If a stranger smacked my child for being naughty, I'd thank them: As a mother protests about a Boots assistant slapping her daughter, a provocative response from SHONA SIBARY
There are many ways to put the kybosh on a good friendship. But, trust me, nothing does it faster than smacking a child that is not your own.
The moment I came close — about an inch too close — will for ever be etched on my mind.
Not because I regret almost falling foul of the greatest parenting taboo of them all. Far from it.
The child concerned did, after all, have my dog’s tail clutched firmly in her sticky little fingers and — despite being warned repeatedly — was dragging the poor creature backwards across the kitchen floor.
No complaints: Mother-of-four Shona Sibary said she would welcome help disciplining her brood if necessary
She deserved a short swipe on her bottom — verbal reprimands were clearly falling on deaf ears. But did my friend move from her coffee cup or, indeed, exercise any parental control over her mini tyrant?
No she did not. She turned a blind eye. Which is, with hindsight, exactly what I should have done, too. But when my lovely gentle labrador looked up pleadingly with his big brown eyes, I was up off my chair and across the lino in an instant.
And that’s all it took. My hand didn’t even make contact with the child’s bottom — although it was itching to — and stopped an inch short of the target.
But it came close — too close, as it turned out — for the friendship to survive.
The look of utter shock on my friend’s face said it all. I had crossed a line that must never, under any circumstances, ever be crossed.
This week it was reported that a Boots pharmacist had ‘disciplined’ a three-year-old girl by smacking her on the bottom in a store in Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Distress: Angela Crobley was upset that her daughter Lora was smacked by a member of staff at Boots
According to Angela Cropley, 27, her daughter Lora had accidentally knocked several items off the shelves, causing a bottle of disinfectant to break. She says the 50-year-old pharmacist reached down, smacked the child, and told her she was a naughty girl.
'I have come under enough fire in the past for admitting to smacking my own as a last resort for unacceptable behaviour'
When Miss Cropley complained to the store, the manager told her: ‘It was only a tap’, although Boots has since issued an apology for any distress caused.
Possibly, the pharmacist concerned deeply regrets her actions. But I’d wager she isn’t losing too much sleep. Miss Cropley, however, remains furious.
‘Nobody has the right to punish my daughter — just me and her Dad,’ she said, before adding: ‘It completely shocked Lora. Even now she asks: “Why did that lady smack my bottom?” She has a really good memory.’
Just not, it seems, really good behaviour. And in answer to your question, Lora, the reason that lady smacked your bottom was probably because she had witnessed one badly behaved brat too many that day and decided — for once — to do something about it.
Of course, we can’t all go around recklessly smacking other people’s children. No matter how tempting, on occasion, it might be. Indeed, I have come under enough fire in the past for admitting to smacking my own as a last resort for unacceptable behaviour.
But why is disciplining a friend’s child — or a nephew or niece — deemed so out of bounds? Because if we’re going to be honest here, haven’t all of us been in a position where we’ve been provoked, but because of political correctness felt powerless to do anything about it?
Intervention: Shona thinks the Boots employee was right to discipline Lora, three
I have been pushed, in the past, to the very limit by certain children of friends and family.
I can remember one holiday in particular where we shared a villa in Tuscany with another family whose eight-year-old boy was at the same school as our son, Monty.
At home, I thought this boy was OK, although a little attention-seeking and competitive. But then what did I know? I saw him only a couple of times a week and to wave to in the playground.
On holiday I discovered he was, in fact, Lucifer in disguise. Not a day went past when he didn’t display behaviour deserving of an ASBO.
He regularly pushed people, fully clothed, into the pool. Funny first time round but not on the eighth occasion when we were on our way out to dinner.
He threw the most almighty tantrums over nothing — biting, kicking and punching everything in his path; he hacked heads off sunflowers; ran through the house with the hose on full jet, drenching everything in sight; and constantly pushed over Dolly, our one-year-old who was just learning to walk, because he thought it was ‘funny’.
One day I snapped. It was an accumulation of his appalling behaviour and the way his mother — my friend — sat back smiling indulgently while he ran roughshod over our highly expensive, hard-earned annual holiday.
Watched by my open-mouthed children, I marched over to this child, took him by the shoulders, and told him to go to his room. It was either that or drown him in the pool.
Needless to say, my friend finally leapt into action, scooped her darling boy up into her arms and marched into the house with him. But not before slamming the patio door firmly behind her.
What shocked me most about this episode was not so much that Monty’s friend had turned out to be so antisocial, but that mine had. The other family left the next day and we have barely spoken since.
Did I really do something so wrong? Had the tables been turned I would have welcomed her attempts to discipline my own unruly brood. They never listen to me and it often takes the shock of an outsider intervening to jolt them back into better behaviour.
Yet a lot of mothers I know can be ridiculously precious about another adult reprimanding their son or daughter. I have no idea why because it’s blatantly obvious they could sometimes do with the extra help.
I regularly have other people’s children in my house. They hang out for hours, stay the night and eat all the food in my fridge. Which is fine. But if they forget to say a simple ‘thank you’ for a meal I have produced, then I will remind them. In much the same way I would my own children.
And if they leave their shoes all over the hall floor, I will chastise them for being messy.
Is this crossing the line? My older children Flo, Annie and Monty seem to think so and believe — like everybody else — I should firmly button my lip.
But isn’t it a truth universally acknowledged that, where parents are concerned, children develop selective deafness and a thick skin? Often it can take somebody from outside the family to get them to listen.
I’m not advocating unnecessary violence or child beating. But I do know one thing. If I had been in that Boots shop with Dolly — who is also now three — and she had been blithely pulling bottles off shelves without me noticing, I would have welcomed another adult’s intervention.
And if that meant a smacked bottom? I wouldn’t have complained. I would have said ‘thank you’.
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