The fact that the British term for spanking is "smacking" perhaps says it all. Can you imagine a parent on a Canadian playground admitting that they "smacked" their child for backtalk and a door slam?
Shona Sibary, then, is a brave women. In a confessional essay in Britain's Daily Mail, Sibary fully admits that other parents will judge her for her opening tale in which she describes a shouting match with her 14-year-old daughter, Florence, that began with wearing mascara to school, escalated to yelling, and a door being slammed in her mother's face. "Before I even had time to think about what I was doing," Sibary writes, "I had wrenched the door open again, and slapped her – hard - on the bottom." Her daughter responded with shock, Sibary continues, but "I knew I still had to show the upper (rather sore) hand."
To any liberal politically correct parents who might judge her, she says: "Get real. At that moment, what my ranting, rude and hormonal daughter needed was a short, sharp reminder that she'd overstepped the boundaries."
After all, Sibary says, she was "smacked" herself and it did no "harm." She extends the same parenting practice to her other three children.
The essay came about because this week Britain's Justice Secretary Chris Gayling also defended his practice of physically punishing his child, and would support the rights of other parents to do so. "You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me."
Now, it's only a matter of time before someone makes the "kids are so spoiled today" argument and that lax parents are letting them run wild. But that's not the direction of the comments online, in which one reader pointed out that Sibary's kids are not her "possessions" to be smacked at will, and perhaps Sibary should be asking herself why she's having such vicious arguments with a 14-year-old over wearing make-up. (Also, what teen hasn't complained about the "agonizing existence" meted out by their parents, as Florence did?)
And here's one telling comment that Sibary makes: she smacked her daughter "before I even had time to think what I was doing." As any parents knows, your reaction in the heat of the moment to a child's temper tantrum is probably not your best and most mature approach to the situation. It happens, and you mess up, but it's another thing to continue to defend it in a newspaper article for all to read. Sibary goes on to claim her kids will thank her for this form of discipline, that "smacking them feels safe," as if never knowing when your mom is going "act without thinking" and whip out her hand is security. (There's a whole whack of research to support the case that it does the opposite.)
As for her daughter, Sibary writes: "Indeed I can almost hear the cries of: Couldn't you reason with her instead? Taken a deep breath and explained that slamming doors was impolite?"
Um, actually, yes: taking a deep breath when faced with an irrational, hormonal teen, sounds like a pretty adult idea.