Guest Post by Mama O Naturale:
“Hi, my name is Mama O Naturale, and I am a smacker”.
New Years Eve 2011, I made the decision to put a stop to this traditional form of punishment after reading the following quote:
“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
~Haim G. Ginott
The reality of what I had been doing finally settled in when I read those few words. What they say to me is this; I was excusing my aggressive, hostile, assaults on my child by labeling it as discipline.
I see now that smacking is wrong and for a while after I figured it out, I felt pretty guilty about it all too. But, I am reminded daily, that I cannot change the past, I can only work to a better future.
More than six months down the track, I have improved myself though I am unable to say I am flawless.
So why was I so keen to whop my child at the first sign of disobedience? And worse still, why was I so willing to excuse it?
Without wanting to make excuses for myself or my behaviours, I think it’s important to talk about the impact of role modeling.
On the exit road out of Post Natal Depression I enlisted the services of a local counsellor to aide me in learning new skills to manage my own behaviour and emotions. To start with she created a genogram for me so I could see quite clearly where my behaviours had come from and why.
What a child sees, hears and experiences throughout their childhood is what they grow to know and learn to be the way things should be. Developmentalists call this a “working model”. Essentially, if a child grows up in a family where smacking is the norm, then inevitably smacking will become the norm for them when they become parents. It’s a “monkey see, monkey do” scenario. Parents play a major role in how their children turn out.
Needless to say, I was smacked as a child, often. And many times for no real reason (and by real I mean an offence that might actually warrant a smack). I was raised by a father who was raised by his grandparents in post war England and by a mother who suffered from such deep and wounding depressive and anxiety driven episodes that she was more like a meek 5 year old than the grown woman and mother that she was supposed to be. The way I was raised was based off of, not a 30 year old theory like most people, but off of a 50-60 year old theory. I was raised in a home where “children should be seen and not heard”; where your parents quite openly tell you that they “don’t like you, but we’ll always love you”; a home where he who had the loudest voice ruled; a home where words seemed so insufficient that a flick of the hand across bare legs or buttocks was the only answer. Most shockingly, this was always done in anger, usually multiple times, leaving welts and bruises across my bare skin.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents dearly. They, like any other parent, did the best they could with what they had. And what they had was crap role models combined with a society that believed that any deviation from the social norm was a crime punishable by exile and isolation. Fit in or get out.
So, the vicious cycle had continued for (at the very least) a third generation. And here I found myself lashing out in anger over disobedience with a swift hand across the nearest body part of my poor, unsuspecting son.
I cringe now to think what I did. The look of sheer terror on his face as he saw me wielding myself towards him with fury plastered all over my face. I remember seeing him flinch on occasions where I simply intended to reach past him for something near him. Those moments hurt me the most and I find myself wondering how it is that I have managed to still have a child so filled with love and affection. But it is best not to think on that and instead fill my heart with love and gratitude that I now have a chance to rectify this.
The research into the physical, cognitive and emotional damage caused by smacking is wide and varied. However, it wasn’t research that initiated my decision to put a stop to this prehistoric family tradition. Instead, for me, it was the memories from my own childhood.
I remember quite vividly, the feelings and emotions that charged through me as a youngster before, during and after a smacking. As a small child, I remember the fear and confusion. As I got older I remember quite clearly the anger and hatred that I felt towards my parents for the unnecessary infliction of pain and shame they cast upon me.
What made me decide that smacking had to stop for me was knowledge that I NEVER EVER wanted my child to feel those feelings towards me. EVER! I invite any parent who thinks smacking is ok to cast their mind back to their own experiences and perhaps consider rethinking their stance. And I mean REALLY look back. Don’t overshadow or down-play your actual experiences with your “I was smacked and I turned out fine” excuses. Really think back, and you will remember the truth of it.
After 25 years of thinking things should be done a certain way, and 2 years of actually carrying out those beliefs, I have found it a challenging journey to change the tides. I have had to learn new skills in self-control and arm myself with new tools and alternatives to what I had been doing.
Resources are not scarce; they are however, in my own experience, often rather vague to say the least. I guess because most of these articles are written by fellow natural parents, there is the collective idea that we shouldn’t be telling others how to parent their child. I found many articles to be wishy washy opinions when all I want is direction. That’s right. Iwant someone to tell me how to do this because God knows I have no idea.
I concede, is and shall continue to be a long and bumpy ride, but hey, parenting was never meant to be easy, right?
May you create love filled memories in each and every day.
Who is Mama O Naturale?
“Mama O Naturale” is a handle I have chosen that resounds my own beliefs about a natural, holistic and gentle way of life. I choose to stay anonymous for the sake of myself, my children and my family because I accept that much of what I want to share is not “okay” with a lot of people but I still feel it is deeply important to share.
I am mother of two and I am currently studying towards a Diploma in Human Development with a vision to move forward into working with families to raise their children using gentle methods.
I was raised in an authoritarian household and after having my first child I decided that it was not a scene I wanted to repeat for my own children. And so began the long, and often bumpy, ride towards a gentler way of life.
When my son was 8 weeks old I stumbled across a local woman who was running mother/baby classes, teaching the philosophy of the late Dr Emmi Pikler. Through this valuable asset I have been able to take the journey towards gentle parenting with close support.
I am now into my third year of following the Pikler philosophy, and I have begun to adapt it to fit my own style, mixing it with a lot more attachment style parenting. I have also been lucky enough to complete the Circle of Security parenting training.
My hope is that, in sharing my own journey with you, you will see the lack of perfection, the reality and the lessons that we can all learn from each other if we would only stop judging for long enough to really take note.