Children 1st Parentline – supporting families every step of the way

On 7th November this year the law is changing, to make it clear that children in Scotland can no longer be physically punished.
In this blog, Children 1st Parentline’s Ann Jarvis reassures parents that there are alternative ways to approach childrens’ behaviour when things get fraught – and we are here to listen and support families at every step of the way.

“For many years, we have heard from lots of parents who have picked up the phone to Children 1st Parentline, feeling terrible or guilty after smacking their children. Or they tell us that they have felt close to using physical punishment. As a parent we can remember the times when we were at the end of our tether and didn’t know what to do.

And, of course, for many of us who were smacked as children it can be easy in times of stress to reach for what we know. Moments like this can bring us back to our own childhood, and the strategies we learned from our parents.
Lots of people also tell us that their parents used physical punishment and they feel fine. But we also hear stories from people who are deeply affected by the use of physical punishment at home, that it impacted on the important relationships with people in their lives and—in some cases—it meant there was a blurred line between physical punishment and abuse.

When we were kids, there wasn’t as much understanding about the impact of physical punishment. But just like the law changed to protect children from the effects of smoking or wearing seatbelts in cars, this is about doing what’s right for our kids and for our family.
The overwhelming evidence from across the world shows that physical punishment doesn’t work, can damage family relationships and can cause children life-long harm – and parents and kids tell us the same.

Many families in Scotland already raise their children without using physical punishment and by changing the law here, Scotland is following the lead of many countries around the world. It’s clear from the many countries who have gone ahead of us that this change isn’t likely to lead to lots of parents being locked up—instead it supports behaviour change which will bring us closer to the kind of Scotland we want children to grow up in. A country where children have the same protection from all forms of violence as adults. 

At Children 1st Parentline, when parents or carers call us about smacking, or any issue, we listen.
We are not there to judge but instead to support families to think about different ways to manage through stressful times.
For children, behaviour is a means of communication.
Children – especially very small children – aren’t necessarily ‘misbehaving’. Frustrating, sometimes maddening, behaviour that makes us tear our hair out is part of children’s normal, necessary development, as they test boundaries and independence, or as their developing emotions become overloaded. This is where we, as parents, need to examine our own reactions, and work on our ability to respond calmly with love and empathy. 

Children, like most of us, prefer to have consistent boundaries in their lives, to know what behaviour is appropriate and what the consequences will be. As parents we set boundaries for our children but we can also set boundaries for ourselves – lines that we don’t cross.
Children learn by copying. Behaving in a way we want to see from our children, will teach our children how we want them to behave and how to manage their emotions. And if we decide that we don’t use any violence, they’re less likely to see it as a solution themselves.

This is sometimes easier said than done, we know that’s not always easy. We’ve all been there when things get so tough that you feel like you could explode.
In these heated situations, you need all your strength to take a moment, physically or mentally to remove yourself. Take a few deep breaths and think about what you are going to do and say before doing anything. You will be able to regain the feeling of control and be in a better position to deal with the situation in front of you. It’s not easy and it can take every ounce of willpower you have to carry it through. Like everything else we do it takes practice and the will to change. 

That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s helpful to allow children to do whatever they want. At Children 1st Parentline, we get that every family is unique and no one size fits all – and that is the same with boundaries. 

The team at Children 1st Parentline are here to listen and can share lots of different ways you can raise your children without physical punishment.
The most important thing about Parentline is that you are in control. It’s up to you what you say and how much you share. You aren’t talking to anyone official. You are talking to a volunteer, an ordinary person who has had in-depth training about how best to listen and support you, with whatever your family are going through. 

Talking to someone who can help you think things through can really help to reduce your stress and support you to make things better.
The next time you’re worried about staying strong, try talking to Children 1st Parentline.
You are not alone.