Yesterday, when collecting Rogan from preschool I had an interesting experience. One that's make me think over the night about human nature. I was, strangely enough, talking to one of the teachers about how she worked with the Living Without Violence programme for 11 years. While we talked my three children were playing on the slide. Janae sitting at the bottom really was a sitting duck for an accident. Of course the older two raced down the slide and bowled her right off the end. That's okay as things go. But when Rogan got over excited and got her in a strangle hold I raced over and cuffed him about the ear to get him to let her go.
My very first instinct was "Crap, who saw me do that?" which disappoints me. My first instinct should have been to check if Janae was still breathing. However, it seems society has degraded our parental instincts to the point where we may be more concerned with appearances than with the health and well being of our children. Now I understand that's probably a huge leap in logic, but when you look back at society from its inception, you have to wonder just how harmful a smack really is.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not condoning violence in anyway; this is not a diatribe on the rights and wrongs of New Zealand's Anti Smacking legislation. It's merely an observation of the history of man. I've just about completed the four novels on Boudica the Celtic queen who almost defeated the Romans in Britain in the early parts of the first century. Wow! These were people who were peaceful and lived in relative harmony but trained as warriors from a young age. Then there's the Bible right from Genesis through Revelation: wars, Crucifixions, violence . . . all allegedly condoned by God. Looking through history we've fought against one another, we've tried to dominate one another, we've tried to discipline one another.
Is it human nature that triggers our instinct to smack? The monkeys doe it (to whom we are closely related genetically). Even cats (I have no idea of the genetic connection there) swipe their kittens around the head when they're fighting.
I do my utmost not to smack the children: I prefer Time Outs (for me and for them); I try positive reinforcement of good behaviour, I try using life's lessons to help them understand the rights and wrongs of living. However, I will smack when they're injuring another child, when they're about to stick a screw driver into a plug socket, when they're about to touch something that will burn them badly. I'll smack when it's an urgent matter of safety. There are times when my hand itches and all I want to do is leave a nice hand mark on their bottoms. It's not proven to be a particularly effective method of discipline I must add.
I will leave this with one question though: are our children being battered to death because their parents are at their wits end, it's the last straw, because they feel so constrained, judged and powerless in their own families that they can no longer figure out how to deal with bad behaviour and lash out at a defenceless child?
I want Kayley, Rogan and Janae to grow up to be self-disciplined, well rounded, intelligent children. I don't believe violence is the way to achieve that. However, these are not children at risk of being battered within an inch of their lives.