We have been living as a family for about 20 months now and I have realised that toddlers, especially, can raise your temper. They seem to know just which buttons to push to get the best, or worst reaction from you as a parent. I have done some reading on less desirable behaviour and in most cases the responses should be a calm conversation about their emotions and actions. It is not as publicly accepted these days, but one thing I have realised recently is that smacking your kid is not your fault. Hang with me here while I explain. Mr A and I were raised on smacking and there is more to this response than what meets the eye of the public. There are undertones of control and punishment, power and hate. No, smacking is not a fault in your being- it is a decision you make.
Mr 20 months made me so angry yesterday, He was tipping my drinks on the floor, pulling my hair and clothes and incessantly crying or whingeing. The worst thing though is that to express his frustration he was hitting me. Yesterday I audibly heard him hit my husband, and it was so loud that I had initially thought it was Mr A hitting Master X. Thankfully I was wrong and instead my gentle husband was just looking at us both in shock saying repeatedly ‘He hit me. All I did was say no and he slapped me across the face.’
I am not sure why I would have even thought that my husband would think of hitting our son, but I guess it comes back to our parental history of being smacked ourselves. Times have changed and we now understand that physical harm to a young person changes the chemicals in their brain and neural pathways making it difficult for them to form relationships and respond appropriately to stimuli. It means that as parents now, we are still expecting relationships with kids to be formed based on power and control, even if that is not what we consciously want for our little ones. In this way, the thoughts of smacking are ingrained in our mind’s response system and it is our responsibility as adults looking after little people, to stop, think and respond rather than react. A reaction would be a symptom of our ‘fault’ whereas a response would be our decision.
So how do we manage not only the complex emotions of our children, but also deal with our own histories? I think it is useful to find a good support group whether it be informally through other parents, a counselling service or a formal discipline-training group. In Canberra we have Circle of Security which runs regularly. I have heard only positive feedback about this course, but it does not fit in with my frequent travel, so we opt for individual counselling. Whatever it is, build it into the decision making process – stop making smacking a fault, and start positive interactions with your children. It might stop the fault also developing in their little brains.