Friday, 13 November 2009

I just smacked my daughter.

There.  I've said it.  I've put it out in the world.  I honestly don't know whether I'm expecting vitriol, empathy or the "knock, knock" on the door of the socialservicesautomaticallygoingtotakeallyourchildrenawaypolice that I torture myself with every time I'm a bad parent.

I never thought I'd be writing this.  I never thought I'd need to.  And anyway so much other stuff has gone on this week I thought I'd be writing about that.

But I'm not.  I'm writing about how I hit my daughter.  And left a big red hand print, with white bits between the marks of my fingers, on her perfect, naked, 2 and a half year old bottom.

She bit me, you see. B has gone out for a  pre-stag dinner (he can't go to the actual stag which is tomorrow) and so he was getting ready while I was in charge of the bath. I was trying to carry S into the bathroom and L wanted to be carried too. I can't really manage them both at once any more, and I told her that.  So she bit me.  Hard. On the shoulder.  There's a red mark there too, and the white imprint of twenty tiny teeth.

Years ago, I taught for a while in a school in Nepal.  Corporal punishment was the norm there and I was horrified.  I swore to myself I'd never hit a child.  But I did. Because they expected it, and when they discovered that I wouldn't hit them, they acted up. So I did.  But it escalates.  You start off doing it lightly and then they realise it doesn't hurt, so they do whatever it is they were doing again, and then you get angry and before you know it you've hit a child hard in anger.  And they're still misbehaving.  So I learned, quite quickly, that it doesn't work to hit a child.

Yet I have. And I did it consciously.  She bit me, I yelled in shock and pain, I paused, and then I smacked her.  I don't know that I thought it through, but in that pause I could have stopped myself and I didn't.  I think, if I try and analyse it now, I wanted her to feel as shocked as I was.

And the really frightening thing? It worked.  She cried, but B came downstairs and picked her up and she said she wanted to say sorry to Mummy.  So she came into the bathroom where I was bathing A and S and she apologised.  We talked about how biting was a naughty thing to do, and then she was lovely.  We had the best bath- and bedtime we've had in weeks. No complaining, no whinging; lovely stories, lovely cuddles; lots of giggling and very proudly putting her own pjs on; "I love you Mummy".

I realise that the reason it worked, if indeed it did work and wasn't just a coincidence, was the shock:  I suspect that she doesn't actually understand what happened.  So there's no point in doing it again, even if I wanted to. Which I don't. I'm hoping and planning that in twenty years time I'll be able to say "I only hit you once, you were two and a half and you bit me."

But then I never hoped or planned to hit her in the first place.  And yet, I don't feel that guilty about it either.

16 comments:

  1. This is a brave and honest post. But the problem is that children (and adults) who have been hit will always want to appease the person who hit them, and tell them they love them. This is why it 'worked'. I know it's really difficult but if she bites you again (or does anything else) then maybe try counting to 10 after you've shouted and see if you still have the urge to smack. Not judging, just suggesting x

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  2. I agree this is a brave post. I don't smack my children but I have a couple of friends who do. And so many of us were smacked as children (my parents did it with us) that it sometimes seems odd how anti-smacking most people are these days. My nearly 4 year old drives me absolutely insane sometimes and I do have an urge to smack him when he does this. When that happens I take a deep breath and walk away. Funily enough he can't stand it when I walk away and stop giving him attention, that's almost a punishment in itself!

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  3. I don't think smacking works. Amongst my many parenting fails (of which there are many), smacking is one of the few things that I haven't actually done. But I really understand how when you are surprised by a really hard bite (which really really hurts, those who've not been bitten don't necessarily understand the pain and surprise of it when it happens) that the natural instinct is to hit back. Hopefully you will be right, in 20 years time you'll look back and say that was the only time. In the meantime, thanks for posting about it. x

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  4. It's a hrad thing to admit, a hard thing to hold up to the light and really examine. And I'm sure you are going to get a lot of comments giving you food for thought on the merits of hitting or not hitting a child. I will say only this. you did not beat your child. You didn't hold them down and attack them. you gave her a hard smack, out of shock and anger and this once will have done no harm in the long term to your child or your relationship. So think about it yes, examine, deide on a course of action for the future all that stuff, but try not to give yourself too hard a time over it - it is something that most of us have done at one time or another. you are not alone.

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  5. I smacked my children. rarely, probably between the ages 3-4; at the point when they knew for sure they'd lived on the earth long enough not to need anyone else to be manager, thank you very much.

    on the plus side, i did not smack as a routine response, like *eatdinnerSMACK* more because i needed to make a total STOPTHEWORLDTURNING moment.

    a smack was the result of a situation where extreme/ unacceptable behaviour was damaging (or dangerous) for us all: a smack marked a context where i felt totally overwhelmed, had enough, and exhausted. (and probably feeling exactly like the mini person helping wreak havoc in front of me, or trying at that moment, like yours, to bite both my arms off.)

    afterwards i did not rush to cuddle and only a part of me felt guilty about using a smack as a stop point.

    i used that moment to take advantage of the stop and shock, and then i would talk over exactly how i have written above; how we had both got to the point that we were no longer listening or talking to each other, how the situation now was unacceptable to me too, how smacking and being smacked made us both feel horrible, how the moments leading up to that smack made us both feel in terms of personal control; the lot. That was probably abuse by psychoanalysis.

    in terms of my language it did not matter that the child might be aged 3 with sharp gnashers. the point is i expected them to grow up talking about feelings. (you might say that strategy has failed since the siblings now routinely set about each other over sofa rights.)

    but it's an ongoing thing, isn't it? i found every way i could - and still do - to talk about feelings inside people and how those feelings can come outside us; how we can find words to talk about feelings; how we can find ways of expressing our feelings but not denying them; how the feelings we all have are important, and because they are important they need dealing with properly, and beating each other up is not the proper way.

    i think it is hard to explore these ideas in this climate because there are so many easy judgements to be made; as parents we are encouraged to walk around and fear the judgements others will make of us, rather than share issues honestly and frankly to people we can assume will listen and not judge. (all hail to parent blogs)

    every relationship between a parent and a child is quite unique; it's hopefully a long term experience and one that will change and evolve many times. the fact that a relationship can change over years i believe is a mark of an enduring relationship; it can weather difficult problems, and the horrible times will in turn help develop and deepen the relationship and make it stronger.

    relationships that are defined by single moments aren't going anywhere, because they cannot change; i don't believe extraordinary moments like a smack in a complex child-parent relationship will define the years to come. i'm sure it won't lead directly to unwanted teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, and living on the streets. if it does, i'm wrong, ok?

    and sorry for writing an essay in your comments box.

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  6. Well it's obviously not a habit you're planning to take up so yes, don't worry about it too much. One of mine bit me in exactly the same place although through excitement. It was so sudden and so bloody painful that I almost dashed him/her (can't remember) to the floor - deliberately. Thank god I didn't.

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  7. I don't smack but boy I know what you mean cause I've been there right on the verge.
    I agree with Liz in that a child who has been hit just wants to appease and that it teaches them nothing.
    Sounds like you've shocked yourself into a resolution though x

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  8. It's done, it's over and you've probably both learned something from it. Well done for posting.

    I came by to thank you for your lovely comments after my terrible evening the night before my boys' birthday. The day itself was surprisingly easy - I think I'd got it all out the night before! Anyway, having all that support out there in cyberspace was incredibly empowering, so I am truly grateful to you x

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  9. I smacked one of my daughters twice when she was a toddler. Once when she ran into the road and once when she stuck her fingers in a socket. Like you I didn't want to do it, like you I haven't made a habit of it. I hope that posting about it and getting the responses you have has been worthwhile...great to see such honesty. What wasn't so great was that my daughter wrote in her book at school, when asked 'what makes you sad?' said: "When my Mummy smacks me..." Oh how we laughed. Hmmn.

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  10. My two girls have pushed me close to the limit, but I have restrained myself..just. I was with a child at the weekend that behaved appallingly and I had some very unpleasant thoughts in my head. No one wants to hit their children, but sometimes it happens. Don't rip yourself apart, you were just shocked, it happens. Both you and your daughter will be fine.
    Award at mine

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  11. Tears are streaming down my face as I read your post... Not because I judge you, but because I have just done the same thing. My 8 year old son was punching and kicking me and swearing like a trooper.. I feel soo ashamed of myself. I too vowed that I would never slap my children in the face and here I am, furious at myself for doing it and terrified, because st the time it seemed like I had no choice... Of course I had a choice. I know that intellectually, but I lost it. Where do I go from here? I adore my children... I'm not asking for pity or consolation ... I just need to write this down because somehow I hope that writing this will ensure that I never do it again...

    Thank you for having the courage to post that...

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    1. No pity or consolation, I promise. But I am thinking of you and I am sure that in years to come you will look back on it as a much more traumatic experience than he does.

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    2. If one of my sons were cussing at me and hitting on me id bend his butt over n give him a whoopin to remember. Hes gotta learn respect and if a spankin works then there ya go. If he wants you to respect him he better respect you. My son called me the b word when he was 2 bc he heard a neighbors kid call his mom that and he isalmost 8 now and hasnt dared call me a bad name since. He is a great boy and he is always telling me how much he loves me. Theres a line between abuse and discipline. As long as u dont cross that line and abuse ur child!

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    3. A 2 year old does not understand what swear words mean, it's not his fault and should not be punished! Speak to your neighbour and ask him/her politely to be aware that young children are around who imitate adult behaviour. Smacking children teaches them to smack as adults! It's a form of bullying, grown up smacking infants! I was smacked as a child in the 70's, and I thought it was normal to smack a child, it isn't!

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  12. But thank you for posting.

    Now go and have a glass of wine, a big piece of chocolate and think of all the times you and he have been the best of friends.

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  13. I smacked my daughter about 4 times while growing up and she wants nothing to do with me. How do I apologize and tell her i was at fault

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