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Back in the Good Old Days, When the Children were Thrashed and the Women Bashed …

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Shock, horror, the streets are awash with violence, we’re all cowering in our homes behind bars – yet another report from a “think-tank” tells us.

Oddly enough, I came home last night, or rather early this morning, on a central London night bus, and walked a kilometre from the stop, and I wasn’t even murdered on the way, or even mugged!

The Observer today, reports however, that the Wave Foundation (new to me) has concluded we’re now “25 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime now compared to the Fifties. Based on official police statistics, the study calculated that in 1950 there were 47 violent offences per thousand people compared to 1,158 for 2003/2004″.

It looks like the full report is not out until Monday, but I think I – and I bet you – have already spotted the enormous hole in it.

How much domestic violence made it to the violent crime statistics in the Fifites? Just about none.

How much child abuse made it to the violent crime statistics in the Fifties?

So close to none as to make no difference.

How many kids been beat up by older kids for the lunch money made it to the crime statistics in the Fifties? None. (Now of course the kids have iPods and mobile phones stolen, so a police report goes in.)

And if a kid beat up another kid in the playground then? Well it was “character building”. Now it is “call the police”.

It’s not that I’m saying the police involvement in all of these things is bad – indeed it reflects the fact that we are a far less violence-tolerant society than we used to be.

And that shows in the statistics, which right-wing think tanks and the Daily Mail use to scare witless those people who haven’t got the sense to see through the headlines. (The Observer really should know better.)


Find more like this on Philobiblon, and don’t forget to send your nomination for the first Carnival of Feminists, coming up on Wednesday.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • http://dianahartman.blogspot.com/ diana hartman

    good one…
    it reminds me of that “good ole days” thing being fwd’ed around there for a while…
    it didn’t talk about wife beatings or in-home pedophiles…in fact, if it was domestic, it was ignored…
    equal opportunity and pay weren’t quite up to par either…
    the good old days, that weren’t…

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    Oh yeah, so we needed to go the complete opposite route, where childen cannot be disciplined because it “violates” their human rights? Where children can act as entitled as they like and know they’ll get away with it? A lot of “little angels” out there are in dire need of some old-fashioned discipline.

    Violent prisoners are about to be released back onto the streets because there’s no more room for them in prison. So, build more prisons? Nay to that, say our Bleeding-heart Lords Temporal. You’ll just have to put up with them. Try reasoning with them, yeah, that’ll work! (Meawhile, of course, they’ll be sitting safe behind their gated mansions …)

    Yep, as with terror, there really is no threat to us from yobs. Uh-uh, just figments of our imagination.

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    If you treat children as if they have human rights, which of course they do, then they are, I’d suggest, rather less likely to turn into yobs who’ll try to steal your mobile phone.

    I don’t know if anyone has studied the degree to which people in prison for violent crime were physically punished as children, versus a control, general population, but I bet I know what the answer would be.

    And most of those people being let out early will be shoplifters, burglars etc. The prison population is going up not because crime is going up, but because Blair et al are trying to keep the Daily Mail happy.

  • Nancy

    My parents smacked my butt sharply when I was a kid, & it did me good. It sure made me wary of doing anything bad, until I got to be old enough to realize WHY doing such & such was bad/wrong, and to refrain on principle; but kids don’t react on principle until they’re older, hence a little wallop on the heinie to enforce the rules is a good thing, IMO. I had rights (sort of), I wasn’t beaten to death, but if I didn’t toe the line in being a good citizen, I got smacked on the seat.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Why do people (usually those without children, in my experience) equate discipline with physical punishment?

    Children can be effectively disciplined without being hit. There’s no either-or situation here. Parents have more choices beyond either smacking their kids or letting them do whatever they want.

    If the only thing you can figure out to do to “control” your kids is use your physical advantage against them, then you’re not a very good parent.

  • Nancy

    What else do you do with them, when you’re in a situation where there’s no where to put them for a secluded ‘time out’ – reason with the little beasts? If they’re acting out, they’re NOT going to reason, or listen to reason. A (not hard) smack on the fanny gets their attention, & alerts them to the fact that the adult in question is serious. It did with me, at least.

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    It tells them the way to solve problems is physical force, and the bigger, stronger, better person always wins the argument. Not, perhaps, the best lesson in life.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    The best thing to do is to remove them from the environment they’re in, no matter how inconvenient it is to you. You have to be willing to abandon whatever you’re doing at that moment to do something that will help in the long run, instead of just laying a smack on the kid for the most convenient solution in the moment. Plus, most parents hit out of frustration, anger, and convenience — it’s just faster to smack than it is to try to resolve the problem — not out of a sense of discipline (teaching). Real discipline takes time and is very inconvenient. But, to me, it’s worth it in the long run.

    [Which is not to say that my kids never make me so angry that I feel like spanking them. They do, but so far, I have given in to the urge only once, and I hope I never do it again. It was a horrible experience for me and my kid.]

    Our neighbors recently started spanking their kids in an attempt to stop some behaviors that they didn’t like. Since then, their kids have started hitting my kids any time they get frustrated. Ain’t no coincidence. Hitting breeds more hitting. How could it not?

  • Nancy

    I didn’t learn to hit; I just learned that if I had gone so far that I got a fanny smack, I was in bigger trouble than I thought. Kids will always push the boundaries. The little ones don’t know when they’re out of [self] control, & if the older ones behave that way, reason is ‘way too late. Besides, you can’t always ‘remove’ them, even with the best will in the world. I see parents every day trying to use reason or removal – and it never works for them, either. And then there are the idiots who just let their kids scream. I wouldn’t mind smacking THEM upside the head, myself.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    There are very few instances when you *can’t* remove kids from the situation. Most parents just don’t want to, and I understand why: because it screws up whatever it was that you were doing. Been there, many times.

    But the solution isn’t to hit the kid. If hitting worked, you’d only have to do it once. The fact that parents spank their kids for the same “offense” more than once proves that it’s not effective.

    The point is that as parents we’re supposed to model the behavior we want our children to display. They watch and learn from us all the time, even when we don’t expect it. They repeat even the little things that we do. And they learn how to handle stress by the way that we handle stress. If we scream when we’re upset, they’ll scream when they’re upset. If we hit when we’re mad, they’ll hit when they’re mad.

    Toddlers and preschool age kids scream and hit when they’re upset because they haven’t learned how to process their emotions. That’s a normal part of development. All they have at their disposal is a physical reaction. But if we don’t model for them another way to react, it’s harder for them to stop hitting and screaming when they should be old enough to.

  • JR

    bhw: If hitting worked, you’d only have to do it once. The fact that parents spank their kids for the same “offense” more than once proves that it’s not effective.

    Yeah. But then, by that standard what is?

  • http://dianahartman.blogspot.com/ diana hartman

    What else do you do with them, when you’re in a situation where there’s no where to put them for a secluded ‘time out’ – reason with the little beasts? If they’re acting out, they’re NOT going to reason, or listen to reason. A (not hard) smack on the fanny gets their attention, & alerts them to the fact that the adult in question is serious. It did with me, at least.

    at least indeed…
    it’s interesting that anyone would condone using physical punishment when as adults using this lesson of childhood, we will be charged with assault…essentially using physical punishment teaches children to use that which will get them arrested…
    great…

    there is no such thing as a situation where a child cannot be removed, and seclusion isn’t everything or even necessarily a prerequisite…you might not be able to remove them immediately (like on a friend’s small boat in the middle of a lake for instance) but that doesn’t mean they can’t be handled…
    the fallacy with the “they can’t be reasoned with” argument is that A) this is often an unreasonable expectation on the part of the parent who would do well to find out what really is a reasonable expectation of any given age of a child, and B) reason isn’t everything…
    what does a 4 yr old care that running into traffic could get them killed? they have no experience with it and by golly they want the ball across the street!
    get a grip mom and dad: what is the child pointing at with their outstretched arms? if you can go get the ball then do so…if you can’t, tell the kid you can’t, expect they simply will not understand what you’ve said and take your screaming child to the next most secluded spot — which won’t necessarily be completely secluded and will very likely interfere with every plan you had for the next hour…suck it up, it’s an occupational hazard…

    i’ve left a few full carts of groceries behind in the store because of a screaming child…i’ve left parks, weddings, restaurants, playgroups, you name it…and i did it for about 5 years between the two older kids…
    what did they learn? they learned that acting out equals not getting to participate…participation is everything to a child, from being in the front row to being the one playing with the blocks…
    once you have them removed it’s a waiting game in much the same way as one waits for hiccups to go away…have a few plans already in place to help alleviate it and failing that, use distraction…even a 4 yr old will respond to a sudden gasp and the excited announcement of “that tree has a squirrel in it!!” or “where did that piece of paper go that i just dropped?!”…

    if you’re not prepared for the situation of a screaming child then get prepared because it’s going to happen…smacking your kid because you’re the one who isn’t prepared just teaches them to blame other people for their problems, not to mention applying that blame with their hands…

    there are oodles of alternatives available for the reading in libraries, on the internet, at any social services office, etc…parenting classes abound in libraries, community centers, family centers…

    unless you took college classes in psychology, communication, sociology, and child development, and interned in a daycare center, foster home, or a classroom then you’re not going to know many of the things you need to know…there’s no shame in not knowing, just go get educated — and you don’t have to go to college to get it…
    there is a great deal of shame (and arresting officers awaiting) for those who for whatever reason can’t admit they don’t know something and won’t go find out…

    i question those who think hitting kids is a valid way of dealing with conflict of any kind…how do these same adults deal with adult conflict? do they avoid them at all costs because they have no other communication skills? do they have long arrest records?
    sure, adults can be more readily reasoned with but even this assumes that the other adult will see the reason in your reason — and what if they don’t?
    has everyone agreed with you so far in life?

    no one ever expects themselves to know how to drive a car just because someone else put one in their name or because they’ve seen how others drive…this idea that we can parent by example and birthright alone is really too much…
    expecting kids to be responsible and reasonable when we ourselves don’t take the responsibility for our own education is unreasonable

  • http://dianahartman.blogspot.com/ diana hartman

    If hitting worked, you’d only have to do it once. The fact that parents spank their kids for the same “offense” more than once proves that it’s not effective.

    this is not a valid argument against hitting a child…all kinds of behavioral management techniques take time and repetition just like all learning requires…
    hitting doesn’t work even with repetition and in fact results in negative behaviors over the long haul and that’s what makes it an invalid form of discipline…

  • Nancy

    The preponderance of the current US population stems from the days of a good swift swat, and most of us are not in jail, have never been arrested for assault, are highly unlikely to respond to any kind of conflict with violence, and do quite well in the mainstream of society, thank you. The preponderance of the children today are not swatted; they display little or no tolerance for not getting their own way immediately, self-discipline, or ability to delay gratification of any sort or amount. They are increasingly responsible for rising crime rates of all kinds, precisely because they have never learned discipline or been denied anything. They consider themselves the center of the world – the lesson each one is taught & enforced each time a parent has to drop everything to haul them off somewhere. I certainly don’t advocate beating anyone, but there’s a difference between beating and a good swift whack on the posterior & the refusal by a parent or other adult to be coerced by bad behavior into any other response, most certainly not having to have their own activities interrupted in order to devote all their attention to the kid.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    That’s a huge generalization, Nancy. Lots of us have managed to raise kids without hitting them and have turned out good citizens. The lack of physical punishment needn’t be accompanied by a lack of other forms of discipline, nor does it mean that parents are failing to give their kids boundaries or rules to live by. Amazingly, treating your kids with respect seems to turn them into respectful and caring human beings, in most cases.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Look at the parenting section in any large bookstore and you are going to discover what most parents have learned: there is more than one way to go about doing this. I think parents have to use the methods they trust and feel comfortable using and also understand their children. Some methods of discipline are more effective on certain personalities than others. One size doesn’t fit all most of the time.

  • http://dianahartman.blogspot.com/ diana hartman

    nancy, i’d love to see the studies, statistics, proof, and/or evidence in support of the claims made in comment 17…

    raising a child without limits, boundaries, rules, and consequences is no better than raising them with the back of one’s hand…
    there is a middle ground where a good many parents have raised a good many disciplined and responsible kids…

    the idea of “hit them or spoil them” is myopic, uncreative, and wrong…it’s a reflection of a huge lack on the parent’s part and this is reflected in the way the children act…
    that lots of kids smacked through childhood aren’t in jail is telling only one little part of a huge truth…do they in turn resist alternatives and knowledge and smack their own kids as well as their spouses and pets?
    do they feel capable and confident as parents, people, employees, lovers, friends?
    have they been able to define let alone follow their dreams?
    have they any self-respect and respect for all others?
    are they judgemental and quick to temper?
    do they have problems with substance abuse or other addictive behaviors?
    studies suggest they do and in significant numbers…

    when there are so many non-physical and proven child rearing techniques available, why would any loving and responsible parent still choose to smack their kid?

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    I’d love to see real evidence for declining standards of behaviour – and no, crime rates don’t do it, because what is defined as a crime, or warrants it being recorded, change considerably over time. (Rape was once an almost unmentioned and unrecorded crime, which doesn’t mean the rate wasn’t probably much like today’s.)

    I read a lot of history, and the parents and grandparents of each generation, going back to at least Tudor times in England, have been complaining that the youth of “today” aren’t as well-behaved, as honest, as straightforward, as whatever … as “our” generation were.

    If the human race were really going backward at this rate, we’d be back with the lungfish in the swamp.

    In fact, of course, manners and social habits change – they don’t get better or worse generally, they just change.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    this is not a valid argument against hitting a child…all kinds of behavioral management techniques take time and repetition just like all learning requires…

    Except that, in my opinion, spanking doesn’t work at all, except in the immediate moment, whereas other forms of discipline do work over time.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Amazingly, treating your kids with respect seems to turn them into respectful and caring human beings, in most cases.

    Amen, sister!

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    I do agree that the ’50s tend to be painted as more idyllic than they were. There was domestic abuse – which I staunchly oppose (especially as a loving husband myself) – as well as U.S. war in Korea and the French whipping things up in Vietnam as well as a savage war between the French and Algerians. And Ike’s S.o.S John Foster Dulles was busy with his blueprint for the world … a lot of stuff was happening, but somehow it all passes under the radar because domestic tranquility appeared as the best it’s ever been.

    Having said that, I do feel we’ve lost a lot. You’ve got to get the right mix between being too liberal and too conservative. I believe we are far too tolerant these days and that we’re at the mercy of merciless judges who’ve completely lost the plot.

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    Considering that all that Nancy has written here, I agree with her totally. You act out of line, you get swatted. I did too, and it made me very respectful of rules and regulations as laid down by my parents.

    I am now a law-abiding person who has a very close, friendly and loving relationship with the same parents that belted me when I was disrespectful or out-of-line. I don’t blame them one bit. I understand totally why they did it.

    You cannot reason with children. You can’t. You must be dominant to law down the law with them.

    What’s next? Hippy-fying the Army, saving recruits from self-esteem-draining encounters with their superiors? Where will this end? Till the whole world is taught to respect only themselves and we have anarchy everywhere?

    Sorry, not the kind of world I want to live in.

  • MT

    All I can say is this — I never hit my daughter, might have yelled at her twice, always addressed her respectfully, spoke to her on an adult level, never lied to her, and told her she could be whoever and whatever she wants to be in life. I also made it a point to tell her I loved her as often as possible. Today, two college degrees later, she is a happily married mother of 2 boys and manages to run a home, and handle a career, too, as a college instructor and university team coach. Love, respect and inspiration works when raising kids.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    I am now a law-abiding person who has a very close, friendly and loving relationship with the same parents that belted me when I was disrespectful or out-of-line. I don’t blame them one bit. I understand totally why they did it.

    Imagine how happy I am, then, to have accomplished the same goal without having to resort to belting my kid. We managed to raise a respectful, law-abiding young man who still maintains a close, friendly and loving relationship to the parents who believed there was a better way to teach him stuff than to knock him around. You most certainly can reason with children, and you can establish and maintain parental authority without resorting to physical violence.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    MEM, you’ve talked about how your parents raised you, but not about how you’re raising your own children. Let me guess: you don’t have any.

    And where do you get this nonsense from?

    You cannot reason with children. You can’t. You must be dominant to law down the law with them.

    I can’t even deal with your comparison to the military — it’s beyond ridiculous.

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    BHW, if I did have kids, they’d get the same discipline I did. No ands, ifs or buts about it. However, unlike so many other people out there, I was very careful to actually think things through about whether or not I was parent material before I ever had kids. Even one kid would ruin the life I’ve become accustomed to. It’s not the life of Riley, but it’s far better than it’d be with children in it.

    But I don’t have kids (and never will), so “beating on the brat” as the Ramones put eloquently put it, will never be a reality in this house.

    **bhw exhales and says, “well, thank God for that!”**