Parenting is a benign dictatorship. Sometimes smacking is necessary

January 30, 2012 1:26 pm

I was on my way home after an hour’s toddler-wrangling in church when I picked up a copy of the Mail on Sunday yesterday.

‘Labour MP: Smacking ban led to riots’ blazed the headline. Of course that’s not quite what Tottenham MP David Lammy had said.

What he did say is that too many parents “no longer feel sovereign in their own homes” and had lost “the ability to exercise their own judgment in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement”.

Lammy argues the 2004 Children Act has created this fear. “When the law changed in 2004, it was to deal with people who abused their children. The law at that time left judges to determine if a parent had used reasonable chastisement. Under the new arrangements it is left to social workers.”

Let me insert an obvious disclaimer here: There are impeccable liberal arguments why corporal punishment is a bad idea. It can hide genuine abuse of children. Violence often begets violence. And it isn’t pleasant to either witness or participate in the smacking of a child.

So this is territory where we rightly tread warily. But tread in it we should. David Lammy’s warning is a dispatch from the frontline. His remarks are plainly an attempt to search for answers to how we overcome the social malaise that led to last summer’s rioting and looting, notably in his own constituency.

“Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour Government, saying, ‘You guys stopped us being able to smack our children’” he warned.

Overcoming his initial suspicion at this claim, he nevertheless found many parents are “paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away” if they smack them.

The bigger question David Lammy is raising is the importance of active parenting. Parents are the glue binding our society together. We on the left often get too caught up approaching social policy as a question of institutions, structures and resources.

It is a public-sector orientated view of the world that sometimes shades out the role families play in providing the common good. In this case, as Lammy found, the law on smacking is serving to inhibit parents from actually parenting.

But if we start from the premise that children need boundaries and those boundaries need to be enforced by parents, then smacking – sparingly and in the context of loving a child – has a place.

It is a nightmare trying to legislate for every single instance of when, where and how. Is it legitimate to smack a child who persists in running in the road? Or one that hits another child after being warned not to?

For the overwhelming multitude of parents the line between acceptable chastisement and unacceptable physical abuse will be obvious enough. Those for whom it is not obvious probably aren’t held back by the law however it is framed.

The critical issue that David Lammy raises is not just that parents, fearful of officialdom’s repercussions, observe a self-denying ordinance in smacking a child; but that they surrender in the wider battle to instil values and behaviours in their children.

Passive parenting is not parenting at all. There is no room for equivocation. Bringing up children must be a benign dictatorship.

In my experience, parents who have never felt compelled to smack their children are either sainted or lying. And many struggling parents simply aren’t equipped to lock psychological horns with their children the way the textbooks would have us. They smack not out of anger, or as a fist resort; but out of a desire to raise their kids properly and when all other pleas have been exhausted.

It is easy for pontificators to occupy the moral high ground here, but until you have been ground down as a parent trying to bring up a child you cannot know how draining the experience can be.

And it’s a bit difficult for parents raising their kids “on the 15th floor of a tower block” in David Lammy’s constituency, to send a child to sit on a non-existent naughty step. Or to send them to bed early when they share a room with a sibling.

David Lammy is right to shine a light on this issue. Many will disagree with him, but the state cannot – and should not – reach into every living room in the land. We need parents to feel empowered in bringing up their children to know right and wrong. If they hold back, wary of a knock at the door from children’s services, then they will fail to do so.

And the consequences should be obvious enough.

  • Anonymous

    But most of those Kids were born before labour took power, and they could have been smacked, but smacking is an excuse for what is wrong within the UK, for to long the youths have been treated like  dirt, no party has really looked at what jobs they could have, McDonald  are now again
    the big employer.

    Remember when labour stated out kids were getting to fat and we should stop building these places, McDonalds gave labour £30 million for sports and labour dropped the idea of  not allowing this  company from building nears schools.

    the fact is money makes labour  move nothing else and Lammy is wrong smacking does nothing except make kids immune to it, you cannot say he does not agree with smacking and then say it caused a riot for god sake.

    Smack or not smacking but that was labour was it not DNA, ID cards  no smacking no smoking no no no. and then you get people saying Riots were caused because grown up youths did not get a smack what rubbish.

    No  jobs n dead end jobs no life and a warning if you take the youth of this country for granted they will fight back

  • http://twitter.com/keithmobrien Keith M. O’ Brien

    I’m really infuriated by this debate on smacking, and that LabourList would allow an article supporting it devoid of any real evidence or psychology on the effect of smacking on children.

    As a psychologist reading this debate here and on the Comment is Free section on smacking having a causal effect in the origins of rioting is just barmy. There is no proof that the rioters were or weren’t smacked.

    Psychological studies show smacking is relatively poor as a form of discipline, as it becomes ineffective easily and is useless with increasing age.

    Key indicators towards successful instillment of discipline in children/adolescents is the consistency of reward/punishment, the explanation and understanding of children as to the -why- behaviour is acceptable/unacceptable, and if you want to really get into it we can talk insecure/secure attachment theory which is proven to be significant.

    Or we can talk the effects of how learned models of behaviour from observing parents/peers are more significant, or the role of education and discipline in schools is a better predictor of ‘socially acceptable behaviour’ than smacking.

    So please, can we have some actual debate, and not political football with our children? Just because some Tottenham constituents want to smack their children (usually because they were smacked, or as a method of physically taking out their own frustrations [oft being the problem, its opening a door]) doesn’t mean its correct- psychologically or morally.

    • Kevin

      Thanks Keith, as I say, we tread warily on this issue, but the point David Lammy is making – and I am happy row in behind – is that too many parents feel under-equipped to discipline their own kids. 

      Not only is this not the business of the state to  micro-manage these things, but it doesn’t work either. We need to allow parents to parent.

      My message is certainly not carte blanche chastisement; just an a call for realism in how we raise kids. 

      I’m finding it hard to be quite as dogmatic as you. Save the armchair theorising for the lecture hall. 

      • Franwhi

        Kevin – there are so many points you could have raised on for example the serious need for parenting classes in the curriculum and beyond, promoting initiatives – like triple P which is having great results in empowering parents in Scotland and is even used with offenders in prison, like the need for more community stress centres were hard pressed and often impoverished parents can get some space and time for relaxation and learning self therapy techniques – like ghe grinding effects of POVERTY< POVERTY<POVERTY on family stress levels –  the links are well documented. Making claims about the link between the riots and smacking is facile – how many young people convicted were or have been victims of abuse, neglect  or child protection issues, how many are or have been looked after children – it's unlikely you've been hit by a parent if you've been abandoned at an early age but obviously that doesn't mean you've had good parenting models -One of the most corrosive and damaging effects comes from emotional abuse without raising a hand. Why no consideration of these aspects in realtion to young people's health and well being. So it's a lot more multidimensional than removing restraints on 'smacking' and you still haven't answered the question – what is 'smacking' – do we have a clear definition of that ?

        • Anonymous

          Hi Fran, I agree with what you say about parenting
          and support mechanisms.But somehow it never is enough.
          It may be that something has gone a bit fundamentally wrong,
          in that so many people appear confused and lost sight
          of some of the basics of bringing up children?

          I think it cuts across the whole of society- but perhaps
          in different ways.

          I do think generally there is less respect and a detrioration
          in attitudes and behaviour- but it’s not just the younger generation;
          it’s sometimes about selfishness and aggression.
          Personally I think things went downhill from the 80’s onwards
          in cultural sense- people much more out for themselves,
          and communities breaking up.

          Do you live in Scotland?
          I sense there is far more of a progressive set up there,
          eg in education- from what I’ve seen looking up schools
          when we nearly moved there about a year ago- I was much impressed with the standards and variety and quality of curriculum.

          I’m not sure about the last part of your post- was that intended?

          Cheers, Jo.

          • Anonymous

            Of course it’s not poverty that makes people smack, it’s the ability to manage, after all if you cannot manage a child at home, your then perhaps expected to run an office, interesting. We were told that brown for example was a bully to those below him, he had problems.

            I suspect it’s the way one is brought up I cannot remember my mother ever hitting me when when she rose he voice we knew our pocket money and bed early was coming.

            Smacking a child after danger well that’s a flight response, but smacking while in control is a form of  bullying. Smacking because you enjoy the power which I think a lot of it ends up being, or you wished you did not have children, or drunk or one drugs, well then that’s an offence and the police should act

      • http://twitter.com/keithmobrien Keith M. O’ Brien

         Kevin,

        I appreciate your adherence to realism, it is a great pity then that you consider the entire field of child psychology and research in social care to be “armchair theorising for the lecture hall”. If such efforts are to be met with nonchalant ignorance and condescension by Labour commentators on these issues, psychologists must wonder what is the point in getting up in the morning.

        Far from dogmatic I am an evidence-based realist, and a strong moral realist. You may want to focus your call for realism internally before pontificating to others.

        If you find my reply someone irritating and condescending, then I can only hold my hands up and say ‘I learned what is acceptable behaviour from those who are meant to be my elders’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall


      There is no proof that the rioters were or weren’t smacked.”

      Perfectly put.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Keith, I don’t read this as advocating smacking or taking an absolute position;
      more, perhaps opening up a debate on why parents feel unconfident and unskilled
      in knowing methods of using discipline?

      Also- David L might be reflecting a kind of knee jerk reaction or “easy answers”
      from many of his constituents; it might be easier to articulate in this way?

      I do honestly believe there are wider questions to be aired, also
      that people are able to be honest about what they feel as a starting point.

      In my experience as an HV for about 8 years, there were a whole range of people ringing up for very basic advice, and many previously articulate and skilled people completely floundering, including doctors! Especially first time parents- it’s a real shock
      to the system and a complete change of life for both partners, where that applies.

      Many have little support from extended family or are geographically isolated.
      Very high incidence of postnatal depression too- across all sections of society.

      I personally believe one of the key components needed is strong social and peer support,
      and basic needs such as adequate housing and living in a supportive community;
      having friends and family around, access to childcare and good schools etc.

      I speak as a Mum too, and know the joys as well as pressures!

      Jo

    • Anonymous

      Sorry but this is garbage.

      Parents don’t want to smack their children to take out their own frustrations they are just trying to exert some control in a world where your child can walk up to you, punch you in the face and then have you arrested for spanking them on the bum to curb their behaviour.

      The fact is sitting down and explaining why behaviour is unacceptable rather falls down when your 13 year old son or daughter comes home drunk or stoned at 3am and tells you to go forth and multiply when you try to talk to them.

      As for discipline in schools? Great idea, how do we get some of that then when the teachers are scared of the kids and have no way of punishing them?

      The threat of suspension is considered like a free holiday by young yobs and it seems to be almost impossible to actually expel someone these days so what exactly can a teacher do to “discipline” a teenager that stands up in there class and launches a foul mouthed rant at them, physically attacks them or worse makes up some false sexual allegation about them?

      • Anonymous

        You are painting the most extreme example.

        Also- no one is “talking garbage” if genuinely held view.

        Are you hoping to open up a debate by insulting people?

        • Anonymous

          It’s really not that extreme. I wasn’t too far away from it myself in my teens.

          • Anonymous

            OK Winston, I understand the general points; I see and hear about some of this behaviour on the odd occasion- but it tends to be at the most extreme end.

            I’d agree teachers have a very tough job, eg in inner city areas or near tough estates.

            I do believe very strongly in structure and discipline-
            but also setting a good example by behaviour- not corporal punishment.Severe sanctions are sometimes needed, but I don’t think violence is ever acceptable, not least because it doesn’t produce any positive effect and could actually increase aggression or damage a person psychologically in the longer term.

            I do think some schools and probably many parents have a rather blase attitude to bad behaviour- that can include foul language, lack of respect to other kids and teachers, constant messing about in class, and agressive incidents.

            So much emphasis on academia and filling in graphs; perhaps sometimes lack of attention to encouraging social skills and an ethos of community.

            Anyway, I digress.

            Sorry if you had a tough time of it- quite frankly comp schools can be a bit of a jungle; but a lot of good stuff happening too these days I think.

            Cheers, Jo.

        • Anonymous

          Saying that parents beat their kids to take out their frustrations is garbage plain and simple regardless of how genuinely held a view it is.

          Demonising anyone who does anything you disagree with doesn’t exactly open up debate either and yet you don’t seem to mind people painting anyone who smacks their child as some kind of abusive monster. 

          • Anonymous

            It’s not garbage is it if you have to use violence to control anyone it means you have lost control, as for a child punching you for god sake.

            Most violence and I including smacking is done because of the lost of control and anger drink drugs or just a lousy parent

          • Anonymous

            I think some people DO hit their children to take out their frustrations. If you stand at a bus stop in the morning or afternoon when a mum or dad is relunctantly dragging their offspring to or from school, you will frequently see the parent getting angry and often giving the kid a clip or slap because the bus is late, or for some other fairly trivial reason.

            I frequently see this at a bus stop near my home – a woman built like a brick outhouse with two kids – one about 8 and the other 6 or so. Interestingly she only nags the older one, for some reason the younger smaller one gets the wallop. Both get a string of four letter words slung at them. If that is the way she chooses  to bring her kids up, she – and the rest of us – will suffer for it one day.

      • Anonymous

        How bloody old is the child to walk up to you and smack you in the face and if they did this I suspect something  gone wrong in the family.

        My son and daughter were never smacked and they have never tried to hit me, now I have brought up to very troubled grand children from the age of four, one is six ft five in college and his my carer, the other is fourteen and is bench pressing 200lbs and is a  junior weight lifting team. he is also a kick boxing team.

        He has never  even hinted of hitting anyone, if you have to revert to hitting because your child has punched you the question is do you need help in parenting.

        If you cannot control a child your life is going to bit a bit of a problem for you,

    • Anonymous

      Apart from the lack of evidence you identify, the fatal flaw in these arguments favouring smacking is that they focus on the needs of the parent and not those of the child. On the semantics of smacking: ‘Here a smack, there a smack’ is at http://www.tanglemedia.com/blog/?p=471

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

    Smacking children is immoral.

    And it teaches them that violence is a way to achieve solutions.

    Now, what I am going to say here is liable to misinterpretation, so let me be very clear: I think the overwhelming reason Black British kids in the UK, and African-American kids in the US, end up in the criminal justice system is that the criminal justice systems in both countries are intrinsically racist in both their operations and in the way they search out Black perpetrators.  I DO NOT THINK Black kids are more susceptible to criminality than white kids.

    Furthermore, I note that working class white kids, in both the UK and US, are more likely to be subject to the police and court systems than middle class kids. (Using a UK definition here.)

    Yet, every survey, in both the UK and US shows that Black parents are more willing to use physical punishment than white parents; and working class parents (in the UK) are more willing to physical punishment than middle class parents.  

    I expect adjusting for “all others things considered” is impossible in discussing such surveys, but *unless one can show* that it is only or mostly the non-physically disciplined Black kids (both US and UK) or mostly the non-physically disciplined working class kids that get into trouble (and I doubt either is possible), then we already have a situation in which the more often physically disciplined kids (ie. Black and Working Class) are getting into trouble with the CJ system.

    As I have indicated the variables are so hard to evaluate that is is just possible that Lammy is right.  Hitting you kids to make them behave better might just work.  

    But there is no way of demonstrating this, and in fact, the stats on their face would seem to refute him.

    Lammy is an all round disappointment.

    • Kevin

      ‘Smacking is immoral’. Do you at least accept there is a difference
      between reasonable chastisement (even if you disagree with it) and beating? Or is
      any physical contact immoral?

      What about grabbing a child to prevent them running under a
      bus?

      This is the problem: the law is an ass and open to panoramic
      interpretations. This is what Lammy is talking about when he says parents are
      wary of disciplining their kids, with all the attendant repurcussions.

      • Anonymous

        And then smacking them talk some sense  grabbing a child is not smacking them what drivel. The idea that if you grabbed a child from being killed you would be taken to court is laughable.

      • Anonymous

        Kevin: You are obviously “into” this topic.

        Perhaps we should have a “whip round” for you.

        You are entitled to a fair crack of the whip

        • Mr Chippy

          Although I wish he would stop beating about with his comments.

          • Anonymous

            Puns about child abuse?

            New low for LL.

          • Anonymous

            Oh dear we did knock our funny bone today didn’t we?. If you read the puns they are to do with Kevin’s enthusiasm for his subject, not about beating children, which I happen to think is wrong.
             
            I hope that clairifies the position, however if you had read what I had written on the subject in total, I think you would have seen that I was using humour to make -I hope – some valid points.
             
            Besides that, are you not being a little hypocritical?. You object to a few puns and imply that I find hitting children funny, yet you seem to be – if not in favour – at least neutral – on the subject of hitting children. I quote: ” Smacking children may be against YOUR morals, but that doesn’t mean it is against everyone elses.      “

          • Anonymous

            Hypocritical? I’ve treated the subject with the seriousness it deserves, so no.

            I’ve made jokes about many things that are not in themselves funny in my time. So, no, I’m not implying you find the subject funny. But never on a public forum in an erstwhile serious discusion.

            It shows a lack of judgement in my opinion.

          • Anonymous

            “It shows a lack of judgement in my opinion”

            In that case, consider me chastened and rebuked.

            I promise not to make another joke all week, so Duncan-Smith and Liam Byrne are safe :-)

          • Anonymous

            My initial post was probably overly harsh.

            A “come on guys” might have been more appropriate.

          • Anonymous

            That’s O.K – lets forget about it. I just feel sometimes you have to laugh about things to stop  you from crying, and frankly some of the nonsense of the last 15 years, 90  days detention, never ending wars,  Straw, Blunkett, Purnell, Blair, Duncan-Smith, Grayling could induce melancholia if you didn’t poke fun at the perpetrators: that is what I was doing with Lammy and Kevin

          • Anonymous

            That’s O.K – lets forget about it. I just feel sometimes you have to laugh about things to stop  you from crying, and frankly some of the nonsense of the last 15 years, 90  days detention, never ending wars,  Straw, Blunkett, Purnell, Blair, Duncan-Smith, Grayling could induce melancholia if you didn’t poke fun at the perpetrators: that is what I was doing with Lammy and Kevin

          • Anonymous

            Tell me the last Tory who knew what a joke was oh yes Major sadly he was a joke.

    • Anonymous

      Correlation is not causation.

    • Anonymous

      In addition. Moral codes can only ever be volantarily accepted, not forced upon people. Smacking children may be against YOUR morals, but that doesn’t mean it is against everyone elses.

      • Anonymous

        What your a moral smacker then, bloody hell you go well with New labour

        • Anonymous

          Do you disagree?

          • Anonymous

            Are you really saying you could not handle a three or five year old child without smacking him or her, bloody hell.,

          • Anonymous

            Are you really saying you could not handle a three or five year old child without smacking him or her, bloody hell.,

          • Anonymous

            Do you disagree with my point about morals? Yes or no?

          • Anonymous

            Let me rephrase it then.

            Do you understand my point about morals?

          • Anonymous

            Nope mate I do not agree with anyones  moral who see Child abuse as a way of  making one a better person in your view.

            Once that child grows up  then try hitting him he’s big enough then to lay you out then see who has the moral

          • Anonymous

             That’s a no then.

  • charles.ward

    And lets not forget that under Labour the state handed out higher and higher child benefit and tax credit payments removing the financial responsibility from parents to provide for their children.  How about Labour’s proposals that the children of wealthy parents be discriminated against in university admissions because they have an “unfair” advantage.

    Truely Labour was, and still is, the party of parental irresponsibility.  Do the right thing and  your children will be punished, do nothing and we will hand you money on a plate.

    • Anonymous

      Lucky the rich did not get those child credits and allowance then.

    • Anonymous

      What has this got to do with the matter at hand?

      • charles.ward

        It is about who has responsibility for raising children, the state or the parents.  Labour consistantly removed responsibility from parents and gave it to the state.  The law on smacking is just one aspect of this trend, I mentioned some others.

    • Anonymous

      Good points.

  • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

    Let’s hope Lammy never gets the chance to become home secretary – we’d probably get a smacking arms race: More riots? Smack ‘em harder!
    You couldn’t make it up.

  • Anonymous

    When I was a schoolboy you could get a good thrashing for nothing…..these days you have to pay for it.

    I know that sounds flippant, but seriously, David Lammy is becoming another young fogey who wants to sound as tough as a hang ‘em, flog ‘em right wing Conservative.

    As far as I am aware, it is not illegal to smack a child, merely, and rightly, to use excessive force, and cause injury.

    I freely admit I would be more than happy to see people who inflict violence and injury on animals, children and people who are vulnerable given a dose of their own medicine, but I don’t really see that giving a kid a good (bad) smack is going to stop him or her from bad behaviour.

    I was quite serious – when I was at school the cane and slipper could be used with impunity by any teacher for the flimsiest reason – even if you were not quick enough in answering a question. We had one sadist who threw the blackboard cleaning brush at approximately where he thought any noise was coming from – quite often he would hit somebody who was entirely innocent of his complaint. This sort of behaviour was a gift to some of the more kinky members of the profession – there were out and out sadists. I often wondered how some of these “men” behaved with their own children. 

    I think speaking very sharply and withdrawal of treats and priviledges is a far better option than using violence.

    Quite often it is kids who have had violence used on them in the home who become violent themselves, and bully others

    • Anonymous

      Well you think it’s normal, and you think  since you had violence then it normal to give  violence back.

      But to hit a child and think this somehow  gives that child a view of right and wrong.

      • Anonymous

        No that is not my view and I have said so in terms. I don’t agree with it, and I think Lammy is doing what he does so well – talking out of his hat

  • Anonymous

    When I was a schoolboy you could get a good thrashing for nothing…..these days you have to pay for it.

    I know that sounds flippant, but seriously, David Lammy is becoming another young fogey who wants to sound as tough as a hang ‘em, flog ‘em right wing Conservative.

    As far as I am aware, it is not illegal to smack a child, merely, and rightly, to use excessive force, and cause injury.

    I freely admit I would be more than happy to see people who inflict violence and injury on animals, children and people who are vulnerable given a dose of their own medicine, but I don’t really see that giving a kid a good (bad) smack is going to stop him or her from bad behaviour.

    I was quite serious – when I was at school the cane and slipper could be used with impunity by any teacher for the flimsiest reason – even if you were not quick enough in answering a question. We had one sadist who threw the blackboard cleaning brush at approximately where he thought any noise was coming from – quite often he would hit somebody who was entirely innocent of his complaint. This sort of behaviour was a gift to some of the more kinky members of the profession – there were out and out sadists. I often wondered how some of these “men” behaved with their own children. 

    I think speaking very sharply and withdrawal of treats and priviledges is a far better option than using violence.

    Quite often it is kids who have had violence used on them in the home who become violent themselves, and bully others

    • Mr Chippy

      Alan this time I agree with you. Did you see Lammy’s perforamnce on Question Time? He made a ranting trot look articulate. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

        Lammy was really lousy on Question Time.

        As for the “ranting trot” (in fact Mark Steel resigned from the SWP in 2007 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Steel ), for the most part, I agreed with him.  

        At least he knows enough to challenge conservative narratives. Lammy did not even seem aware that there are different ways of narrating the same events.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

        Lammy was really lousy on Question Time.

        As for the “ranting trot” (in fact Mark Steel resigned from the SWP in 2007 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Steel ), for the most part, I agreed with him.  

        At least he knows enough to challenge conservative narratives. Lammy did not even seem aware that there are different ways of narrating the same events.

        • Mr Chippy

          Paul,  I didn’tknow the SWP had the rights to be called trots. I thought they would be against monopolies. Seriously you have missed the point I was primarily having a dig at Lammy. Anyway you will not get far in this dialogue as you are chatting to an old tankie. Colin 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

      I had more than one teacher who threw the blackboard eraser at students. Dreadful.

      • Anonymous

        Black board  erasers  my god that takes me back, we had wood craft and the teacher use to throw the tools at you, I still have the scare just above my right eye brown, he threw a chisel at me. Then we had the sports teacher who use to throw cricket balls at you to make you run  faster. And the head teacher who was a Priest who would wallop you with a  cane, just to see you jump.

        Ah the good old days of schools little wonder I hated school so much

      • Anonymous

        And we had a boy who stood up in the middle of a class and punched a girl beside him right in the mouth knocking out her front teeth. He was suspended for a laughable four days and then put straight back into the same class as the girl who unsurprisingly left the school shortly after.

        We also had a girl who on being told off by a teacher picked up a chair and threw it in his face. I think she was suspended for a full week. 

        We also had in our street a situation where some school kids were walking down the street, saw a brick by the side of the road and decided to throw it through a nearby shops window. The shop keeper chased the child (I think he was about 13-15) caught him and held him till the police arrived. He was promptly arrested for “assaulting” a minor because the kid and his friends stood there shouting how the shopkeeper had been punching and kicking them (of course neither been hit at all and neither had a scratch on him). 

        If you tell an unruly child that they can behave in any way they like with absolutely no punishment then don’t be surprised when that unruly child becomes a yobbish teenager and then a violent adult.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

      I had more than one teacher who threw the blackboard eraser at students. Dreadful.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad this whole debate has been raised on parenting and behaviour,
    but I’m surprised David L uses the example of smacking as a starting point?

    I fully appreciate though, he may be reflecting some of his constituents’ views;
    and hopefully this can lead to a more enlightened discussion.

    There’s so much one could say- it’s such a wide topic.

    My personal view is that in the context of pressures of modern society,
    parents and family units have become more isolated; also there seems
    to be far less certainty and more confusion about “do’s and don’ts”
    of raising a child. This cuts across class, but clearly the pressures
    are much greater for families struggling on low incomes or living
    in social deprivation, poor housing, on grotty estates, with factors
    like high crime, great stress and poor health, lack of support and access
    to services, etc.

    Increased vulnerability factors would include young single parents,
    isolation, mental health problems, drug and alcohol dependence,
    domestic abuse and violence, unemployed, poor housing,
    lack of extended family support, lack of access to statutory services,
    language/cultural barriers.

    It’s not just a simple matter of teaching parenting skills like a sticking plaster,
    (although as part of the whole picture can be very useful.)

    More that’s needed is acknowledging and addressing the specific
    social and economic factors; building up community support,
    providing decent and accessible services and clear information.
    Also- key people/professionals that are trusted to support families
    and link into umbrella services- such as Surestart- which has a range
    of trained and experienced staff who can do “outreach” work as well
    as provide informal drop in’s and groups to encourage social/peer support.

    I think many people struggle with parenting; it seems like an impossible
    task at times, with little guidance or parameters, and many cultural pressures.
    There are also different views on this; my parents’ generation apparently
    believe society has become far too “liberal”and there is a huge lack of
    discipline, which they believe also affects how teachers can behave in schools.
    I would agree to some extent- but not with the same emphasis.

    I believe all children need a loving parent/parents/carer,
    who are able to provide a stable home enviroment and
    clear boundaries/structure to family life.
    The quality of relationships are what really matters,
    regardless of parenting styles.

    As for “smacking” I don’t think that’s the right starting point
    for discussion- but perhaps discipline and behaviour in general.

    It’s not just kids that need support and guidance-
    it’s often parents too.

    I’m sure there will be many views on this.

    Thanks, Jo.

    • Anonymous

      I was bought up by my grandparents, despite the fact that I am in my 60s, so you can guess how long ago they were born (the 1890s) they never laid a finger on me. My grandad had been in the Navy, and if I ever stepped out of line, a sharp word from him  and/or   just a look from my gran was enough to put a stop to any bad behaviour.

      I am sure people of David Lammy’s generation would think that my grandparents were very out of touch in many aspects of todays society, yet they knew that the best way to correct bad behaviour was not through smacking.
      In a way, if you think about, smacking a child is more to give satisfaction and to assert power in the adult, rather than to  correct a child’s behaviour.

      My best friend at school had a father who was very much of the “spare the rod” state of mind, and was only too ready to use his fists, with the result he grew up being afraid of his dad, and by the time he was bigger and stronger than his dad, he had nothing but contempt for him.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Alan, thankyou for sharing experience- your grandparents sound like they were very caring and effective in their roles.

        I think I agree with the premise of what you are saying about smacking in general used for discipline; but it has to be said not every parent who resorts to a mild pat to set a line with behaviour is a bad parent.
        I don’t think anyone should be promoting this- but there is a need to be realistic, and use common sense.
        But beating a child systematically is a whole different matter.

        I agree with what you say about instilling respect and talking with a child- making boundaries clear, but in a loving way.
        Children do need to know what the basic family “rules” are- but they can be involved in setting them as they get older too.
        Parents struggle too, as I’m sure you’d agree.

        What I heard from both my parents was a very different story back in the 40’s and 50’s; in my Mum’s grammar school, children were caned regularly
        in front of the class for quite minor reasons; and at home it was excessively strict.But she still loved school, and everyone knew their place.

        Good parenting doesn’t just spring out of the blue
        in isolation- it involves a whole range of factors.

        My Mum tells me back in the 60’s, many people had little money,
        lived in small houses or apartments, and had no personal transport-
        relied on buses or walking.And yet- on those estates, Mums
        in particular would all see each other most days; eg hanging out the washing, swapping cups of sugar, standing on the doorsteps
        and chatting with the milkman or postman, neighbors etc.
        Front doors could be left open, children played out all day,
        and knew everyone in their street.

        Maybe some of that still exists- but I think more an exception.
        It’s sad, because so many new parents really struggle
        and don’t know anyone locally; families much more apart.
        Lack of cultural norms and cohesiveness.

        So I think the kind of factors that improve a child’s life
        are relationships at home, in the community, friends locally,
        and parents’ well being, school life, variety of experiences.

        On a different track, but related, I was just listening to a programme about education on R4- “Analysis” just now. Estelle Morris, previous minister was reflecting back on whether all those league tables made much of a difference to parents, and children’s outcomes- considering the major factor of social deprivation.
        (I think league tables and constant targeting should be scrapped.)

        One phrase that stuck out for some reason was implied hard to reach
        “uninterested, demoralized and dysfunctional families.”

        I’ve heard a teacher recently commenting that many parents can’t be bothered- eg with helping with homework, keeping in touch with the school,reporting problems or even showing any kind of interest in their child’s education. Maybe they don’t value it; maybe they had bad experiences at school; maybe it reflects their general attitude and level of parenting- I don’t know. I suspect it can also apply in some ways to rich parents who may value possessions and holidays more than education; maybe it comes down to attitude and experience.
         
        I do think people need to take a more responsible attitude;
        parents’ behaviour has a direct impact on their kids.
        But there is no one size fits all solution- it’s multifaceted.
        I personally think wider aspects of culture and community counts for a great deal; also extended family networks and support.

        Jo

        • Anonymous

          Hi Jo, Yes when I was at school there was liberal use of the cane for the most trivial of reasons, and I strongly suspect many of the teachers who were so enthusiastic in its use (they are long dead now I expect) used it because they enjoyed doing so. In short, one or two (I can think of two in my school in particular  were just plain dirty old men).

          I  think that was what surprised me more than anything else. You got to 11, went to the secondary modern, and all of a sudden you could get physical punishment for really trivial reasons: I got the cane twice: once from a technical drawing master because I accidently made a smudge rubbing out a line on the quarter inch square border all round on the sheet of A5 paper (for which we were given 6″ rulers to draw), and once fropm the science master because we were ordered to stand absolutely still for five minutes with our hands on our heads, and three minutes in  I sneezed and automatically put my hand to my nose. I resented it, but I just thought these teachers were pathetic – they just wanted to at best show their superiority, and at worst, wanted to covertly indluge their perversion, because I am convinced some of those teachers (and indeed pupils, who hanker after the “good old days” have sado-masochistic tendencies.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

            As a 5 year old I had to transfer to a Scottish infant school in Irvine, Ayrshire  and I simply did not understand what I was supposed to do in Arithmetic class.  The teacher – called Miss Love! — rapped me hard over the knuckles simply for not grasping the concepts.  The headmaster of the school used to walk around with a tawse – a leather beating instrument which had split ends so as to hurt more.

            Now, 45 years later, I still have utter contempt for those adults who though that there was any justification for big adults to use violence on kids.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Alan for sharing valuable experience in the debate.

            It’s been hard to find the article today for some reason.

            Might be signing off from LL soon- but wishing you all the best.

            Jo 

          • Anonymous

            Sorry to hear that Jo. Mind you having just read that Liam Byrne wants to revive the long dead corpse of “The Third Way”, it gets me down sometimes too. Hammer Horror meets New Labour – what a dreadful thought! Take care, Alan

  • Anonymous

    There’s so much one could say- it’s such a wide topic.

    My personal view is that in the context of pressures of modern society,
    parents and family units have become more isolated; also there seems
    to be far less certainty and more confusion about “do’s and don’ts”
    of raising a child. This cuts across class, but clearly the pressures
    are much greater for families struggling on low incomes or living
    in social deprivation, poor housing, on grotty estates, with factors
    like high crime, great stress and poor health, lack of support and access
    to services, etc.

    Increased vulnerability factors would include young single parents,
    isolation, mental health problems, drug and alcohol dependence,
    domestic abuse and violence, unemployed, poor housing,
    lack of extended family support, lack of access to statutory services,
    language/cultural barriers.

    It’s not just a simple matter of teaching parenting skills like a sticking plaster,
    (although as part of the whole picture can be very useful.)

    More that’s needed is acknowledging and addressing the specific
    social and economic factors; building up community support,
    providing decent and accessible services and clear information.
    Also- key people/professionals that are trusted to support families
    and link into umbrella services- such as Surestart- which has a range
    of trained and experienced staff who can do “outreach” work as well
    as provide informal drop in’s and groups to encourage social/peer support.

    I think many people struggle with parenting; it seems like an impossible
    task at times, with little guidance or parameters, and many cultural pressures.
    There are also different views on this; my parents’ generation apparently
    believe society has become far too “liberal”and there is a huge lack of
    discipline, which they believe also affects how teachers can behave in schools.
    I would agree to some extent- but not with the same emphasis.

    I believe all children need a loving parent/parents/carer,
    who are able to provide a stable home enviroment and
    clear boundaries/structure to family life.
    The quality of relationships are what really matters,
    regardless of parenting styles.

    As for “smacking” I don’t think that’s the right starting point
    for discussion- but perhaps discipline and behaviour in general.

    It’s not just kids that need support and guidance-
    it’s often parents too.

    I’m sure there will be many views on this.

    Thanks, Jo.

    • Anonymous

      Mark, would you mind editing out repeat postings of comments please?
      My original post got something like “system error” which confused me,
      so I attempted to post again.Then a whole load came through.

      I don’t mind requests for any editing, or feedback of course-
      but please let me know if there is a problem at any time.

      Thankyou, Jo.

      • Anonymous

        The post error actually means it’s been posted.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks Robert- but most of the time is doesn’t happen.

          I hope Mark has the time to do this,
          as it takes up too much on thread.

          Signing off now anyway, cheers.

          Jo

          • Anonymous

            It’s a fault that this system has all that happens  the system is blocked up holds your comment in a  line and then once the system has eased off it posts.

          • Anonymous

            OK thanks Robert, I just wish some way of removing duplicates, as original was a longer post.
            Sorry- don’t want to go on about this- was posting in good faith some time ago!!

            Jo

          • Anonymous

            The fault is not just on this site it’s a problem with the whole system

          • Anonymous

            The fault is not just on this site it’s a problem with the whole system

  • Anonymous

    There’s so much one could say- it’s such a wide topic.

    My personal view is that in the context of pressures of modern society,
    parents and family units have become more isolated; also there seems
    to be far less certainty and more confusion about “do’s and don’ts”
    of raising a child. This cuts across class, but clearly the pressures
    are much greater for families struggling on low incomes or living
    in social deprivation, poor housing, on grotty estates, with factors
    like high crime, great stress and poor health, lack of support and access
    to services, etc.

    Increased vulnerability factors would include young single parents,
    isolation, mental health problems, drug and alcohol dependence,
    domestic abuse and violence, unemployed, poor housing,
    lack of extended family support, lack of access to statutory services,
    language/cultural barriers.

    It’s not just a simple matter of teaching parenting skills like a sticking plaster,
    (although as part of the whole picture can be very useful.)

    More that’s needed is acknowledging and addressing the specific
    social and economic factors; building up community support,
    providing decent and accessible services and clear information.
    Also- key people/professionals that are trusted to support families
    and link into umbrella services- such as Surestart- which has a range
    of trained and experienced staff who can do “outreach” work as well
    as provide informal drop in’s and groups to encourage social/peer support.

    I think many people struggle with parenting; it seems like an impossible
    task at times, with little guidance or parameters, and many cultural pressures.
    There are also different views on this; my parents’ generation apparently
    believe society has become far too “liberal”and there is a huge lack of
    discipline, which they believe also affects how teachers can behave in schools.
    I would agree to some extent- but not with the same emphasis.

    I believe all children need a loving parent/parents/carer,
    who are able to provide a stable home enviroment and
    clear boundaries/structure to family life.
    The quality of relationships are what really matters,
    regardless of parenting styles.

    As for “smacking” I don’t think that’s the right starting point
    for discussion- but perhaps discipline and behaviour in general.

    It’s not just kids that need support and guidance-
    it’s often parents too.

    I’m sure there will be many views on this.

    Thanks, Jo.

  • Anonymous

    Somebody must be blaming labour for the Riots then and we get this rot, perhaps after a year working tossing burgers I’d feel like Rioting.

  • James

    I’ve read the comments with interest, how many of the comments are from parents, who feel helpless, when you feel you are not able to discipline your children as parents, without outside control? I do not advocate beating children, but, as a parent, there are certain times when a smack or even a severe talking too, is warranted.
    I am sick and tired of being told what we can and cannot do, as parents, for the best, by a bunch of left wing morons, who are to blame for the complete lack of discipline in schools, where children can walk out of class purely because they don’t like it! Children are children, they need guidance,nurturing, and to learn respect in their lives. Without it you see the consequences we saw last summer.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to add here Mark, but I just emailed to explain possible problem with disqus
    system; have now tried to return email- but reply not getting through either!
    So just to let you know I have tried- many thanks again for looking into.

    Jo

  • Anonymous

    On this Lammy is absolutely right.

    • Anonymous

      yes  this could be the reason we have so many idiots as politicians  Mummy knocked them about a bit, and Dada  kicked the stuffing out of them. hence they cannot hold down a real job and end up being MP’s.

  • Anonymous

    David Lammy is an idiot.

    • Anonymous

      And your solution is Jeff? Ah what am I saying you’re not interested in solutions / there isn’t a problem anyway / all kids are angels.

      There is a substantial difference between physical violence and a good smack on the bum.

      Perhaps you should look up anyone mugged and beaten up by a gang of teenage yobs, I’m sure they can tell you the difference.

      This pathetic outrage over parents disciplining their kids in an entirely reasonable way is so typical of the left.

      • Anonymous

        I have never offered physical violence to any living thing weaker then me and never will. Behaviour like that is beneath me. The kind of anti-social behaviour being talked about springs not from a lack of discipline in the home but from deprivation and a lack of opportunity more than anything else. Generally the children of the well educated, fortunate and the wealthy do not end up as gang members or petty criminals. Is this because the middle and upper-middle classes beat the bad out of their children? Of course not. Middle and upper-middle class parents instil desirable behaviours in their children by means of example, encouragement and reward. The roots of violence and crime and anti-social behaviour in individuals can most often be traced back to poverty, deprivation and hopelessness  during their formative years. If we lived in a kinder more enlightened world which provided more opportunity, affordable housing of the highest standard, secure jobs and careers that attracted living wages I would bet the farm that violent behaviour would be massively reduced. 

        • Anonymous

          Totally 100% agree with you.

  • Worrichy

    Utter rubbish, lazy parents who pay no attention to their children smack them to show that power lies in the hands of the physically stronest. If the parents of those involved in the riots had provided their children with a decent nights sleep every night, a proper diet and some care, attention and a clear set of rules there’d be no need at all to hit them. Parents can smack their children they just can’t abuse them Lammy is sticking up for lazy parents using a lazy excuse.

  • Anonymous

    I do wonder if the self-righteous smug Mr Lammy thinks physical discipline should be given to MPs who exploit the expenses system?

    http://www.haringeyindependent.co.uk/news/topstories/9153347.Politician_tops_Westminster_expenses_list/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

    The debate around “what to do about the behaviour of kids today” is probably second in age only to the “world’s oldest profession”.

    The facts are, to put it mildly, inconclusive: and yet within small datasets there are sufficiently anecdotal instances that most people will draw a view, in part or in whole, based on them and consider them sacred: whether it is the unruly counsel estate kid, who lashes out at an unfair world, or the aloof upper class “trust brat” with the morals of a snake, we will naturally draw inferences that bear little relation to the whole on this question more than any other.

    In my opinion, the facts are these:

    1. All kids are different, and will require different stimuli to achieve a desired response (in this case, “civilised” behaviour).  By definition the effectiveness of these stimuli will also depend on prior experience and perception.

    2. Most children will go through a natural phase of testing boundaries, in order to explore the limits of their world – be that physically or sociologically.  Where those limits are not clearly defined, and there is wriggle room, I suggest we are naturally inclined to “wriggle”.

    3. We are, lest we forget, very similar to other animals – both genetically and sociologically speaking.  Civility and communication is a veneer (albeit a very important one) on top of our natural impulses and urges, but the behaviour and “society” we see in nature can be an important pointer towards our own responses at their most primal level.

    4. We are, I believe, all naturally inclined to think of our own preferred approach to childcare as the “most effective”, and most people would naturally take the view that they could do “a better job” of raising children than someone else.  This is, I suspect, a natural reaction to that most primal of all desires: to procreate and see one’s offspring succeed.

    So my conclusion is this: some children may need physical measures applied to instil necessary discipline (though as I say above, facts over the effectiveness of such measures have hardly been “scientifically” tested, and are certainly not proven), whereas in other children the anecdotal evidence suggests this would be ineffective or even counter-productive.  The key, and this is where I believe Lammy is correct to raise this issue, is to make parents feel empowered: disempowered parents will find they struggle against their primal impulses to follow a method of parenting they feel comfortable with – a most uncomfortable position to be – and it may be the case that children will naturally pick up on the resulting ambiguity by reacting more forcefully as a result.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

    I should probably add that IMO, the remaining issue is the obligation to prevent abuse: in historic times this would have been achieved naturally by the extended family and local community: in current times, particularly in modern cities with isolated nuclear families, we lose this natural “check and balance”.  Add in the almost visceral fear of paedophiles and a practically government-sponsored fear of sharing responsibility for your children with others and you end up with families living as “islands”.  This is very unhealthy, I believe.

Latest

  • Featured Labour’s London Mayoral hopefuls should lay off the Mansion Tax

    Labour’s London Mayoral hopefuls should lay off the Mansion Tax

    Over the summer, I wrote a piece for the Evening Standard in which I worried openly about: “Labour [Mayoral] hopefuls could spend months grandstanding, peeling away from party policy and ingratiating themselves with the London establishment.” Last week Ed Miliband announced that the party’s proposed “Mansion Tax” would be spent on funding the NHS. And in the week since, several London politicians who are likely Mayoral hopefuls (and a few other London politicians) have spent their time at best distancing […]

    Read more →
  • News Dance, Prime Minister, Dance

    Dance, Prime Minister, Dance

    It’s not subtle – but it’s not wrong either. Here’s Labour HQ’s stunt from Tory conference this afternoon…

    Read more →
  • Comment Ed’s speech: the missing bit

    Ed’s speech: the missing bit

    Pity poor Ed Miliband. Think of all of the weeks of preparation which he and his team must have spent on his conference speech, the last before the General Election. The speech which was designed to set out Labour’s vision for the country: a vision which was going to persuade us to give it a mandate for change. And after all that work, the only thing which anyone will ever remember about it is that he forgot the bit about […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Tory Minister says teenagers will have to “work forever”

    Tory Minister says teenagers will have to “work forever”

    Is it any wonder young people aren’t flocking to the Tory Party? Not only have they announced plans to slash benefits for young people today, but the Skills Minister took to a fringe event earlier to tell Britain’s teenagers that they will “work forever”. According to Politics Home, Nick Boles told a Policy Exchange event: “My message to them, which always puts them back on their feet but makes them laugh, is that basically they’re going to work forever, their […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: Labour conference and the Reckless defection

    Weekly Survey: Labour conference and the Reckless defection

    We are now well into party conference season, and while the media may have set their narrative for Labour’s conference last week, how do you feel it went? Take into account how it was reported, how it came across with voters, the policies that were announced, the performances of those representing the party and, of course, your own experiences of it. We want to know how party supporters really felt about it. Particularly, how did Shadow Cabinet members do? Shadow ministers […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y