Whatever your thoughts on child discipline, you only need to take a peep into any public place to see whether it is being applied or not. I am proud to say that I had two very good children. They always behaved well in public even if sometimes they didn’t behave impeccably at home. In fact, it sticks in my mind that someone once commented ‘Your children behave so well in public that you must surely beat them in private!’
In the 80s it was deemed acceptable to give a little smack for naughty or dangerous behaviour. In our case, one look from mum or dad was usually enough to stop any naughtiness on the spot. Like most families, we had two very different children. One was highly-strung and intense, treading the border between genius and insanity quite closely at times. The other was laid-back, relaxed, funny and with a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Both required a different sort of discipline and as new parents we had to learn with them how to best deal with naughtiness – even though it rarely happened.
I sometimes despair when I see how children are treated now. It is not being kind to let them do as they please without discipline. It is not right to let them ‘express themselves’ when this means causing distress to others. It is not acceptable to just smirk and look pathetic when your child behaves disgracefully in public (or private, for that matter).
I was recently in a busy supermarket, in the same aisle as a mother and toddler. The toddler was in a pushchair and just at the right height to see all the sweets and chocolate bars on the shelf.
Toddler: ‘I want sweeties’
Mother: ‘You’re not ‘aving any’
Toddler (in bigger voice): ‘I waaaannt sweeties’
Mother (shouting): ‘Your not ‘aaaaving any!’
Toddler (screaming): ‘I WAAAANNNTTTT SWEEEEEETIES!!!’
Mother (handing sweeties to toddler): Oh, go on then!
This made my blood boil. Who was in control of that relationship? What had the toddler learned that day? I gained a clearer understanding of why my Year 9 pupils couldn’t accept the word ‘No’ last lesson on a Friday.
I am now the grandmother of two little boys and have had to start learning again about how best to discipline. Clearly smacking is now terribly frowned upon and sometimes voice alone is just not adequate. But whatever methods have to be used, it is vital that those adorable little boys receive an understanding of what is wrong and what is right so that they grow up confident and caring, able to behave beautifully in public and realise that there are responsibilities as well as rewards in life.