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Friday, April 21, 2006

Corporal Punishment. While surfing about on fatherhood topics, I came across an amazing story about Tony Blair that didn't get much coverage in the U.S. In a story that first aired on CNN in January, Blair admitted that he had "smacked" his older children. The story reported that
Tony Blair has revealed that he once smacked his older children -- but has given up the practice for his youngest child, 5-year-old Leo. BBC interviewer Kirsty Wark asked the prime minister about his discipline methods during his visit to Swindon in western England Blair made the frank admission in a TV question-and-answer session during his trip to promote an initiative to curb anti-social behavior. Blair was asked: "Do you smack your kids? Did you?" When he failed to reply immediately, Wark asked him: "Did it cause a problem?" Blair said: "No, I think actually, funnily enough, I'm probably different with my youngest than I was with my older ones." Misunderstanding his reply, Wark asked him: "What, you do smack the younger one?" Blair, whose children range in age from five to 22, replied: "No-no, no-no. It was actually the other way round but ... I think, look, this smacking ... I mean, I agree with what you just said, I think everybody actually knows the difference between smacking a kid and abusing a child. "But I, if I can honestly say this to you -- I think the problem is when you get these really, really difficult families, it's moved a bit beyond that." After his admission, British campaigners against smacking renewed calls Wednesday for children to be protected against all forms of physical discipline."
Terminology is very important here. While a certain percentage of the population believes it is OK to "spank" a child, most people don't like the word "hit" and everybody opposes child abuse. I think "smacking" has a particular connotation in England and may not carrying the same meaning as in the U.S. For example, "takeaway" and "plug" have different meanings in the U.K. See the "List of Words Mainly Used in Commonwealth English" in the Wikipedia. By way of comparison, can you imagine President Bush admitting he "smacked" his daughters? It would cause a worldwide furor. My parents never hit me and I've never spanked my sons. I think all it teaches is that violence works. I do believe in giving "timeouts" and sending kids to their rooms, if necessary. Thank goodness it's been a long time since either boy required that kind of discipline.

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