Is the Ban on Using Force in Discipline Working?
The anti-smacking law (actually the anti-use-of-force-in-discipline law) was based largely on feminist ideology. The idea that male characteristics of size and strength should be allowed to be used to exert ‘power and control’ was anathema to feminists, and they projected their sense of injustice on to the matter of raising and disciplining children. State-sponsored sole parenthood often involved rejection of male influence in raising children and the anti-smacking law was an extension of this.
Instead of using any physical force in discipline to teach children some fear of consequences and that adults will take control where necessary, adults such as teachers now are allowed only to call police and/or to use female-type violence such as ostracizing (through suspension and expulsion), labeling as ‘bad’ or ‘sick’ and manipulation of children in an effort to have them feel guilty and unacceptable.
Is the current law serving our society and the next generation’s development? Having removed rights from adults to use force and leaving such rights exclusively with agents of the state such as police, is this benefiting our society? Are our children becoming less violent as we follow the principle of ‘not modelling violence, power and control’ in the way we manage our children?
There seems to be little evidence of the predicted improvements. Two news stories this week reflect the true direction that is resulting from our rejection of male approaches in socializing children and managing our communities.
The first story was about a college student who came to school drunk or drugged and aggressive, then when police attempted to arrest and contain him, other students tried to stop those police. Those students’ lack of fear of authority will not help them in life. Their confidence in the ‘rights’ of their friend to be an unruly vandal and not to be subject to force or control was unrealistic and maladaptive. Effective discipline during their previous schooling experience would have led to a different outcome in this situation. Such discipline would have been quick and unpleasant but the students would have returned to their classes immediately afterward still feeling accepted as members of the school, having gained some fear of consequences and a clear message that they were expected not to break the relevant rule again. In the present case however, these students will be suspended or expelled and will carry a sense of unacceptability, rejection and alienation into adulthood, with predictable results.
The second news story was this case of a 14yo college boy who assaulted and seriously injured the school bus driver who had previously dared to order the boy off the bus for eating fish and chips against the bus rules. If this lad had experienced adults containing him effectively in the past, and if he believed a male bus driver might overpower him and cause him some temporary pain, it’s unlikely he would have dared to assault the driver or any adult in a position of responsibility. Instead, the driver had previously only been allowed to ‘file a report’ about the teenager’s earlier misbehaviour. Great, that taught him huh? The teenager held unrealistic beliefs about his ‘rights’, for example to break rules as he saw fit and to retaliate against an adult authority figure. Even though adults throughout his schooling had never ‘modeled violence’ towards him, he now behaved with a level of violence towards an authority figure that was almost unheard of in the bad old days when adults used physical discipline.
Sure enough, this young thug has been expelled, almost guaranteeing future grief for society. Pathetic that adults are limited to such female-type violence as ostracization, prevented from teaching this lad a mild and responsible version of the realities of life. He will experience those realities in due course when batoned, tazered, handcuffed, imprisoned or perhaps shot by police in future, because the fact is that force is necessary to establish boundaries for acceptable behaviour.
I do not wish to comment on the use of force BUT the irony is kids get in trouble in our communities and schools kick them out. That means their education stops (or at least hits a significant speedbump), and they have more time on their hands for mischief, drugs, alcohol. The people they associate with are others who have been “invited” out of the education system or who have not found a pathway from school to employment or further training.
Not surprisingly this sets up young people for a great deal of dysfunction, difficulty, frustration and anger.
It is not rocket science!!!
I am sure that when a mother physically takes control of violence by her son (practically as much of a problem with daughters as sons!), it can be just as effective as when a father does the same task.
Unfortunately, too many women either lack the determination and/or physical strength, with the result that challenging children move on to more serious violence, as they grow stronger. Maybe they want to prove that women can do anything, but by the time they work out that they can’t, perhaps serious bad parenting has occurred. I guess quite a few fathers are in much the same situation too, though they are usually more willing to risk a bit of hurt along the way, thus the job does still get done.
I agree that for many children, physical discipline isn’t really needed. However, that does not alter the fact that many children, even with apparently the same parenting, do require to be physically controlled. I have two children, with one in each camp.
How long will we pussy around, without facing the challenge that quite a few children and young adults do require strong discipline?
The longer we take to develop common sense, the much larger pool of undisciplined young adults that will be running free in our society. There is a huge cost, to leaving children undisciplined, mainly dropped onto other people. Parents who will not or cannot work together, leave their children at risk of very poor discipline.
Not much good insisting on parenting alone (ie excluding the other parent! and when the failure becomes unhideably obvious, only then asking for help.(Remember the Care of Children Act protecting children’s right to a relationship with both parents!!!!!)
I am not advocating that children need to be injured, as part of everyday discipline. The sooner that parents show determination to maintain proper control, the more quickly life gets back on track. Obvious willingness to act must be shown. It should be preventative, done well once or a few times, then it may save many incidents later.
Many parents would benefit from assistance with parenting skills (though curiously those most in need, often are those most reluctant to accept help in this area. “I am a good parent”, but good may not be good enough in this rough and tumble world, to successfully render discipline.
I agree exactly with Allan.
Insightful comment Murray.
Quite right. It’s probably fair to say that if parents use precise and skilled behaviour training and management methods, ‘physical discipline’ could be avoided by parents in nearly all cases. Unfortunately, not many parents have the knowledge to follow such methods. Instead, they haphazardly use approaches such as ‘time out’ without understanding the ‘behavioural extinction’ principles, usually poorly taught by teachers and social workers who also don’t understand how to use those training techniques effectively. When a child doesn’t seem to care, the parents think the approach doesn’t work and they have no other recourse but to feel defeated and powerless, leaving the child in charge. Mostly, parents inadvertently encourage undesirable behaviour from a young age by using ‘distraction’, actually rewarding bad behaviour through contingent attention and activities. The way parents use time out and other confidently recommended approaches also inadvertently encourages undesirable and violent behaviour. When smacking was available this at least provided some counterbalancing influence on children’s behavioural learning, but any such influence is now absent in many cases.
Wise words. Instead of allowing female defensive thinking to ban force in discipline, a sensible approach would have been to teach parents and responsible adults this idea and to ensure they retained a legal right to apply it.
Dear MoMa, beautifully said. You have detailed the principles briefly, where I only raised the topic.
I actually think that many readers, myself included, would benefit greatly if you (or someone else) were able to expand on this enough, to enable parents to learn these points. This is really the crux of effective discipline with a challenging child. The delicacy of the issue of accidentally inadvertently rewarding the child is quite subtle, but absolutely critical in the end to succeeding with discipline. Poor mental health weakens these skills.
Even so, although it ain’t PC to women, a taller, stronger adult with a deep voice does engender more respect from a child, especially if they are feeling the rush of suddenly increasing oestrogen or testosterone. Biology might not be destiny, but it comes closer than many women seem to be able to admit. Though it does work two ways for sure.
This is why parenting is easier by honest, respectful partnership, than as a solo effort. More to the point, far safer for child and adult too.
It is just that the thieves among us can scrape off more money by winding up disputes. They won’t have to be there to support a boy or girl in jail or a daughter with young baby, or a child in mental hospital, or their victims…. unless they can scrape more money at that point too…….
Lets work by reality, rather than trying to argue by what ought to be under my theory…..
Your comment is truer today, than it was in the past.