The Telegraph, and others, are currently covering Scotland’s proposed law to make smacking your child a criminal offence, e.g. I smacked my four-year old – does that make me a criminal?.
People that make these laws are, IMO, pretty clueless. Sadly, it seems, that includes some of the “expert” sources.
For instance, in psychology, ‘attachment theory’ (Mary Ainsworth) is required study. (Variation for cultures, and allowances for autistic spectrum aside), hundreds of studies show that a normal, neuro-typical child will behave ‘this’ way in the test environment, while an abused child will behave ‘thus’. Problem is, they rarely study ‘abused’ children. It’s not a court-appointed test, the studies are not done by social services, they are voluntary, they are often carried out using mature undergraduates and their children. They are not carried out by children whose carers and parents and inherently abusive, “carers” who are violent. Who are dangerous. It is a fundamental flaw in the system. At best, a deep understanding of attachment theory gives an awareness of ‘something might not be right here’. If a kid’s got a black eye and a broken leg, and the mum is silent, cowering behind the heavily built father, he didn’t ‘fall’ out the cot! It’s not rocket science.
The thing is, it’s not about a ‘smack’. As the article points out (behind the paywall), “Abuse, bullying, intimidation, assault – physical, psychological or otherwise – is abhorrent and to be condemned and prosecuted with extreme prejudice.”
It’s not about a “smack” it’s…
Getting taken to the hospital with your arm or leg broken in two places ‘cos your ‘loving’ father used a baseball bat on you. Whilst being told: “It’s not your dad’s fault, you know how he is when he drinks.”
It’s spitting out your broken teeth and, on the way to the hospital, yet again, being instructed, “Tell them you fell, tell them you banged your face on the kerb, you don’t want to get your dad in trouble, do you. It was an accident, he didn’t mean to punch you in the face that hard. You understand.”
The little girl taking an overdose ‘cos…
It’s real and implied threats. The promise of extreme violence for the least disobedience.
It’s the police records were the parent or carer, in their defence, declares, “They are my ‘property’, I will do with them as I wish. Besides it’s their word against mine. My partner will support me, and my kid will retract. You have no case.”
It’s not one smack in frustration at a 4-year-old’s tantrum that is the problem. It’s not shouting when you are the end of your patience with them – and them knowing they are pushing your buttons. Events like that are (all too) common and while it’s not ideal, it is understandable; parenting is hard work.
No, it’s when it goes further, when the abuse is systematic, calculated, physically and mentally damaging – and no-one wants to get involved because you ‘don’t cross Big Tom’, ‘you don’t get on the wrong side of Mary’. Not the schools, not the police, certainly not social services, not the hospitals… The caring doctor who’s not blind, who sees the medical record, who knows the difference between a fall and something more violent, “Tell me what really happened. We can protect you.” So you ask, “Here, maybe, but when I get home, will you be there to protect us then?” And you see the answer in their eyes, and another part of you dies. There is no-one to help.
Or the counsellors and support teams, picking up the pieces, the ones who, on behalf on their bosses, tell their ward that, “the measures weren’t in place, we are sorry, lessons will be learnt.” And decade after decade you see or read reports of similar ‘mistakes’ in the news, hear once more from the mouthpieces of governments, NHS trusts, authorities and councils of how “lessons will be learnt” – yet never are. Funny that you almost never hear of the officials responsible for these catalogues of ‘misfortune’ facing prison, or being sacked, or even reprimanded. As best they are quietly moved sideways, and so it continues, as it must when there is no accountability.
No, even without physical, sexual abuse, without the hardship of poverty, there’s the mental abuse, subjected to rich and poor alike. Do you really think that the damage done to a millionaire’s child is much different to that of a kid on welfare, when, year on year, they are told, “You are useless, you are a failure, you are nothing like your sibling.” No hand is raised, but that infant is messed up by the time they are an adult. Even the straight ‘A’ student, the popular one, pushed and pushed and pushed to excel, to only pass with top marks. Never to fail, until they do – at which point the whole house of cards crashes down.
There is something called the “Adverse Children Experiences” or ACE score. (e.g. ACEs too high). It’s just ten questions about your childhood. Smacking is not on the list, as such. Even with two, it may cause issues in adulthood, with four, the increase is risk and problems is significant, with 6, 7 out of 10, you are highly likely to have a catalogue of physical and mental health problems.
I do not agree with smacking, but making a law about smacking isn’t solving the problem, it’s nannying, it’s virtue signalling. It’s a smoke screen for all the true abuse that goes on under the radar, ever brushed under the carpet with the faux promise that ‘lessons will be learned’.
See also: Childhood programming.