Much local outrage (again) at the news that the government is considering a ban on the use of corporal punishment in the home. I suspect we’ll see one (or more) open letters written this week on the subject.
The furore has, once again, ignited the fires of indignation at alleged government interference in our private lives, and with it, brought out a bewildering defensive pride in some parents, unapologetically crowing that they hit their kids and no-one was going to stop them.
This post is not here to agree or disagree with the proposed legislation. In addition, in writing it, I’m not intending to pass comment on your choice of parenting methods either. Although, I think some of these examples are going a bit far and I was unpleasantly surprised to find the Bible thinks corporal punishment is just fine (but apparently only cos it’s preferable to Hell):
The rod is the family’s symbol of authority: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:13-14.
Whole. Different. Argument.
So let’s not go there.
No, I just wanted to point out the strange (to me, at least) differences in the way we regard physical action against kids compared to physical action against other members of society.
To that end, I’ve taken some of the comments I saw on the subject this morning and I’ve removed any reference to kids and replaced it with a reference to women.
So now, they look like this:
My wife knows if she does something wrong, I’ll give her a hiding.
My dad used to beat my Mum, and it never did her any harm.
Sometimes, my girlfriend just won’t listen, and it’s the only way to get the message across.
My wife needs to know that when she doesn’t do as she’s told, she’ll get a good, hard smack.
It’s part of womanhood. It’s the only way they learn right from wrong.
Suddenly, it doesn’t seem quite so acceptable. Does it?
And before some idiot suggests it, I’m not accusing you of child abuse (the accepted legal definition thereof, anyway) or perpetrating domestic violence. So let’s be clear on that.
Disingenuous? I don’t know so much.
It’s a dichotomy I’ve never understood – the social acceptability of corporal punishment in kids versus the disgust at domestic violence. There’s obviously a difference between the two, but at the end of the day, it comes down to using physicality to exploit or demonstrate one’s superior power over a vulnerable individual.
There will be those who argue that the rules for adults and kids need to be different. And they’re absolutely right, but those differences should then be in favour of protecting children, not vice versa.
And then there’s the other way of looking at it: that rather than comparing adults and children, we’re actually comparing humans with humans. So what makes it right to physically punish one group, when it’s plainly not ok to physically punish another?
So where do we draw the line? And why and how exactly did we choose to draw it there?