Hitting children has its place

24th November 2000 at 00:00
IN every generation there are discrepancies between what we claim is true and what we all have a sneaking suspicion to be the case. I can remember, in the Seventies, subscribing to a commonly held nonsense that gender differences were manufactured - something that society imposed on its children. Left to their own devices, girls would eschew flirting, shun the colour pink and go brmm-brmm when faced with a toy car. Then I had two daughters and

discovered that girls will be girls, regardless of any amount of parental zeal to liberate them from Barbiedom.

There are just as many noble nonsenses in circulation today, and chief amongst them must be the belief that hitting children

is never justifiable. All liberal

parents claim to have dispensed with corporal punishment. Nevertheless, I don't know a couple that hasn't covertly resorted to it.

When faced with a child who

is behaving appallingly and

refusing to listen to reason (let's face it, that's the natural state for some infants) what does one do? Let mayhem proceed unabated? I have seen nice mothers in Waitrose, being kcked by their children and behaving as if it isn't happening. Would any of us respect a police officer who behaved in such a pusillanimous way? No, society is founded on the notion of reasonable force. Without it, one individual who cannot be persuaded from bad behaviour simply ruins everyone's lives. I recently signed a piece of paper at my son's school saying that if he had a temper tantrum or hit another kid, the class teacher might remove him. What shocked me was not the notion of force, but of having to ask permission in the first place. If my children are behaving badly, and I'm not there to discipline them, I would expect another adult to do so.

Smacking is not the same as abuse and I would have said that from a kid's point of view it's not the worst thing a parent can do. On the one occasion I can remember my dad hitting me I know I thoroughly deserved it. If anything my respect for him went up. Last week, however, I read Joan Bakewell saying that she never forgave her mother for whacking her. But then, as we all know. girls are different from boys. One nonsense down, more to go.

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