Would you slap somebody else’s child? What if that child’s parents were not intervening? Would you see it as your duty or right to teach someone else’s sprog a lesson? You could always speak to the parents, of course, and ask them to deal with the unpleasant situation, but that could lead to heated words between you or even lead to blows.
Australian author Christopher Tsiolkas’ wrote a novel in 2005, called ‘The Slap.’ It was the first book on the topic that I’m aware of which is surprising, because it has ever been a hot issue that divides the parenting community. The Slap set the cat among the pigeons nine years ago and people are still referring to it. The setting to the fictional event is a back yard barbecue. A bunch of people are eating, drinking and chatting and leaving their progeny to amuse themselves. A toddler behaves inappropriately towards an older child and ironically the older child’s much older father deals with the offending brat by slapping the toddler across the face. Would it have been less shocking if he had aimed a tap at the toddler’s backside? I suspect that the author and the slapper were aiming at maximum impact, but either way it was still wrong. Book club members and local intellects had a fun time debating that book and the issue. But it’s not fiction or an intellectual exercise, it is a real life problem with seemingly no resolution.
I have never smacked my own children, so I just can’t understand such behaviour. I admit that there were times when I came close to letting my button pushing children know who the boss was, but in the end, I looked for and found other ways to deal calmly with tense situations that could have blown out of control had I let them. Not easy but nothing worthwhile is easy.
Yesterday, I heard of a woman who was wheeling her Downs Syndrome child down a supermarket aisle. It’s her toddler’s game, the mum told an interviewer, to take her shoe off and throw it to the ground. The woman walking down the aisle behind her picked the shoe up and handed it to the mother. When the little girl repeated the offense the stranger picked up the shoe, dropped it in to the shopping cart and then slapped the child. The mother was at the counter paying for her groceries so she hadn’t witnessed this scene but she certainly heard the slap. By the time the mum got over her shock sufficiently to deal with the situation, the offending woman had left.
I’m not sure how the slapper would have reacted had she known about the girl’s problems. But being selective about who to punish isn’t the answer.