. No Government that has tried to usurp the role of the parents has ever done so without it being a disastrous failure. Our Government is encroaching more and more on the sacred trust that belongs to the family.

On smacking itself, I have a lot of sympathy with Jackie's view but can appreciate that sometimes parents may judge that a smack can be of benefit all round cutting short some silly piece of selfish whining. Others do not need to do this, the tone of their voice being enough. It is up to the parents, not me or the state.

However, I remember that as a teenage boy at school, I was all in favour of the cane. It was an effective deterrent - there was a certain amount of kudos in coming out from the discipline master's office rubbing a sore bum, but you didn't get in that situation lightly. I certainly preferred "six of the best" to an hour's detention or the psychological torture of exploring just why I had been running in the corridor, smoking, blowing up things in the chemistry lab or whatever. Actually in those days, (before 'elf 'n safety) the latter activity was approved quite a lot of the time. Those days are long gone now, of course. I admire teachers today for the manner in which they keep discipline by the force of their personality alone.

Jackie has a couple of posts on the subject with some very good and thoughtful comments:
Re: Smacking Children
and
Smacking children revisited

There is also a good post in response at Cum Grano Salis: Banning Smacking?

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