My contribution to this debate will be brief. I'd like to outline the position of a group of parents that has been largely overlooked or assumed not to exist. Parents in this group:
- Don't smack their kids.
- Don't really care if you smack your kids or not.
- Do understand the importance of discipline.
- Don't appreciate being categorised as radical liberals just because they choose a particular form of discipline.
- Are frustrated by a $9M referendum which, for them, is unanswerable in any meaningful way.
I'm only going to cover one aspect of this debacle so let's get to it. Here's a statement that has been noticeably absent from the current debate:
Forget all the ballyhoo about child psychology, legality and morals. Who cares what the hard-core lefties or righties think? There's a simple but powerful reason to take non-smacking seriously: It works.
Here's the thing...
Not smacking ≠ Not disciplining
In other words, choosing against smacking does not mean choosing against discipline. It means choosing a different type of discipline - the most popular being "time-out" or some variant. There are people who don't like the word punishment but I have no problem with it. Time-out is an effective punishment and deterrent. According to one source I read (wish I could cite it), time-out was rated by children as a worse punishment than smacking. My kids hate it. It's not soft.
I find that non-smackers usually understand discipline very well because they need to put a lot of thought and effort into it. If you don't smack your kids you must have a well-planned, consistent approach to punishment. I'm sure it actually helps me keep track of how consistent my discipline is.
As for the practical objections ("That would never work with my kids", "What about when you're at the supermarket?"), I won't try to predict and answer them all in one go. It's more efficient to say that non-smacking works well for many families and there are plenty of people willing to help you if you're keen to give it a try. Your local CAB is a good place to start.
I think my children are very well behaved. I have three (2, 4 & 18) and none of them have ever been smacked. Not because I'm so morally righteous but because it's working.