When is smacking a child okay?
Dear Soulful Mamas, I’m sharing this story today because I want You to know that conscious parenting doesn’t have to mean we do it perfectly, every time.
I know this particular sharing will speak to someone and give them a bit more inspiration, perhaps a bit more hope, and help to trust the Self just a little more. Ohoi Nateya.
When my son was born I was an adamant non-smacker. Then, when I was in a particularly unempowered place I met someone who portrayed themselves to be an excellent parent. That person told me that sometimes you have to smack kids so they get the message.
In that place of vulnerability, when I had just left my son’s father, living alone with a 12 month old, no family and very few real friends, and trying to work out how we were going to survive, I was a sitting duck – a target for the worst kind of abusive, controlling bad guy to swoop in and make a mess. And he did.
And somehow, even though I had this idea of natural, gentle, conscious parenting and I had spent the first year of my child’s life entirely and rabidly making sure that was how he was raised, somehow my ideas were manipulated. Somehow I gave in. And I swallowed many bull shit ideas like ‘the only way to get your message through is to smack their hand – then they won’t touch that shelf’ and ‘sometimes you just have to say no to kids about something that you don’t actually mind them doing at all, so they learn to be obedient’… and so on and so forth.
When I finally got myself and, by then my two children out of there three years later, I had a lot of mending to do. In truth I never believed those things he had tried to convince me of but at my weakest point I allowed them to be a process, because I didn’t think there were other options. I was worn down, broken and controlled. And then we got out.
And I set to strengthening mySelf and healing my relationships with my children.
I’ll never forget the look of horror on my 1 year old’s face when he got a smack on the hand for touching something not intended for him. It was clear as day to me that something inside him went snap. The smack didn’t really hurt but being smacked did. There had to be a better way.
But at the time I didn’t know what it was, and I was surrounded by parents who thought hitting your child was a justifiable way to get your point across.
At the most stressful stage of my life, my daughter, who has been at times ‘harder to handle’ than my gentle, calm son, has copped a few smacks on the butt. Perhaps four or five in total. Each time even though it broke my heart to see her little shocked face, I would reason some ridiculous justification and make it acceptable.
Truth is, I would smack as a response to my own insecurity and inability to control the situation.
I would smack when I was at the end of my tether, and I didn’t want to hear or see or cope with anymore. It was entirely about putting an end to whatever was going on and making it stop so that I could get through or get on with another day.
I’m not justifying it, but I am acknowledging where I was, and where I know many other Mamas have been or still are.
Sometimes it feels like it will be easier just to stop the situation with a swift slap on the bum. But it doesn’t make it easier. It just makes your child go deeper into their inner pain, become resentful, and fearful and learn that when they are in a state, they can’t even trust mum to help them. None of that is ok for me.
I don’t smack anymore. It’s not ok for me to hit my children. It’s a decision I’ve made and one I will stick to for always.
Because I’ve learned that I don’t need to control my children.
I’ve learned to take the time to see their ‘naughty behaviour’ as a cry for help, as a trigger way for them to express to me ‘something inside me is not ok right now,’ and then take steps to clear the problem.
That’s not always easy. But it’s what HAS to be done, because I want my children to grow into everything they can be. I don’t want violence to be a way of dealing with life.
I’ve learned to slow down, to pay attention and to stay open. I watch the children’s behaviour and can see ahead of time when they’re lining up for a breakdown that one day may have led to a smack. Smacking is not an option. It has been wiped out of the vocabulary of our family, and so we are forced to find another way to deal with problems. But you know, they’re never really problems, they’re just avenues to get to know the child better, to develop more trust, more love and more authenticity.
I had a conversation recently with someone who said that it is ok to hit a kid if You have no other option to get through to them. Like if it’s at a moment of urgency and you must make your point right then. I disagree with that entirely.
As parents we are there to guide our children. We are responsible for watching a child’s development and taking part where we can to help children grow. They don’t know everything, particularly social constructs and how to balance emotions. It is the job of parents to teach children about these things, to model behaviour of dealing with different types of situations, to talk about how to make better decisions that honour You, or what is appropriate for different places and Spaces. Therefore, it is our job as parents to guide children away from the moment of urgency that requires You to make your point right then.
Because as a parent, we can watch the child before this point. We can talk to the child, ask them to talk to us, intervene if it is necessary. With a conscious, watchful, caring parent in tow, how does that moment of urgency arise? It can’t, if we the parents are paying attention to our most important job in this life – raising unlimited children.
Now please realise that I’m not a tag along kind of Mama. I give my children ample Space to explore the world. I certainly don’t follow them around with a bucket and tissues and wipe up their messes. Independent kids is one of my primary parenting goals and I am much more interested in allowing children to find their way when they can. But I’m always aware of where they’re at. I don’t expect them to work it all out for themselves, because sometimes they need help.
Don’t assume that the moment of drama is the only time you can teach your child. Sometimes, taking a much needed break from the entire situation and getting out of it completely is what is necessary. There will always be chances to model correct behaviour and talk about what was happening later. In the moment, ask yourSelf, ‘what does this child need right now?’ I promise You the answer will be a hug, before a smack, EVERY TIME.
Children are meant to push our buttons. They are our teachers as much as we teach them. But instead, I like to think of my babes as guides. By watching their behaviour and patterns and asking mySelf what it all means, they guide me to Be a better parent. They guide me to be kinder, more compassionate and more authentic every step, particularly to mySelf.
I’m not a perfect parent. I make mistakes. I have regrets. Sometimes I yell. Less and less, but I do still yell. Those are the times when I’m tired, scattered and haven’t been honoring mySelf. When I’m fresh, healthy and inspired I’m an unstoppable conscious mindful parent. When I haven’t been looking after me, I’m not as fun. The promise I’ve made mySelf though is not to be perfect, because that is an unattainable aim that can never be achieved. Instead, I be a wholehearted parent. I let my children see me. I apologize when I make a mistake. I’m no longer the controlling overlord. And everyday with this authenticity, relationships with my children get better, stronger and I see them bloom more into the amazing little People they came here to Be.
I know I can’t change what happened in the past, so what was is just what it is. But it is not that anymore. And each day moving forward is another chance for me to find out something more about mySelf as a parent. It’s a chance to get more Real, and to watch my babes grow into the amazing and empowered adults they will become. That’s why I parent in a way that might not be ‘normal’ to most People, but it doesn’t matter what they think, because the relationship I have with my kids is fantastic, and the rewards are endless.
I invite You to think about your story and what it means to be a wholehearted parent. If You feel called, write an article about your parenting journey to share with the Soulful Mama community. Send it in a message to the Soulful Mamas Facbook page. The sharing of our individual truth brings us together, inspires each other, allows us each to really See each other and who we can Be as a mindful group, supporting one another to raise unbound and unlimited children together. Lets build a global village that will raise authentic, wholehearted children all the way to adulthood and on the side we will heal ourSelves too.
The article When is smacking a child okay? was published by Hollie Bakerboljkovac, for the Institute for Self Crafting.
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