Hayley Matthews: It’s entirely ‘reasonable’ to give your child a smack

Sometimes only a swift skelp will do to get the message across. Picture: John Devlin
Sometimes only a swift skelp will do to get the message across. Picture: John Devlin
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The full moon recently has pushed my parental patience to the absolute limits! Stay with me on this, there actually is a fair bit of research on how the full moon can trigger off some wild behaviour in animals, children and the average adult teetering on the edge (raises hand). and with this wild behaviour comes a step up in the punishment stakes.

I feel sometimes words just don’t convey the message, or should I say “the warning” that I’m trying to deliver. Now, recently, despite saying I’d never do it, I’ve been exposing my son’s full moon for the odd smack as the threat of no supper before bed isn’t cutting it.

Don’t get me wrong. I even feel bad admitting it, but a lot of us do it. My dad tells me I was a great kid and he never had to smack my booty, which I put down to old age and memory loss as I remember holding my breath so I wouldn’t get a smack (I learned blackmail at a very young age). I survived, because that sting on the bum taught me not to be a cheeky little four-lettered word and to respect my parents. Pain equals respect (well it did when I was five). I’m not condoning beating up your child, that is ridiculous, but the odd light bum tap never did me any harm. Like me, most of you reading this will have been smacked so why the taboo about it now? I also can’t make sense of the law on this. You can smack as a “reasonable punishment”. What defines “reasonable” as all kids are different?

Here’s what the law says: “It is against the law for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. There are strict guidelines covering the use of reasonable punishment and it will not be possible to rely on the defence if you use severe physical punishment on your child which amounts to wounding, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm or child cruelty.” “Reasonable punishment” for me is needed when you’re in a public place, being screamed at by your child as they shout the words, in front of all their friends and other parents “Who cares about what you say you fat old lady”, all this whilst running off punching the air, throwing themselves on the ground, screaming uncontrollably and expressing their hate for you and whilst insisting you be shot with a Nerf gun. Yes that actually happened.

So when the tantrum that peaks at magnitude nine on the Richter Scale – definition: rare, but causes unbelievable damage – then a swift drop of the trousers and skelp seems to get the message across all right.

As I write this, I’m thinking of all the calm parents that I see who look like they’d never loose their rag.

However, being a parent and teaching your child what is acceptable and what is not, comes with no guidebook. There’s no right or wrong way in the whole parental journey, it’s down to the individual. We all have the responsibility to raise our kids as best we can, and we know our children better than anyone else.

So, if this generation of lawyers, chefs, teachers and doctors made it through with the odd bum smack then I’m sure our kids can handle the odd five-fingered pattern on their full moon too.

Hayley Matthews – @hotlipshayley – is a TV and radio presenter