OPINION: Smacking isn't discipline
I'M not a fan of smacking.
I can't say I never have. I can count on one hand how many times I have properly smacked my son. And I'm not proud of it. But there have been times when all other actions - negotiation, begging, pleading, threatening - have failed. And I felt like I was left with no other choice.
But did the smacking work? Yes and no.
Yes, because he stopped whatever it was he was doing that got him smacked. He stopped to cry. And then I cried because I felt so bad for smacking him. Vicious cycle.
So when my lovely, sweet but sometimes fiery three-year-old suddenly became Jekyll and Hyde a few weeks ago I knew I needed to find a way to discipline him.
Because I agree with those that say smacking isn't discipline and discipline isn't another word for punishment. Discipline is about teaching a child responsibility and self-control in a capacity they can understand.
So my mother-in-law suggested the corner and a naughty chair. Smart woman.
We found a little chair, perfect size for him, positioned it in a corner facing the wall and put him there for three minutes - one minute for each year of his age.
At first he smirked, sat on the chair and got up.
So I put him back.
Then he raged and got back up.
So remaining calm and not saying anything I put him back again.
Then he sat on the chair and cried, calling for me.
It was hard but I ignored him and finally - FINALLY - after what felt like fifteen minutes, not three, the timer I had set went off.
I went over to my son, got down on his level and explained to him why he had been put on the chair.
He nodded tearfully when I asked him if he understood and then we had a hug.
Ten minutes later he was back on the chair for the same reason but - and this is a big but - after two or three days and a handful of times on the chair, Hyde was gone. My sweet, lovely, sometimes fiery three-year-old was back.
Now I'm not saying he's been perfect since then but he certainly has stopped acting out and the threat of the corner is enough to pull him up.
It might not work for everyone but it certainly worked for me.
After trying the chair I did some research. I'm not a turn-to-Google-for-the-answer-the-first-time-every-time type of girl. But if I had been I probably would have come across these recommendations from the Victoria State Government on discipline and children earlier.
They describe discipline as the action of rewarding a child for appropriate behaviour and discouraging inappropriate behaviour by using fair and positive means.
They discourage smacking saying: "Using physical punishment or inflicting pain on a child to stop them from misbehaving only teaches them that it is OK to solve problems with violence."
Instead they recommend routines, explaining consequences, having a time out for kids (the chair), a time out for parents (yes please, preferably with a glass of wine and an episode of Desperate Housewives) and reinforcing good behaviour.
When my daughter was born and my husband worked nights and I was struggling to get through the evening routine of feeding and bathing (refer to previous opinion piece on kids and TV) my mum - a teacher and another smart woman - suggested doing a visual timetable for my son.
I remember one particular fraught afternoon when my regular day-napping son hadn't had a sleep and me in my state of new baby sleep deprivation was having a meltdown over how I was going to get through the night, when my mum turned up with a kitchen timer and a fridge magnet.
We sat down with my son, decided what we were wanted to do that afternoon/evening and then drew a pictorial routine.
We then stuck this on the fridge with the magnet so he could cross each item off and set the timer for each one.
So when the timer went off it was time for a walk, time for a bath, dinner time, brush teeth time, time for a book and bed time.
And this worked really well. Certainly saved my sanity that night and on many others.
My son knew what we were doing every evening. He didn't argue with the timer and he enjoyed crossing each thing off the list.
Actually, maybe I should bring this back…
And to smack or not to smack - where do you stand on the issue?
Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.